Climate change, women’s workload in agriculture, and embodied political ecologies of undernutrition in northern Ghana

Authors: Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong*, University of Denver
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography, Africa
Keywords: Climate change, Undernutrition, Political ecology of health, Embodiment, Ghana
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 6
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The burden of child undernutrition across Africa remains extraordinarily high. Among children under age five, chronic and acute undernutrition is responsible for more ill-health than any other cause. While climate change exacerbates the multiple burdens of undernutrition, we know very little about the embodied effects on women’s workload in agriculture and implications for feeding practices, especially for infants whose nutrition depends on mothers’ time. In this article, political ecologies of health, with its nested, place-based analysis, is used as a framework to address this knowledge gap. In-depth interviews were conducted with smallholder farmers (n=33) whose infants have sub-optimal growth, and key informants (n=7) with expertise in nutrition and health. The field site is Ghana’s Upper West Region, a semi-arid, resource-poor setting with higher undernutrition rates. Findings from the study demonstrate how climate change puts pressure on women's productive time, leading to poor child feeding practices and undernutrition. Ultimately, the article argues that there are hidden impacts of climate change on undernutrition. Global undernutrition interventions should therefore move beyond biomedical solutions to address these hidden impacts, some of which are social, gendered, and structural in nature.

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