Impacts of land tenure arrangements on the adaptive capacity of marginalized groups: Lessons from Ghana

Philip Antwi-Agyei, Ph.D.

It is undeniable that our climate is changing. Recent evidence suggests that doing nothing about our changing climate could have serious implications for the livelihoods of many people, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Climate change adaptation is, therefore, crucial if rural livelihoods are to survive the adverse impacts of climate change and variability. Yet, adaptation efforts by rural households are confronted with many challenges.

I recently published a paper in the journal Land Use Policy that highlights that the changing nature of land tenure in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa adversely impacts on the efforts of different social groups of farming households to initiate adaptation measures. The paper employed participatory methods to explore the linkages between land tenure arrangements and land management practices in 6 study villages of different climate vulnerability status in central and northeast Ghana. The paper sought to understand the impacts of land tenure arrangements on climate change adaptation efforts of different social groups in Ghana. The overall conclusion from the paper is that “land tenure, within the broader socioeconomic, environmental and political contexts, is implicitly involved in shaping the vulnerability of poor female and migrant farmers” to climate change in Ghana. Here, I unpack the key messages from this paper and outline policy implications.

Land tenure arrangements may impact on land management practices
Different social groups pursue different land management practices based on land tenure arrangements. The study revealed that migrant farmers who were renting their farmlands, and have insecure tenure engaged in short term land management practices. On the contrary, indigenous farmers who have inherited their farmlands employed long-term land management practices and climate adaptation practices including agro-forestry systems that have the potential to reduce their vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Secure tenure may impact on land property rights
Migrant farmers and female farmers with less secure tenure may lack property rights and are disadvantaged in sourcing credit and other facilities to initiate livelihood adaptation strategies to reduce their vulnerability to climate change.

Policy implications
The paper recommends the need to institute pragmatic measures to reduce cultural discriminations against women via land reforms and restructuring to take care of the rights of women farmers. Opportunities for women to own and formalise land titles should be vigorously pursued by the Government of Ghana, whist at the same time strengthening the capacity of state institutions involved in land transactions through institutional capacity building to enable them to function effectively. Finally, the rights of migrant farmers should be formally recognised in policy documents to enable migrant farmers to initiate land-based adaptations measures in a similar manner to non-migrant farmers.

Philip explaining a point during a focus group discussion with women farmers

Reflections on CIRCLE Fellowship
It is important to stress that although this paper was developed prior to my CIRCLE fellowship, substantial revisions were made during my CIRCLE tenure. Being part of CIRCLE has brought immense benefits and further broadened my scope for research. Crucially, it has provided several platforms for networking and collaboration. For instance, it has provided opportunities for me to be part of the Climate Change Working Group at my Host Institution, the University of Ghana. Further, it has afforded me the opportunity to work with researchers from my host institution on a larger project on “women, food security and climate change in Ghana”. Other networks and collaborations have been forged with researchers from the UK and Canada on climate change and urban ecosystems as well as “Climate Smart Cities and Climate Change”. More importantly, the CIRCLE fellowship has given me opportunities to be involved in a number of publications in leading peer reviewed international journals including Land Use Policy, Environmental Science and Policy, Regional Environmental Change, Sustainability, and the Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management. Much of the collaborative research started during this fellowship is likely to provide opportunities for research into various aspects of climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation even beyond my CIRCLE tenure.

For a copy of this paper, please see the following web page:


Philip Antwi-Agyei (Ph.D.) is a CIRCLE Fellow hosted at the University of Ghana and his Home Institution is the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana.

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