Perceptions of climate change and adaptation: a case of peasants in the Builsa district of the Upper East Region of Ghana
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Cropping patterns in the Builsa district of Ghana are gradually changing and faced with a perceived climate change and its negative consequences on the livelihoods of peasant farmers in the district, it is often assumed that climate change is the sole driver of changes in land- use decisions of peasants. The aim of this study is to examine the perceptions of farmers towards climate change and to measure the extent to which climate variability affect cropping patterns in the Bulisa District of the upper east region of Ghana over the last two decades (1990-2009), how vulnerable peasants are and some response or adaptive measures by peasants in the District to climate change. Using household surveys, oral histories, group interviews and 24-hour dietary recalls, substantial changes in cropping patterns were observed by peasant farmers in the Builsa district. Peasants have not only adopted new varieties of crops like soya beans and garden eggs but in addition cultivate improved varieties of old crops. These changes in crops grown were explained not only by climate factors such as increased temperatures, reduction in rainfall amount and distribution over the years, shifts in the onset of rains, but also, non-climate factors. From my informants, the most important thing is not about the total amount of rainfall received in a year rather its availability during the critical months of the cropping season. My informants also observed that insufficient labour, inadequate extension services, inability to purchase improved seeds and other agricultural inputs, the decline in market for some varieties of old crops, global influence through the activities of markets, NGOs and state departments and agencies etc, are partly responsible for the types of crops they grow today. It was also observed that off-farm and non-farm livelihood activities were not given the needed attention they deserved by peasants which might increase their level of vulnerability to changes in climate. It is the non-farm activities and the structural factors influencing the farming system that deserve much attention if the risk of climate change is to be reduced. The analysis was done using the sustainable livelihood approach which brings onboard all the dimensions of the peasantry livelihoods.