Stephen Ataamvari Adaawen is currently doing his research at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) but affiliated to the Geography Department of the University of Bonn. He will most likely be done by mid-2015.
What is your research all about?
My research topic is: “Migration from and to the North of Ghana: Historic paths in confrontation with environmental risks”. This research work is part of the larger “West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use”, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
Generally, the issue of climatic/environmental change and risks, and the associated effects is a major challenge to livelihoods and sustenance in the West African Sahel. In the face of rainfall variability, land scarcity and perennial flooding, livelihoods in the northern Ghana have not only been undermined but agricultural productivity has consistently declined over the years. In the advent of these challenges, migration of people has always also been an enduring theme in northern Ghana. With the Bongo/Vea Dam catchment in the Upper east Region of Ghana as the area of study, the research sought amongst other things to find out: (i) what the perceptions of the people on climate/environmental change and its impact on agriculture are in the district? (ii) to find out to what extent climatic/environmental change contribute to outmigration in the area? (iii) Lastly, to examine and analyse how migration has influenced development and social transformation in the study area? To deal with these questions, I conducted field research involving interviews, household surveys and also gathered secondary data from governmental agencies and NGOs on the subject.
What has been the most surprising/ most innovative outcome?
In spite of recent climatic projections suggesting that rainfall may have recovered within West Africa, it was evident that rainfall variability was a major challenge to the agricultural livelihoods in the area. Interestingly, people in the Bongo areas acknowledge or are aware that the rainfall pattern has changed and in part accounts for the declining agricultural productivity in the area. The general climate change discourses point to scientific explanations as accounting for the global climatic changes and hence the seeming rainfall variability in northern Ghana and other parts of the West African Sahel.
It was interesting to find out, however, that moral transgression and lack of respect for customs had been variously enumerated as accounting for the perceived changes in the climate in terms of rainfall variability and the declining agricultural productivity in the area. At the same time the preliminary findings point to the fact that migration over the years has been enduring and embedded in the social organization of the people. The phenomenon has over time assumed some societal value and indeed become part of the socialization process in the area and hence its persistence. It is highlighted that the effects of climatic/environmental change on livelihoods may be a contributory precursor to the migration of people, but its role as the primary cause of persistent outmigration might be overemphasised.
Which practical use does your work have?
First and foremost, the research will contribute to the WASCAL research project in achieving the main goal of developing effective adaptation and mitigation strategies aimed at dealing with climate change effects that confront the Western Africa. That is, to help improve the resilience of human populations and environmental systems to the effects of climate change and variability. Secondly, the research apart from contributing to the ongoing debate on the migration-environmental change nexus will shed light on the self-enforcing socio-cultural and economic factors that seem to contribute to the persistent outmigration of people within the context of environmental change in northern Ghana. This will help for designing appropriate interventions at tackling the effects of climate variability on livelihoods on the one hand, and poverty reduction and rural development on the other.
Climate change has considerable effects on environment and humanity. Can you explain the reasons for migration?
There have been considerable debates, over the years, as to the role of climatic/environmental change in forced migrations across the globe. This has resulted in widespread reservations amongst scholars regarding the „environmental refugee“ rhetoric. With regard to my research, same cannot be said about the direct relationship between climatic/environment and persistent migration in the study area. The contributory role of historical antecedents and that of migrants as mediators, over the years in transmitting or building a culture of migration and hence the persistent out-migration of people in northern Ghana, can be seen to offer a better explanation of migration in the Bongo area. The research thus suggests that whilst the effects of climate/environmental change on the agrarian livelihoods of people in the study area cannot be discounted, the culture of migration that has evolved overtime seems to sustain the persistent outmigration in the area in contrast to what “environmental maximalists” overemphasize or advance as the situation in northern Ghana.
What is your personal recommendation for living sustainable in daily life?
I think as humans, we should subscribe to sustainable energy production and consumption. Resorting to renewable sources of energy and recycling or keeping personal items for reuse will help reduce the increasing destruction of the natural resource base as we strive to address our ever increasing need for energy. I would recommend also that we can contribute to sustainability by reducing our usage and printing of materials. We should use paper or only print documents if is that very necessary.
Would you like to highlight certain aspects (e.g. have you published a book or won a price)?
Some aspects of the research has been published in the Sustainability Journal as well as presented at several conferences of which the recent one has been the XVIII ISA (International Sociological Association) World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, Japan, 13-19th July, 2014 on “Changing Reproductive Behaviour and Migration as Response to Climate/Environmental Change: Evidence From Rural Northern Ghana”.
Recent Publication: Sow, P., Adaawen, S.A. & Scheffran, J. (2014). Migration, Social Demands and Environmental Change amongst the Frafra of Northern Ghana and the Biali in Northern Benin. Sustainability, Vol.6, pp.375-398.
The interview was conducted by Lisa Eidam, European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI)