Enhancing Resilience to Drought and Ecosystem Change in Drylands: Assessing Principles of Building Social-Ecological Resilience in Northern Ghana

Appiah, Francis (2021). Enhancing Resilience to Drought and Ecosystem Change in Drylands: Assessing Principles of Building Social-Ecological Resilience in Northern Ghana. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0001270b


The impacts of climate change are set to increase in the foreseeable future posing a great challenge for livelihoods in most rural areas in the developing countries. Drought is one of the main long-term stresses that impacts livelihoods dependent on agriculture and is set to increase in intensity and severity as a result of climate change. Building social-ecological resilience is therefore increasingly recognised as a necessary pathway to sustainable development within dryland communities. However, there are challenges with the sustainability of resilience interventions in communities where the need for poverty reduction and enhancement of livelihood systems is urgent. While the influence of ecological factors is widely documented, little is known about the role of deep-seated socio-cultural factors that can potentially mediate resilience building processes. To address this knowledge gap, this thesis explores the role of resilience building principles by way of literature review and an empirical case-study. The current evidence suggests there are key principles that should be considered when designing strategies to respond to climate change and build resilience in communities that are most impacted. This research therefore draws on 120 surveys, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions covering six villages of the Daffiama-Bussie-Issa district in the Upper West Region of Northern Ghana for the empirical study.

The findings of the study revealed the significant role that principles such as intent-driven trust, attachment to cultural identity and traditional values play in the processes of building community resilience to climate and environmental change. These principles, working together or individually, can significantly determine the successful adaptation of resilience strategies in communities and therefore should be understood and embraced. Trust for example was shown to mediate acceptance and therefore can ensure the successful implementation and long-term engagement of strategies that are designed to improve and build resilience in the face of deleterious climate change impacts. Additionally, addressing community and family cultural identity attachments was identified as a significant consideration to ensure that people are not alienated from their cultural alignment, which has the potential of leading to the rejection of viable resilience strategies. Finally, adherence to traditional values and practices was highlighted in the research to influence how people respond to, and conduct their daily living activities. Consequently, resilience building strategies should be designed in a way to incorporate significant traditional values. The major conclusion of the study is that individuals and communities may not necessarily accept and ensure the success of projects merely based on anticipated benefits to them. But, rather, they may consider what they determine to be socially and culturally acceptable principles they can work with and are accustomed to. The implication of this is that resilience building policies and strategies should be designed with context-specific socio-cultural principles at the core, and from the outset, in order to secure community buy-ins required for effective and successful implementation of climate adaptation projects.

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