Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 903–926 | Cite as

Characterising the nature of household vulnerability to climate variability: empirical evidence from two regions of Ghana

  • Philip Antwi-Agyei
  • Andrew J. Dougill
  • Evan D. G. Fraser
  • Lindsay C. Stringer


This paper builds on national- and regional-level vulnerability assessments by developing and applying a livelihood vulnerability index at the community and household scales to explore the nature of climate vulnerability. It provides innovative methodological steps in relation to livelihood assessment to identify the vulnerability of households and communities to drought. This will help to improve drought vulnerability assessments in Ghana and more widely as it shows extra information can be obtained from local-level vulnerability assessment that may be lacking in national- and regional-level analysis. The research employs quantitative and qualitative data collected through participatory methods, key informant interviews and a questionnaire survey with 270 households across 6 communities in two regions in Ghana. Results show that within the same agroecological zone, households and communities experience different degrees of climate vulnerability. These differences can be largely explained by socioeconomic characteristics such as wealth and gender, as well as access to capital assets. Results identify vulnerable households within resilient communities as well as more resilient households within vulnerable communities. These outliers are studied in detail. It is found that outlier households in vulnerable communities have an array of alternative livelihood options and tend to be socially well connected, enabling them to take advantage of opportunities associated with environmental and economic changes. To sustain and enhance the livelihoods of vulnerable households and communities, policymakers need to identify and facilitate appropriate interventions that foster asset building, improve institutional capacity as well as build social capital.


Climate variability Livelihoods Capital assets Vulnerability assessment Resilience Ghana 



This study was funded by the Commonwealth Scholarships, UK and the International Foundation for Science (IFS). The authors gratefully acknowledge the constructive comments by Dr Susannah Sallu (University of Leeds) on an earlier draft of this paper. The authors would also like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Antwi-Agyei
    • 1
    • 3
  • Andrew J. Dougill
    • 1
  • Evan D. G. Fraser
    • 2
  • Lindsay C. Stringer
    • 1
  1. 1.Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and EnvironmentUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  3. 3.Department of Theoretical and Applied BiologyKwame Nkrumah University of Science and TechnologyKumasiGhana

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