Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts



Collaborative Specialization

Environment and Sustainability


Luginaah, Isaac


Climate change and food insecurity threaten the livelihoods of smallholder communities in the Global South. In the Ghanaian context, climate change and food insecurity are particularly crucial challenges in the northern regions, where most people are engaged in diverse activities in the agricultural sector. Despite tremendous efforts to curtail food insecurity and climate change vulnerability of smallholder households in northern Ghana, food insecurity and climate change remain pervasive in the region, indicating that smallholder adaptive capacities and resilience to the impacts of climate change are not commensurate with the severity of the problems. Emerging literature has indicated that livelihood diversification strategies and collective household decision-making can potentially moderate the effects of climate change. Yet in the Upper West Region (UWR) of Ghana, we know little about these important links. Therefore, this study draws data from a cross-sectional survey (n=1100) in the UWR to examine smallholder livelihoods and food security situation in the contexts of climate change.

First, the study examined the role of livelihood diversification strategies in households’ resilience to climate change. Results from the logistic regression revealed that smallholder households that practiced only farm diversification (OR = 3.95; p ≤ 0.05) and a combination of both farm and non-farm diversification (OR = 5.77; p ≤ 0.01) had significantly higher odds of reporting stronger resilience to climate change compared to those who did not employ any diversification strategy. Second, the study examined the relationship between intra-household decision-making arrangements and food security. The regression results indicated that households that practiced joint decision-making (OR = 1.71; p≤0.001) had significantly higher odds of being food secure than households that practiced sole patriarchal decision-making. The findings from this study point to the need for agricultural policies to harness the synergies between farm and non-farm livelihood activities as complementary climate change risk-spreading strategies. Also, this study reinforces that policies seeking to address food insecurity and other socio-economic challenges in northern Ghana must focus on the interdependence and complementarity of men and women in household food security decision-making.

Summary for Lay Audience

Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aims to eliminate all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. Regardless, nearly one-fourth of the global population do not have access to safe and nutritious food. Ironically, food insecurity is prevalent among food producers, particular smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The prevalence of food insecurity among smallholder farmers is attributed to climate change and other biophysical and socio-economic factors. In Ghana, climate change and food security present crucial challenges to people's livelihoods, especially smallholder farmers in the northern regions. This shows that smallholder farmers in northern Ghana do not have appropriate coping and adaptation strategies to these problems. Livelihood diversification and collective decision making are promising approaches that could improve food security and climate change resilience in smallholder communities. Livelihood diversification and collective decision making can pull resources from diverse livelihood activities to help households spread risks. Therefore, this thesis examined the potential of livelihood diversification strategies and collaborative decision making in improving resilience to climate change and food security.

Overall, the findings showed that livelihood diversification and collective decision making can improve climate change resilience and food security in smallholder context. Farmers that practiced only farm livelihood diversification were three times more likely to be resilient to climate change than farmers who did not practice livelihood diversification. Similarly, households that combined farm and non-farm livelihood strategies were five times more likely to be resilient to climate change impacts than households that did not practice livelihood diversification. Also, households that practiced collective decision making were more likely to be food secure than households that practiced sole decision making. The findings show that combining farm and non-farm livelihoods is a beneficial initiative in smallholder communities and policies must pay attention to how concurrent diversification into farm and non-farm livelihood activities could be harnessed to improve smallholder farmers adaptive capacities and livelihoods. The study also suggests that policies and initiatives that want to improve food security should recognize that women and men depend on and complement each other to ensure household food security. Therefore, collective household decision making can help pull resources from different livelihood activities to improve food security.