Publications

Adaptive decision-making under conditions of uncertainty: the case of farming in the Volta delta, Ghana

Sarku, Rebecca; Dewulf, Art; Slobbe, Erik van; Termeer, Katrien; Kranjac-Berisavljevic, Gordana

Summary

Farming in Ghana’s Volta delta is increasingly affected by variability in rainfall conditions and changes in land-use patterns. Under such socio-ecological conditions, little is known about farmers’ decision-making in response to uncertainties in uncertain rainfall conditions. To fill this gap and add to the literature on adaptive decision-making, we addressed the central question: what are the existing patterns of farming decision-making under uncertain rainfall conditions, and which decision-making strategies are adaptive? We developed an adaptive decision-making framework to investigate the behavior of farmers under variable rainfall conditions in Ghana’s Volta delta in the Ada East District. We conducted 5 interviews with agricultural extension agents, 44 in-depth interviews and 4 focus group discussion with farmers. Subsequently, we interviewed a sub-selection of 32 farmers. Findings of the study shows that farmers carry out different decision-making patterns in response to the variable rainfall conditions. We distinguished six strategies: three based on flexibility and three based on robustness. Flexible adaptive decision-making strategies are switching dates for sowing seeds through wait-and-see or delay strategy, muddling through the farming season with the application of various options and alternative irrigation strategies. Robust adaptive decision-making strategies are portfolio strategy of transplanting seedlings in batches, selection of robust (hardy) crops, and intercropping or diversification. Based on how farmers select strategies in response to uncertainty in rainfall conditions, we argue that some decision-making strategies are more adaptive than others. Findings of this study are relevant for the design and implementation of climate related agricultural projects.