Adaptation opportunities and maladaptive outcomes in climate vulnerability hotspots of northern Ghana

Philip Antwi-Agyei*, Andrew J. Dougill, Lindsay C. Stringer, Samuel Nii Ardey Codjoe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


How climate change adaptation practices can constrain development and deliver maladaptive outcomes in vulnerability hotspots is yet to be explored in-depth using case study analyses. This paper explores the effects of climate change coping and adaptation responses in three case study villages across the Central Gonja district of northern Ghana. The study addresses the following research questions: i) What are the key climatic and non-climatic stressors confronting households in northern Ghanaian communities? ii) How are households adapting to climatic and non-climatic stressors? and iii) What are the outcomes of these coping and adaptation responses on development? The study employs a mixed-method approach including key informant interviews, focus group discussions and household questionnaire surveys. Data identified socioeconomic stressors including a lack of access to (and high cost of) farm inputs, labour shortages and population growth. Climatic stressors include erratic rainfall, high temperature, droughts and floods. Climatic and non-climatic stressors interact to affect agricultural practices and related livelihoods. The study identified various adaptation measures including extensification and intensification of agriculture, temporary migration, planting of drought resistant varieties, irrigation, and livelihood diversification. We show that many coping measures (e.g. livelihood diversifications activities such as selling of firewood and charcoal production) and adaptation responses (including intensification, extensification and irrigation) currently deliver maladaptive outcomes, resulting in lock-ins that could exacerbate future climate vulnerabilities. The paper contributes to the growing literature on adaptation and climate risk management by providing empirical evidence showing how coping and adaptations measures can deliver maladaptive outcomes in vulnerable communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-93
Number of pages11
JournalClimate Risk Management
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by funding from the Department for International Development (DfID) under the Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) programme. The authors acknowledge the support of participating communities in this study. The study also received additional funding from the UK ESRC’s Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy University of Leeds, UK (Grant number: ES/K006576/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017


  • Africa
  • Climate change and variability
  • Livelihoods
  • Maladaptation
  • Mixed methods

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