Ghana is located in West Africa and covers an area of 238,539 square kilometers. There are two major seasons in the country, the rainy and the dry season. In southern Ghana, there is a prolonged rainy season, thus creating two cropping seasons in most places. Northern Ghana has a relatively shorter rainy season of about six months, and therefore, only one cropping season. Northern Ghana is made up of three administrative regions. They are the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West regions, which are the savannah zones of the country.
The research was conducted in four villages— Mantari, Nanville, Takpo, and Zupiri— located in the Nadowli district in the Upper West Region, the poorest region in Ghana. The climate in this region is marked by a wet (May to September-October) and a dry season (rest of the year). People in this district mainly live from subsistence agriculture (85% of the population) and livestock production, and the degree of economic diversification is very low. The main staple food crops are millet, maize, sorghum and yam. Farmers increasingly plant groundnuts because selling this cash crop enables them to buy food from local markets to support their families. As farmers in this district have no access to irrigation facilities, their agricultural production is entirely dependent on rainfall.
The following changes in rainfall patterns over the past 20-30 years have been observed in the research villages: an increase in heavy rainfall causing floods; a delay of the rainy season (from April to May); and an increase of the occurrence of dry spells associated with higher temperatures. In general, villagers report that the climate has become less predictable. These perceptions are also largely supported by local meteorological data and expert opinion, which confirm that average temperatures are increasing and that both longer dry spells and heavy rainfall events are increasing in frequency during the planting season.
The majority of the household respondents in the research site mentioned that changing rainfall patterns have a negative effect on crop production and in turn worsen the economic situation of the household. Dry spells and heavy rainfall events during critical stages in the planting season can negatively affect crop production, leading to reduced yields or harvest losses, and ultimately resulting in food shortages. Negative effects on food crop production, in turn, lead to rising food prices. 37% of the surveyed households reported rising food prices, which reduced the accessibility of food for their families. 75% of the respondents of the survey did not have enough food to cover household needs during the lean season (May – August), and 69% of them did not have enough money to buy food during the same period. According to 37% of the respondents, animal production declined as well, reducing thereby the “safety valve” in times of crisis when people sell their livestock to gain income to buy food from the market.
The household survey results showed that the most important reasons for migration by order of importance are: the decline in crop production for own consumption; shifts in the rainy season; unemployment; longer drought periods followed by unreliable harvest; and increase in drought frequency. Household members are mainly migrating for economic and food security reasons, which are directly linked to climatic and environmental factors by virtue of people’s dependence on rain-fed agriculture. Suffering from a low degree of economic diversification in the area of origin, migration to other parts of the country is a common means to diversify household income and receive remittances.