Farmers response to climate variability and change in rainfed farming systems: Insight from lived experiences of farmers

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Climate adaptation, while urgent, is complicated by a slew of unknowns and uncertainties through insufficient scholarship. This study addresses these slews of unknowns surrounding local adaptation to climate change and associated determinants among rainfed smallholder farmers in rural Ghana. We utilized a mixed-method approach to collect primary data from 410 households, 15 key informants and 10 focus group participants coupled with meteorological data from the Ghana Meteorological Agency, Accra (GMet). Results from meteorological analysis from 1989 to 2020 and farmers’ perceptions showed a consistent pattern exemplifying a temperature rise, and a decline in rainfall pattern in the study area over the period. Rainfed smallholder farmers employed multiple coping strategies including—cognitive restructuring, resource seeking, experiential avoidance, expressive coping, capital disinvestment and relying on social networks to deal with current and future climate shocks. Also, key adaptation interventions implemented by rainfed smallholder farmers based on lived experiences include farm and crop management, soil and water conservation, conservation agricultural practices, smart-farming practices and cropping decisions, livelihood diversification and indigenous knowledge application. Market access, access to climate information/services, access to extension services, use of indigenous knowledge and practice, risk perception, and government support, livestock ownership, asset ownership, credit access, and farm insurance significantly increase rainfed smallholder farmers’ decision to cope/adapt to climate variability in rural Ghana. However, improved soil fertility and farm labour significantly influenced rainfed smallholder farmers’ adaptation response but not coping. The findings have implications for developing effective adaptation interventions to build resilient agricultural systems and sustainable livelihood in rainfed farming areas.
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