Securing food and rural livelihoods in a changing climate in Ghana

by Evelyn Asante-Yeboah, Ghana, ELP 2014
Written on July 20, 2014.

Agriculture in Africa is highly vulnerable to impacts of climate change, manifested through increased drought and flood severity, more intense storms, shifts in the timing and distribution of rainfall, warmer temperatures, and secondary effects such as increased pest and disease pressure. Due to the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture and accelerated rate of the change, coupled with high population growth and a shift in food preference, food security everywhere is threatened. Food security in Africa is profoundly affected by climate change, which is occurring on top of rapid population growth, fast-paced urbanization, land-use change, conflict, and degradation of critical environmental services that underpin food and livelihood security.

Agriculture is necessary for provision of food but at a cost to ecosystem services including carbon sequestration. In addition, declined ecosystem services also affect agricultural productivity. Human activities such as forest harvesting for timber and fuelwood, and poor land management practices in the tropics have been noted as major contributors to carbon emission into the atmosphere. Also, due to this relationship between agriculture and climate change and the likelihood of pronounced negative impact in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is the need for agricultural systems in the sub-Saharan Africa to cope and adapt to climate change, since the agricultural industry is mainly rain-fed.

This case is no exception for Ghana. Agriculture, primarily small-scale, is the backbone of Ghana’s economy with the humid zone being one of the major food producing zones. Agriculture accounts for 35% of the Gross Domestic Product of Ghana. However, poor management of trees on agricultural farms in Ghana due to the policies governing the use of trees on farms usually leads to farmers destroying trees or retaining a very few number of trees on agricultural lands. This is because these farmers have no real incentive to retain trees, especially timber species, on their agricultural land. Also, the customary land tenure system accounts for 78% in Ghana, 20% is held under public land and the remaining 2% is held between the government and the customary owners. However, poor rural female farmers have less access to ownership of land for agricultural farming. With this traditional land tenure system, females often lose land normally reserved for growing crops for household consumption to give way for commercial crops and they are often excluded from policy making negotiations.

Not only is loss of trees on agricultural farms a major problem, but also the knowledge on post-harvest logistics in a more environmental friendly manner, agricultural biodiversity as means of controlling pest and increasing yield in a changing climate, land use planning and organic farming are major challenges both at the policy and farmer level.

My passion is to transfer the knowledge needed to deal with the above mentioned adaption measures in agriculture as a result of the increasing impact of climate changes from the ELP program to Ghana and to acquire integrated (multi- and trans-disciplinary) approaches in solving agricultural vulnerabilities of global concern.