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Climate change extremes and barriers to successful adaptation outcomes: Disentangling a paradox in the semi-arid savanna zone of northern Ghana

  • Frederick DapilahEmail author
  • Jonas Østergaard Nielsen
Research Article


The literature on barriers to climate change adaptation has largely focused on non-climatic barriers and has provided less insight into climate-induced barriers. Responding to this lacuna, this paper examines the connections between climate change and agricultural adaptation strategies of smallholder farmers in northern Ghana. Results from the qualitative fieldwork show that climatic changes have been accompanied by increases in climate change extremes (CCEs) over the last three decades. In order to adapt, smallholder farmers use improved crop varieties and other support strategies. Paradoxically, however, CCEs have undermined these strategies in several instances, causing crop yields to fall short of their actual potential and leading to financial indebtedness. Therefore, the results showcase that overcoming non-climatic barriers to the uptake of agricultural adaptation strategies is a necessary but insufficient condition for achieving successful adaptation outcomes. This is the case since new barriers to the adaptation process are constantly emerging, and CCEs are an example of this.


Barriers to adaptation Climate change extremes Drought Floods Northern Ghana Successful adaptation 



We would like to thank the Chief and People of Bagri for their time, patience, and granting us the opportunity to learn about how they are adapting to climate change. The support and guidance of staff of the Lawra District Assembly throughout the research stay is also highly appreciated. Special thanks also go to Albert Kankpog for providing translation assistance in community entry processes and data gathering during the fieldwork. Last but not the least, we acknowledge the editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their useful suggestions. Frederick Dapilah was supported by The Government of Ghana and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Doctoral Scholarship Programme under Grant No. Ref#91616271.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IRI-THESys and Geography DepartmentHumboldt UniversityBerlinGermany

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