Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1823–1833 | Cite as

Social network ties predict land use diversity and land use change: a case study in Ghana

  • M.E. IsaacEmail author
  • P. Matous
Original Article


While it is well documented that informal social ties play a role in information exchange on land management practices, the structural features of such networks that govern individual choice on land use change remain elusive. This study aims to correlate information network structures with localized or “micro-level” land use diversification and land use change. We ask the following: (i) what is the network structure of producers who manage diverse land use types? and (ii) are network topologies and the emergence of new network ties related to land use change? This work draws on a longitudinal study with producers in the transition zone of Ghana. We use social network analysis to assess the social relationships of 40 focal producers embedded in networks of 116 producers, combined with field observation to chart land use types and size. Land use ordered across eight types, from forest and agroforests to crops and grasslands. Converting land to crop production was correlated to the addition of ties in a focal producer’s network, while the diversity of land use types was correlated to the number of institutional ties as well as gender of the focal producer. We illustrate that local networks relate to land use change whereas external ties drive the introduction of new land use types. Given that the diversity of land use types may be a signature of livelihood resilience, the promotion of external, bridging ties can contribute to an increase in land use diversification. However, a strong local network is needed to implement this change.


Agroforestry Land use diversification Livelihood resilience Longitudinal study Social-ecological systems Social network analysis Sustainable agriculture Theobroma cacao 



We thank all participants in this research as well as W. Ampofo and K. Cadger for field assistance. We thank anonymous journal reviewers for the insightful and important comments on earlier versions of this paper. This research was financially supported by the Canada Research Chairs program and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant to MEI.

Compliance with ethical standards

This research received ethics approval from the Social Sciences, Humanities and Education Research Ethics Board, University of Toronto, for research involving human participants. Informed consent was secured in advance of every interview.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences and the Centre for Critical Development StudiesUniversity of Toronto ScarboroughTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of Engineering and ITUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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