Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 1615–1626 | Cite as

Livelihood adaptations to climate variability: insights from farming households in Ghana

  • Philip Antwi-Agyei
  • Lindsay C. Stringer
  • Andrew J. Dougill
Original Article

Abstract

Climate variability poses a significant threat to many sectors of Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy. Agriculture is one of the most climate sensitive sectors because of its dependence on rain-fed cultivation. This paper identifies the main adaptation strategies used by farming households in the Sudan savannah and forest-savannah transitional agro-ecological zones of Ghana, in order to reduce the adverse impacts of climate variability on their livelihood activities. It combines questionnaire surveys, key informant interviews and a range of participatory methods. Results show that households employ a range of on- and off-farm adaptation strategies including changing the timing of planting, planting early maturing varieties, diversification of crops, support from family and friends, and changing their diets to manage climate variability. Results reveal that most households use adaptation strategies linked to livelihood diversification to adapt to the increased climate variability seen in recent decades. Most households now engage in multiple non-arable farming livelihood activities in an attempt to avoid destitution because of crop failure linked to climate variability (particularly drought). The findings suggest that policy makers need to formulate more targeted climate adaptation policies and programmes that are linked to enhancing livelihood diversification, as well as establishing communication routes for farming communities to better share their knowledge on successful local climate adaptation strategies.

Keywords

Drought Coping Climate change Sub-Saharan Africa Agriculture Rural livelihoods 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the Commonwealth Scholarships, UK and the International Foundation for Science (IFS). The authors are grateful to Dr. Evan Fraser, Prof. Jouni Paavola and Dr. Roy Maconachie for providing comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

References

  1. Antwi-Agyei P, Fraser EDG, Dougill AJ, Stringer LC, Simelton E (2012) Mapping the vulnerability of crop production to drought in Ghana using rainfall, yield and socioeconomic data. Appl Geogr 32:324–334. doi: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2011.06.010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Antwi-Agyei P, Dougill AJ, Fraser EDG, Stringer LC (2013) Characterising the nature of household vulnerability to climate variability: empirical evidence from two regions of Ghana. Environ Dev Sustain 15(4):903–926. doi: 10.1007/s10668-012-9418-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrett CB, Reardon T, Webb P (2001) Nonfarm income diversification and household livelihood strategies in rural Africa: concepts, dynamics, and policy implications. Food Policy 26(4):315–331. doi: 10.1016/S0306-9192(01)00014-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berman R, Quinn C, Paavola J (2012) The role of institutions in the transformation of coping capacity to sustainable adaptive capacity. Environ Dev 2:86–100. doi: 10.1016/j.envdev.2012.03.017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boko M, Niang I, Nyong A, Vogel C, Githeko A, Medany M, Osman-Elasha B, Tabo R, Yanda P (2007) Africa. In: Parry OF, Palutikof JP, Van Der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Climate change: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the IPCC fourth assessment report. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 433–467Google Scholar
  6. Boyd E, Cornforth RJ, Lamb PJ, Tarhule A, Lélé MI, Brouder A (2013) Building resilience in the face of recurring environmental crisis in African Sahel. Nat Clim Chang 3(7):631–637. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1856 Google Scholar
  7. Bryan E, Deressa TT, Gbetibouo GA, Ringler C (2009) Adaptation to climate change in Ethiopia and South Africa: options and constraints. Environ Sci Policy 12(4):413–426. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2008.11.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bryceson DF (2002) The scramble in Africa: reorienting rural livelihoods. World Dev 30(5):725–739. doi: 10.1016/S0305-750X(02)00006-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burton I (2009) Deconstructing adaptation and reconstructing. In: Schipper ELF, Burton I (eds) The earthscan reader in adaptation to climate change. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Cavatassi R, Lipper L, Narloch U (2011) Modern variety adoption and risk management in drought prone areas: insights from the sorghum farmers of eastern Ethiopia. Agric Econ 42(3):279–292. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-0862.2010.00514.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Christensen JH, Hewitson B, Busuioc A, Chen A, Gao X, Held R, Jones R, Kolli RK, Kwon W, Laprise R (2007) Regional climate projections: climate change: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the IPCC fourth assessment report. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooper P, Dimes J, Rao K, Shapiro B, Shiferaw B, Twomlow S (2008) Coping better with current climatic variability in the rain-fed farming systems of sub-Saharan Africa: an essential first step in adapting to future climate change? Agric Ecosyst Environ 126(1):24–35. doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2008.01.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ellis F (1998) Household strategies and rural livelihood diversification. J Dev Stud 35(1):1–38. doi: 10.1080/00220389808422553 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ellis F (1999) Rural livelihood diversity in developing countries: evidence and policy implications. Overseas Development Institute, LondonGoogle Scholar
  15. Enfors EI, Gordon LJ (2008) Dealing with drought: the challenge of using water system technologies to break dryland poverty traps. Glob Environ Chang 18(4):607–616. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.07.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. EPA (2003) National action programme to combat drought and desertification. Ghana Government, AccraGoogle Scholar
  17. Eriksen SH, Brown K, Kelly PM (2005) The dynamics of vulnerability: locating coping strategies in Kenya and Tanzania. Geogr J 171(4):287–305. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2005.00174.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. FAO (2008) Adaptation to climate change in agriculture, forestry and fisheries: perspectives, framework and priorities. Interdepartmental Working Group on Climate Change, FAOGoogle Scholar
  19. Fasona M, Tadross M, Abiodun B, Omojola A (2012) Some implications of terrestrial ecosystems response to climate change for adaptation in Nigeria’s wooded savannah. Environ Dev 5:73–95. doi: 10.1016/j.envdev.2012.11.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fraser EDG, Mabee W, Figge F (2005) A framework for assessing the vulnerability of food systems to future shocks. Futures 37(6):465–479. doi: 10.1016/j.futures.2004.10.011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ghana Statistical Service (2010) Population and housing census. Government of Ghana, AccraGoogle Scholar
  22. Haggblade S, Hazell P, Reardon T (2010) The rural non-farm economy: prospects for growth and poverty reduction. World Dev 38(10):1429–1441. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2009.06.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hesselberg J, Yaro JA (2006) An assessment of the extent and causes of food insecurity in northern Ghana using a livelihood vulnerability framework. GeoJournal 67(1):41–55. doi: 10.1007/s10708-006-9007-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huq S, Reid H, Konate M, Rahman A, Sokona Y, Crick F (2004) Mainstreaming adaptation to climate change in least developed countries (LDCs). Clim Policy 4(1):25–43. doi: 10.1080/14693062.2004.9685508 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linder PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Contribution of working group II to the IPCC fourth assessment report. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  26. IPCC (2013) Summary for policymakers. In: Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner GK, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley PM (eds) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the IPCC fifth assessment report. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  27. Krippendorff K (2004) Content analysis: an introduction to its methodology. Sage Publications Inc, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  28. Laube W, Schraven B, Awo M (2012) Smallholder adaptation to climate change: dynamics and limits in Northern Ghana. Clim Chang 111(3):753–774. doi: 10.1007/s10584-011-0199-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lobell DB, Bänziger M, Magorokosho C, Vivek B (2011) Nonlinear heat effects on African maize as evidenced by historical yield trials. Nature Clim Chang 1(1):42–45. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1043 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Maddison D (2007) The perception of and adaptation to climate change in Africa. CEEPA Discussion Paper no. 10. University of Pretoria Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa, PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  31. Mary A, Majule A (2009) Impacts of climate change, variability and adaptation strategies on agriculture in semi arid areas of Tanzania: the case of Manyoni District in Singida Region, Tanzania. Afr J Environ Sci Technol 3(8):206–218Google Scholar
  32. Mertz O, Mbow C, Reenberg A, Diouf A (2009) Farmers’ perceptions of climate change and agricultural adaptation strategies in rural Sahel. Environ Manag 43(5):804–816. doi: 10.1007/s00267-008-9197-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mertz O, Mbow C, Nielsen JØ, Maiga A, Diallo D, Reenberg A, Diouf A, Barbier B, Moussa IB, Zorom M (2010) Climate factors play a limited role for past adaptation strategies in West Africa. Ecol Soc 15(4):25Google Scholar
  34. Mitchell T, Maxwell S (2010) Defining climate compatible development: policy brief. https://www.dfid.gov.uk/R4D/PDF/Outputs/CDKN/CDKN-CCD-DIGI-MASTER-19NOV.pdf. Accessed 20 Jan 2012
  35. Mortimore MJ, Adams WM (2001) Farmer adaptation, change and crisis’ in the Sahel. Glob Environ Chang 11(1):49–57. doi: 10.1016/S0959-3780(00)00044-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Müller C (2009) Climate change impact on sub-Saharan Africa: an overview and analysis of scenarios and models. Discussion Paper 3/2009, German Development Institute. BonnGoogle Scholar
  37. Newsham AJ, Thomas DSG (2011) Knowing, farming and climate change adaptation in North-Central Namibia. Glob Eniron Chang 21(2):761–770. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.12.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nyong A, Adesina F, Osman Elasha B (2007) The value of indigenous knowledge in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies in the African Sahel. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 12(5):787–797. doi: 10.1007/s11027-007-9099-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ofori-Sarpong E (1986) The 1981–1983 drought in Ghana. Singapore J Trop Geogr 7(2):108–127. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9493.1986.tb00176.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Orlove B, Roncoli C, Kabugo M, Majugu A (2010) Indigenous climate knowledge in southern Uganda: the multiple components of a dynamic regional system. Clim Chang 100(2):243–265. doi: 10.1007/s10584-009-9586-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Paavola J (2008) Livelihoods, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Morogoro, Tanzania. Environ Sci Policy 11(7):642–654. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2008.06.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Paeth H, Hense A (2004) SST versus climate change signals in West African rainfall: 20th-century variations and future projections. Clim Chang 65(1–2):179–208. doi: 10.1023/B:CLIM.0000037508.88115.8a CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pielke R, Prins G, Rayner S, Sarewitz D (2007) Climate change 2007: lifting the taboo on adaptation. Nature 445:597–598. doi: 10.1038/445597a CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rademacher-Schulz C, Schraven B, Mahama ES (2013) Time matters: shifting seasonal migration in northern Ghana in response to rainfall variability and food insecurity. Clim Dev. doi: 10.1080/17565529.2013.830955 Google Scholar
  45. Rigg J (2006) Land, farming, livelihoods and poverty: rethinking the links in rural South. World Dev 34(1):180–202. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2005.07.015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Roncoli C (2006) Ethnographic and participatory approaches to research on farmers’ responses to climate predictions. Clim Res 33(1):81–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Roncoli C, Ingram K, Kirshen P (2002) Reading the rains: local knowledge and rainfall forecasting among farmers of Burkina Faso. Soc Nat Resour 15:411–430. doi: 10.1080/08941920252866774 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sarr B (2012) Present and future climate change in the semi-arid region of West Africa: a crucial input for practical adaptation in agriculture. Atmos Sci Lett 13(2):108–112. doi: 10.1002/asl.368 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schipper ELF, Burton I (eds) (2009) Earthscan reader on adaptation to climate change. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  50. Schlenker W, Lobell DB (2010) Robust negative impacts of climate change on African agriculture. Environ Res Lett 5:014010. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/5/1/014010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Simelton E, Quinn CH, Batisani N, Dougill AJ, Dyer JC, Fraser ED, Mkwambisi D, Sallu S, Stringer LC (2013) Is rainfall really changing? Farmers’ perceptions, meteorological data, and policy implications. Clim Dev. doi: 10.1080/17565529.2012.751893 Google Scholar
  52. Smith B, Burton I, Klein RJT, Wandel J (2000) An anatomy of adaptation to climate change and variability. Clim Chang 45(1):223–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Stringer LC, Dyer JC, Reed MS, Dougill AJ, Twyman C, Mkwambisi D (2009) Adaptations to climate change, drought and desertification: local insights to enhance policy in southern Africa. Environ Sci Policy 12(7):748–765. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2009.04.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tachie-Obeng E, Akponikpè P, Adiku S (2012) Considering effective adaptation options to impacts of climate change for maize production in Ghana. Environ Dev 5:131–145. doi: 10.1016/j.envdev.11.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Thomas DSG, Twyman C, Osbahr H, Hewitson B (2007) Adaptation to climate change and variability: farmer responses to intra-seasonal precipitation trends in South Africa. Clim Chang 83(3):301–322. doi: 10.1007/s10584-006-9205-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Twyman C, Sporton D, Thomas DSG (2004) Where is the life in farming? The viability of smallholder farming on the margins of the Kalahari, southern Africa. Geoforum 35(1):69–85. doi: 10.1016/S0016-7185(03)00030-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Van der Geest K (2011) North-south migration in Ghana: what role for the environment? Int Migr 49:69–94. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2435.2010.00645.x Google Scholar
  58. Van de Giesen N, Liebe J, Gerlinde J (2010) Adapting to climate change in the Volta Basin, West Africa. Curr Sci 98(8):1033–1037Google Scholar
  59. Wouterse F, Taylor JE (2008) Migration and income diversification: evidence from Burkina Faso. World Dev 36(4):625–640. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2007.03.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Yaro JA (2006) Is deagrarianisation real? A study of livelihood activities in rural northern Ghana. J Mod Afr Stud 44(1):125–156. doi: 10.1017/S0022278X05001448 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Yohe G, Tol RSJ (2002) Indicators for social and economic coping capacity: moving toward a working definition of adaptive capacity. Glob Environ Chang 12(1):25–40. doi: 10.1016/S0959-3780(01)00026-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Antwi-Agyei
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lindsay C. Stringer
    • 1
  • Andrew J. Dougill
    • 1
  1. 1.Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and EnvironmentUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science, College of ScienceKwame Nkrumah University of Science and TechnologyKumasiGhana

Personalised recommendations