Climate change is persistently affecting the lives of poor and rural African farmers, potentially undermining food security and socio-economic development. In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), adaptation to climate change (CC) impacts on agriculture has therefore become a major concern to various stakeholders with special emphasis on how to assist farmers in improving their adaptive capacity. An informal questionnaire to Ghanaian cocoa farmers demonstrates that knowledge provides supportive CC adaptation.

Ghana is second to the world’s largest cocoa-producing nation behind Côte d’Ivoire and rain-fed agriculture still remains the source of irrigation for a majority of Ghana’s population of farmers. About 3.2 million people along its commodity chain are employed by the cocoa industry and simultaneously account for 25% of foreign exchange earnings. Many people in Ghana survive and gather income thanks to agriculture, therefore it is extremely relevant to understand how climate change (CC) can be impactful on crop growth especially if we consider that the local agricultural industry is made up mostly of smallholder family farms. It is estimated that 800,000 smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana descend between 85% of their yearly income solely from cocoa production. In Ghana, this precious crop, Cocoa, cultivated beneath the shade of forest trees, in addition to annual food crops on the same piece of land, is essential for smallholder farmers across the cocoa-forest mosaic of tropical Ghana.

There is a massive development in agricultural production technology, however, weather and climate still play a crucial role in Ghana and other countries. At a local level, it is acknowledged the positive impact that high awareness and perception of CC adaptation can play on decisions made by farmers that goes beyond just knowing that there is a technology that can help their crops. The decisions and strategies in addressing the impact of CC on farmers must take into account farmers’ knowledge and perception of climate change, their potential adaptation measures, and possible barriers and constraints to such adaptation for effective adaptation policies to be put in place.

Farmers’ Point Of View: an informal conversation

The purpose of this article was to examine farmers’ perceptions and adaptation practices to climate change and variability in random cocoa farm areas in the eastern region of Ghana. Farmers in random farm areas, after being engaged in informal questionnaires, depicted their perceptions of changes in climate were notably dissimilar and did not always match historic weather data, but accurately described increases in temperature and drought which are linked to cocoa productivity. Farmers appreciated the importance of tree maintenance for ecosystem services but were sceptical of financially rewarding climate change strategies that could instead favour tree protection.

Remarkably, a strong connection between climate change, the level of concern for related implications, and ultimately, farmers’ verdict to subscribe to climate change mitigation policies and projects exists, irrespective of the accuracy of farmers’ familiarity with regard to individual perceptions of climate change and actual historical climatic trends. For instance, individuals who thought climatic changes were occurring and that changes were a result of human activities, were more likely to comprehend temperature increases despite inconsistencies with available climate records.

In the end, perceptions about climate patterns effectively determine the actions of farmers irrespective of patterns determined through analysis of empirical climate data. Thus, the demonstration that the power of knowledge supported through efficient application and awareness also plays a role in CC adaptation in such ways that could potentially contribute also to knowledge transfer. Farmers could potentially support each other in studying new ways to protect their crops while spreading awareness of the measures in which we can together mitigate CC impact.

Jessica Larbi (activist on the right) and Ghanian Cocoa Farmer (left) © Lord Offei-Darko (the photo was taken by the author with the people’s consent)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s