Perceived stressors of climate vulnerability across scales in the Savannah zone of Ghana: A participatory approach

Smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are confronted with climatic and non-climatic stressors. Research attention has focused on climatic stressors, such as rainfall variability, with few empirical studies exploring non-climatic stressors and how these interact with climatic stressors at multiple scales to affect food security and livelihoods. This focus on climatic factors restricts understanding of the combinations of stressors that exacerbate the vulnerability of farming households and hampers the development of holistic climate change adaptation policies. This study addresses this particular research gap by adopting a multi-scale approach to understand how climatic and non-climatic stressors vary, and interact, across three spatial scales (household, community and district levels) to influence livelihood vulnerability of smallholder farming households in the Savannah zone of northern Ghana. This study across three case study villages utilises a series of participatory tools including semi-structured interviews, key informant interviews and focus group discussions. The incidence, importance, severity and overall risk indices for stressors are calculated at the household, community, and district levels. Results show that climatic and non-climatic stressors were perceived differently; yet, there were a number of common stressors including lack of money, high cost of farm inputs, erratic rainfall, cattle destruction of crops, limited access to markets and lack of agricultural equipment that crossed all scales. Results indicate that the gender of respondents influenced the perception and severity assessment of stressors on rural livelihoods at the community level. Findings suggest a mismatch between local and district level priorities that have implications for policy and development of agricultural and related livelihoods in rural communities. Ghana’s climate change adaptation policies need to take a more holistic approach that integrates both climatic and non-climatic factors to ensure policy coherence between national climate adaptation plans and District development plans.

Regional Environmental Change