Shifting rainfalls, shifting livelihoods: seasonal migration, food security and social inequality in Northern Ghana

Schraven, Benjamin / Christina Rademacher-Schulz
External Publications (2015)

in: Robert McLeman / Jeanette Schade / Thomas Faist (Hrsg), Environmental migration and social inequality (Advances in Global Change Research 61), Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, 43-56

ISBN: 978-3-319-25794-5

This book chapter examines the interrelationship between rainfall variability, migration, and social inequality in a savannah district of Northern Ghana affected by environmental change. The analysis shows that seasonality is a crucial factor shaping smallholders’ livelihood decisions in semi-arid Northern Ghana, an area characterised by a unimodal rainfall. This pattern of rainfall allows one half-year rain-fed production cycle only. Seasonal migration is an important strategy in response to temporary food shortages, which are exacerbated by environmental and climate change. Study results show that the traditional migration during the dry season has increasingly shifted toward the rainy season—especially among poorer and vulnerable households. Rainy-season migration reduces the farm household’s labour availability, which in turn leads to reduced crop yields and lower food security. Interviews with local people reveal that most migrants perceive rainy-season migration to the mining sites (galamsey) of Ghana as more promising than rain-fed subsistence agriculture at home despite the severe dangers and likewise uncertain outcomes associated with galamsey. Only if migrants can remit, do they compensate for their absence during the main time of farm activities at home. Otherwise, households face the risk of increased food insecurity and vulnerability. A majority of migrants, however, prefers non-agricultural professions and some have already invested in these activities. Thus, the temporal shift in seasonal migration leads to a significant shift in livelihood preferences among the poorer and highly vulnerable households, and a concomitant reduction of the importance of subsistence agriculture for the local population.

About the authors

Schraven, Benjamin

Political Scientist


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