Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Geography

Collaborative Specialization

Environment and Sustainability

Supervisor

Luginaah, Isaac

Abstract

Globally, observed climate change has become a major barrier to agricultural productivity. At the same time, present and projected climate impacts are disproportionately affecting smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where smallholder agriculture constitutes the predominant source of livelihood. Due to the vast agricultural potential of SSA, climate change resilience has been central in several multi-level deliberations over the past few decades. However, existing policies aimed at improving the effects of climate change on food security have overwhelmingly focused on the climatic dimensions of vulnerability, resulting in a lack of knowledge of the role non-climatic factors also play in shaping smallholders’ resilience. In fact, others have argued that smallholder farmers’ lack of access to credit continues to militate against their climate resilience. Using data from a cross-sectional survey (n = 1,100) collected on household representatives across three districts in the Upper West Region of Ghana, this thesis examined the association between climate resilience and socio-economic aspects of smallholder farmers. Specifically, the study assessed the relationship between smallholder farmers’ perceived climate change resilience and their credit access; and also examined the association between perceived climate change resilience and their intrahousehold decision-making arrangements. Findings from ordered logistic regression analysis suggest that households with access to credit from informal sources were more likely (OR = 1.73, p ≤ 0.05) to report good resilience compared to those without access. Furthermore, households that received remittances (OR = 3.26, p ≤ 0.001) were also more likely to report good resilience compared to their counterparts that did not receive remittances. Regarding resilience and decision-making, households that practiced joint decision-making were also more likely (OR=3.74, p≤0.001) to report good resilience compared to households where ii only male heads made decisions. These findings reiterate that the multifaceted nature of climate vulnerability must be considered in the resilience-building process. The results also highlight the gaps and inefficiencies of current policies on strengthening the socioeconomic capability of smallholder farmers. It is recommended that policy makers should redesign policies that will combine the strengths of both formal and informal credit sources to better serve rural populations. Also, agricultural policies must take into account the traditional value systems of any targeted context to maximize the chances of realizing the intended effects.

Summary for Lay Audience

Climate plays an important role in sustaining the Earth’s systems. Following notable differences observed in the composition of the atmosphere and changes in the climate partly due to human activities, some of Earth’s systems have seen a decline in their performance. The agricultural sector is one of the key areas that has been negatively impacted across most regions of the world. In regions like sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where small-scale farming is a major source of livelihood, poor agricultural productivity presents additional challenges for small-scale farmers who are already struggling with several issues such as land degradation, poor health, unequal land distribution, low levels of technological adoption, and rapid population growth. Agriculture also forms a strong economic base of most countries in SSA. Considering the importance of agriculture in the region, a lot of attention from national governments in the region and international organizations has been directed at building the climate resilience of farmers. Resilience essentially means ensuring that small-scale farmers are well-positioned with adequate resources to withstand the effects of climate change to sustain their livelihoods. In Ghana, the government overtime has implemented several policies targeted at improving the resilience of farmers. For instance, the government has made substantial investments in improving the availability of crucial agricultural inputs such as improved seeds and fertilizers, labor-saving technologies, and providing farmers with relevant agricultural information. Unfortunately, these efforts have not been enough to improve the resilience of the majority of farmers. Some scholars have attributed the poor resilience of small-scale farmers to the narrow focus of these policies, some of which have mostly centered on understanding atmospheric changes. The key argument here is that most of these policies often fail to consider other equally important factors that may shape farmers’ resilience. One of such factors is the cultural and traditional practices of farming iv communities. Other authors have also linked the poor resilience of these farmers to poverty, which is also reinforced by their inadequate access to financial assistance which limits their ability to acquire available farming inputs. Given these two highlighted factors, this thesis examined the relationship between smallholder farmers’ perceived climate change resilience and their credit access; and also examined the association between perceived climate change resilience and the intrahousehold decision-making arrangements of small-scale farmers in the Upper West Region of Ghana. Findings from this study suggest that farming households that had access to informal credit sources were more likely to be resilient to climate change than those that had no access to credit. The findings further reveal that households that made decisions jointly were more likely to be resilient than households where decisions were made solely by the male household head. The findings indeed provide evidence that increasing the financial capacity of farmers, as well as making related policies culturally sensitive can improve their resilience.

Available for download on Thursday, August 31, 2023

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