Smallholder Farmers Coping with the Threat of Desertification: Evidence from the Upper East Region, Ghana

Authors: Alex Owusu*, University of Ghana
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Remote Sensing, Arid Regions
Keywords: Desertification, Land degradation, Upper East region, Coping strategies, adaptation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Proteus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Desertification poses a serious threat to agriculture and the livelihood support system of smallholder farmers of the savanna agroecological zone of Ghana, particularly the Upper East Region (UER). Several attempts at combating this threat have favored large to medium scale farmers. Relating to desertification threat in UER are the following: what are the evidence(s) that small scale farmers are under the threat of desertification? How are they copping with the desertification threats? How sustainable are these coping mechanisms? This study conducted extensive field survey and Focus Group Discussions with smallholder farmers. The study finds that the UER had reached desertification stage described as park savanna with trees covering about 10% or less. Other evidence observed include evidence of soil depletion and erosion, declining crop yield and extended period of drought. Smallholder farmers are pushed to marginal lands with no access to expensive land preparation methods and cannot afford improved seeds. Subsidized fertilizers supplied by Government end up with rich and influential people in society. Smallholder farmers coping strategies include changing crop emphasis, reduction of fallow, and outward migration. Farmers have also adopted coping strategies including strategies to minimize risk of crop failure, strategies to ensure all-year-round cropping, strategies to improve soil fertility and crop diversification. Whilst local coping strategies work in the short term against desertification, the long term sustainability depends on the ability of local people to translate the coping mechanisms to long term adaptation to ensure long term economic resilience; promote ecological integrity and maintenance of socio-political stability.

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