Shrinking mobility in soaring temperatures: understanding the impact of changes in mobility on household adaptive capacity in semi-arid rural northern Ghana
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The semi-arid west Sahelian plains of northern Ghana have experienced some of the most drastic climate changes on the planet. For many rural northern Ghanaians, internal seasonal migration is an important and long established autonomous strategy to adapt to these changes. The creation of new opportunities, supported by a planned adaptation intervention, is beginning to change patterns of mobility in one rural community in northern Ghana. The primary objective of this research is to explore how these changing patterns of seasonal migration affect household capacities to adapt to climate change. To achieve this, an analysis of the adaptive and maladaptive impacts of mobility on households is presented alongside an investigation into the shifts in patterns of seasonal migration in the selected case study community in the last ten years. In the context of new income generating opportunities, this research identifies a number of key ways that mobility weakens and strengthens household adaptive capacities and offers interpretations of these findings to determine the impact of changes in mobility on household adaptive capacity. This thesis finds that seasonal migration has declined in the last ten years and that the key reason for these changes is the uptake of dry season farming which is supported by a community based adaptation intervention. Despite the maladaptive impacts, it is argued that the loss of the adaptive benefits of mobility has a damaging effect on adaptive capacity, most notably for households that have stopped migrating altogether, and particularly in the long term. This thesis recommends that greater attention and importance be afforded to mobility and other autonomous adaptation strategies by intervening agencies. Firstly, in order to identify adaptive outcomes of autonomous behaviour that can be facilitated and maladaptive outcomes that should be prevented or mitigated. Secondly, to identify gaps in the adaptive benefits that autonomous strategies offer as target areas for interventions. Thirdly, to provide a more comprehensive and complete basis upon which adaptation interventions and their net impact on adaptive capacity can be analysed and assessed. Fourth and finally, to increase our collective knowledge and understanding of what adaptation is. At this pivotal moment when adaptation is rising up the international climate change agenda to sit alongside mitigation; acknowledging, understanding and learning from autonomous adaptation strategies will enrich the way we know and do adaptation, and could be decisive in enabling the world’s most climate vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change.