Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts




Isaac Luginaah

2nd Supervisor

Moses Kansanga


The George Washington University



With increasing climate change and variability, agricultural productivity continues to decline causing global food insecurity to rise particularly in the Global South. In the predominantly rain-fed agricultural context of semi-arid Northern Ghana, farmers continue to contend with worsening and increasingly unpredictable climatic conditions. Within the context of rising climatic stressors, concerns of post-harvest food loss in smallholder farming communities in Northern Ghana is on the rise. Though existing literature shows that post-harvest loss (PHL) in the Global South is a major challenge to achieving food security, little is known about the determinants of PHL outcomes in smallholder farming communities. Moreover, the complexities of climate change impacts on smallholders have prompted attention to examine other existing resilience building strategies in smallholder contexts. Backyard gardening has emerged as one such resilience building strategies given its potential of meeting the food and nutritional requirement of smallholder households.

Using data from a cross sectional survey of 1100 smallholder farmers in the Upper West Region (UWR) of Ghana, this study first examined the determinants of PHL within the context of climate change and food security. Results from a multiple linear regression model showed a significant association between PHL and a number of variables including demographic and household socio-economic factors. Female primary farmers (α=-1.063; p≤0.05), household size, specifically households with 8-11 members (α=-1.880; p≤0.05), joint decision-making (α=-1.257; p≤0.05), as well as financial remittance (α=-2.622; p≤0.05) were all significantly associated with lower likelihood of PHL. On the contrary, being single in marital status (α= 2.081; p≤0.05), farmers belonging to the poorer (α=1.67; p≤0.05) and poorest (α=2.859; p<0.001) households, livestock rearing (α=1.851; p≤0.05), and mold infestation (α=6.340; p≤0.05), were significantly associated with higher likelihood of PHL. These findings demonstrate the need for agricultural policies to begin prioritizing household socio-economic challenges such as access to agricultural credit, as well as the promotion of joint household decision-making arrangements in the study context. The creation of participatory learning spaces for male and female farmers may also be a viable way of promoting gendered knowledge transfer for PHL prevention in this context.

The study also examined the association between the practice of backyard gardening and smallholder farmers’ resilience to the impacts of climatic stressors. The findings revealed that smallholders who practiced backyard gardening were significantly (OR=9.105; p<0.001) more likely to be resilient than those who did not.  This finding reinforces the need for backyard gardening to be encouraged as a way of spreading risk and building resilience to the impacts of climate change. Given the comparative advantages (e.g., proximity, manageability, the use of green manure, animal droppings etc.) that are associated with backyard gardening, it has the potential of offsetting the losses that farmers may record on their long-distance farms and can therefore strengthen their resilience capacity in times of climatic stressors like drought and erratic rainfalls.

Summary for Lay Audience

About 250.3 million, representing nearly one-fifth of the population in Africa, are currently experiencing hunger. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) alone constitute about 234.7 million of the hungry population in the continent (FAO et. al, 2021). Also, nearly 3.4 billion of the global population resides in rural areas, mostly smallholders who are highly vulnerable to climate change (IPCC, 2022). The prevalence of food insecurity among smallholder farmers in SSA is attributed to climate change, and other socio-economic factors. In Ghana, climate change and food insecurity are major challenges to most smallholders. Farmers in northern Ghana lack the appropriate coping and adaptation strategies for climate change and post-harvest loss (PHL) prevention (Baral & Hoffmann, 2018). Also, some scholars have highlighted the potentials of dry season gardening in building smallholder farmers’ resilience to climate change. There is however little research on the factors that shape PHL in smallholder farming contexts, as well as the association between dry season gardening and smallholders’ resilience to climate change impacts. In contributing to the literature on PHL and backyard gardening as a climate change resilience strategy, this thesis examined the determinants of PHL, and also examined the association between backyard gardening and smallholder farmers’ resilience to climatic stressors. Overall, poverty, lack of access to affordable credit facilities and socio-cultural factors like joint agricultural-related decision-making, were all significant determinants of PHL in the study context. The practice of backyard gardening was also significantly associated with good resilience to climate change. The study thus suggests that in smallholder farming contexts like northern Ghana, agricultural policies that target PHL prevention should focus on addressing the underlying socio-economic constraints of smallholder farming households. The study also suggests that policy initiatives that aims at improving smallholder farmers’ resilience to climatic stressors, should recognize and prioritize supplementary farming practices like backyard gardening given that backyard gardening has the potential of spreading v the risk of crop failure from drought, and can concurrently reduce smallholder farmers’ vulnerability to food insecurity.

Available for download on Thursday, August 24, 2023