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Livelihood diversification strategies and resilience to climate change in semi-arid northern Ghana

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Climate change threatens the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the Global South. In semi-arid northern Ghana, where over 73% of the population is engaged in smallholder agriculture, climate-induced food insecurity is of major concern. Livelihood diversification is acknowledged to have the potential to improve climate resilience in smallholder farming systems through risk spreading. That notwithstanding, little is known about the links between livelihood diversification strategies and climate resilience in such vulnerable settings. Drawing data from a cross-sectional survey with 1100 smallholder households in semi-arid northern Ghana, this study contributes to the literature by examining the association between livelihood diversification and climate change resilience. Findings from logistic regression analysis revealed that smallholder farming households that practiced only farm diversification (OR = 4.66; p ≤ 0.001) and a combination of both farm and nonfarm diversification (OR = 6.28; p ≤ 0.001) had significantly higher odds of reporting stronger resilience to climate change compared to those who did not employ any diversification strategy. The study further revealed that land preparation techniques, source of climate information, and religion were significantly associated with smallholder farmers’ perceived climate change resilience. These findings point to the need for agricultural policy to promote both farm and nonfarm livelihoods as complementary risk-spreading strategies. Exploring the synergies between farm and nonfarm livelihoods may prove beneficial in semi-arid agrarian contexts. In doing so, critical contextual dynamics such as source of farm power and sources of climate information must not be overlooked.

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Correspondence to Kamaldeen Mohammed.

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Mohammed, K., Batung, E., Kansanga, M. et al. Livelihood diversification strategies and resilience to climate change in semi-arid northern Ghana. Climatic Change 164, 53 (2021).

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