The role of social networks in building adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change: a case study from northern Ghana

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Increasing attention is being paid to the role of social networks in climate change research and new studies show that they form an essential source of resilience. However, the role of social networks remains underexplored as there is only limited empirical evidence of their benefits, particularly for research on adaptation to climate change in developing countries. This paper provides a contribution to this field of research by examining how social networks foster livelihood diversification and resilience in a small rural community in northern Ghana. The study combines semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and a survey with a range of other participatory methods. The findings show that, people in the studied community have experienced a range of climatic changes with negative impacts on agriculture in the last three decades. These climatic changes have forced community members to diversify their livelihood activities away from crop production and into off-farm and non-farm activities. Our results highlight how the process of diversification is dependent on household participation in various group activities and formal and informal social networks. Further, the households participating in several group activities and social networks had more diverse livelihood strategies and were found to be more resilient to perceived climate changes because they had access to the critical resources (material and non-material) essential for diversification through their networks. Importantly, this study shows how group activities and social networks can also create adverse effects by enforcing exclusion and marginalization among certain groups in the community. In addition, it shows how some diversification strategies are in conflict with others and thus may potentially undermine future adaptive capacity and the resilience of the community as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClimate and Development
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)42-56
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Social networks, livelihood diversification, climate change adaptation, adaptive capacity, socio-ecological resilience, northern Ghana, LIVELIHOOD DIVERSIFICATION, COMMUNITY RESILIENCE, ADAPTATION, MANAGEMENT, AGENCY, TIES

ID: 245279507