The agriculture sector is highly sensitive to climate change. In Africa, for instance, studies have shown that climate change embodies a significant threat to current production systems, infrastructures and markets, and therefore farmers’ livelihoods [1
]. Furthermore, in semi-arid Africa where many people subsist on rain-fed agriculture with limited access to safety nets, climate change can exacerbate food shortage and low income conditions of the already visibly poor in society. In Ghana, studies have shown that climate change effects (e.g., rainfall variability) have led to a decrease in volume of the annual production of staple crops [2
]. The recognition that climate change-related threats to agriculture also represent threats to quality of life on a global scale has led to an increasing amount of attention to adaptation and mitigation strategies for agriculture [3
]. Adaptations are adjustments or interventions, which take place in order to manage the losses or take advantage of the opportunities presented by the changing climate. Adaptation practices are pre-emptive in nature and are meant to lessen adverse effects and take advantage of potential benefits of an envisaged change in climatic variables [5
]. Several studies have reported various adaptation practices in agriculture [6
]. Notwithstanding the significant efforts that have been made in the development and dissemination of climate change adaptation options, these measures have not been utilized adequately and not integrated effectively into agricultural development. Studies in Ghana have shown that though majority of farmers are aware of climate change, a significant number of them still do not use adaptation practices [6
]. This is largely due to the fact that the proposed adaptation processes have failed to adequately addressed farmers’ awareness, perceptions and concerns of climate risks.
Previous studies of agricultural conservation practice adoption have reported positive correlation between awareness of environmental problems, attitudes toward potential solutions, and willingness to adopt those solutions [9
]. Furthermore, it is only when situations are perceived as problems that attitudes regarding potential ameliorative actions are more predictive of behavior change [10
]. Farmer concerns about the impacts of climate change are key to successful adaptation and mitigation [3
]. Farmers’ willingness to implement adaptation and mitigation policies supported by public authorities and governments also depend upon their beliefs regarding climate change and their perceptions of climate change-related risks [11
]. Literature has shown that appropriate risk perception can be seen as a prerequisite for choosing an effective risk-coping strategy, because a farmer that is not aware of the risks faced is clearly unable to manage them effectively [12
]. Knowledge of the factors that influence farmers’ perceptions of climate change-related risks is critical in developing and promoting appropriate adaptation practices in agriculture, thereby boosting the tempo of adaptation among farmers. This notwithstanding, climate risks perception in agriculture has not been adequately investigated in Ghana. This study therefore identified various climate risk phenomena and explored the degree of risk perceptions among different categories of farmers in the Lawra district of Ghana. The factors that influence farmers’ risk perception are investigated. This study is essential for creating policy instruments to boost farmers’ climate risk concern, and for the development of training programmes tailored to meet the adaptation needs of farmers.
4.1. General Demographic Characteristics of Respondents
The results of respondents’ demographic features are presented in Table 4
. The majority of farmers interviewed are above thirty-five years (i.e., resource-poor = 76.4%; resource-moderate = 90.9% and resource-rich = 81.8%). Similarly, most of the respondents have more than eleven years of farming experience (i.e., resource-poor = 76.5%; resource-moderate = 78.6% and resource-rich = 81.8%). In all the wealth categories of farmers, male respondents are dominant (i.e., 82.4%, 75.8% and 87.9%, respectively). The findings also showed that the illiteracy rate is very high among farmers in Lawra district, irrespective of wealth status (i.e., 85.3%, 63.6% and 87.9%, respectively).
4.2. Farmers’ Climate Change Risk Perceptions
The results of farmers’ climate change risk perceptions show that 93% of respondents have perceived risk while 7% are not sure if they have perceived it. While 66% of the respondents have highly perceived climate change risk, 4% have less perceived it. Also, 23% of farmers have moderately perceived climate change risk in their farming activities (Figure 1
Results obtained from the focus group discussions showed that farmers have perceived decreasing precipitation, rising temperatures and rainfall variability. Respondents claim that the aforementioned incidences of climate change effects have culminated in low crop production.
4.3. Climate Risk Perception among Different Farmers’ Wealth Groups
The results in Table 5
show that farmers in different wealth categories have different levels of climate change risk perceptions. Generally, 91% of resource-poor farmers have perceived risk highly, while 58% and 48% of resource-moderate and resource-rich farmers have highly perceived risk, respectively. In addition, 9% of resource-poor farmers perceive moderate risk while 27% and 30% of resource-moderate and resource-rich farmers perceive moderate risk, respectively. Also intriguing is that 2% of resource-moderate and 5% of resource-rich farmers are not sure if they have perceived climate change risks or not.
4.4. Farmers’ Perceived Climate Risk Impacts and Phenomena
The findings show that farmers in Lawra district generally perceived climate change risk impacts in terms of agricultural production, biodiversity and forestry, health and socio-economy and climatic variables (Table 6
). The results show that farmers have inherent concerns and apprehensions about the occurrence and consequences of climate change. Results of the FDGs reveal that perceived occurrence of drought, dry spell, floods, rising temperatures and worsening harmattan winds are risk impacts on climatic variables. Perceived increase in human diseases, mortality, migration and decrease in food security and incomes were classified under the health and socio-economic risk impact domain. The respondents identified decreasing crop yield, cropping area, soil fertility, and increasing pests and diseases and cost of production as risk impacts on agricultural production. In addition, decreasing forest area, and reduction in plant, tree, bird and animal species are classified under biodiversity and forestry risk impacts. Previous studies have also identified similar risk phenomena perceived by farmers [20
The results of climate change risk impacts perceived by different wealth categories of farmers are presented in Table 7
. The findings show that resource-poor farmers are very concerned about climate change risk impacts on agricultural production (i.e., CRPI = 130), while resource-moderate and resource-rich farmers are concerned about risks on climatic variables (i.e., CRPI = 129) and health and socio-economy (i.e., CRPI = 132), respectively. For resource-poor farmers, climate change risk impacts on climatic variables, biodiversity and forestry, and health and socio economy are ranked second, third and fourth respectively (i.e., CRPI = 124, 115 and 111). In the case of resource-moderate farmers, risk impacts on agricultural production, health and socio-economy and biodiversity and forestry are ranked second, third and fourth respectively. (i.e., CRPI = 123, 107, 101). Regarding resource-rich, farmers perceived climate change risk impacts on climatic variables was ranked second (i.e., CRPI = 120) while impacts on biodiversity and forestry (i.e., CRPI = 113) and agricultural production (i.e., CRPI = 99) are ranked third and fourth respectively. The findings obtained from the FGDs confirmed the results of the analysis. Resource-moderate and rich farmers are more able to meet the financial demands of adaptation to climate change and are therefore unlikely to perceive the full impacts on climate change risks on farming activities.
4.5. Determinants of Climate Change Risk Perception
Results of the regression model of determinants of climate change risk perception are presented in Table 8
. Two demographic variables (i.e., age and education) are significant predictors of climate change risk perception. Also, gender, income and marital status are not predictors of climate change risk perception in agriculture. The perceived probability of increased droughts, dry spells and floods is also a significant predictor of farmers’ climate change risk perceptions. Similarly, perceived likelihood of increasing temperatures and worsening harmattan winds are supported by the analytical results as significant determinants of climate change risk perception.
In the case of variables relating to risk impacts on agricultural production, perceived probability of increase in pests and disease is found to be a significant determinant of climate risk perception. In addition, perceived probability of decrease in crop yield, cropping area, soil fertility and increase in cost of production are all found to be predictors of farmers’ climate risk perception. The variables pertaining to climate risk impacts on biodiversity and forestry (i.e., perceived probability of decrease in forest area, reduction in bird and animal species and reduction in plant and forest species) were all found to be predictors of farmers’ risk perceptions, but not statistically significant.
With regards to health and socio-economic factors, perceived severity of consequences on human diseases and mortality, and on food security and incomes are significant predictors of farmers’ climate risk perception. Perceived severity of increased migration is found not to be a predictor of risk perceptions in Lawra district. Under psychological factors, farmers’ perceived probability to control risk was found not to be a predictor of climate risk perception.
Farmers have concerns and anxieties about climate change considering that about 93% of respondents have perceived climate risks. The obtained results are in line with previous findings that a significant number of farmers believed that temperature had already increased and precipitation had declined for eleven African countries [27
]. The results of focus group discussions (FGDs) also showed that there was an increase in out-migration for greener pastures in Southern Ghana. Similar results were obtained in India, where migration and poverty were identified as perceived farmers’ climate change risks [26
]. Other climate change risks perceived by farmers include: increase in human diseases (e.g., fever), decrease in cropping area, worsening harmattan winds, increase in cost of production, decrease in food security and incomes, decrease in forest area (i.e., due to deforestation), reduction in plant, tree, bird and animal species and decrease in soil fertility.
Also, the results show that resource-poor farmers perceive climate risks more highly than resource-moderate and resource-rich farmers. This finding is likely the case because results of the FGDs showed that resource-moderate and -rich farmers have alternative sources of income (e.g., trading, artisan jobs, etc.), and as such some of them were unlikely to pay attention to climate change risk impacts. Since rain-fed agriculture is the main source of livelihood for resource-poor farmers, they are more likely to observe and feel the impacts of extreme climate change events. Findings of similar studies have also shown that poor farmers are more concerned about climate change risks [28
Generally, resource-poor farmers are very concerned about climate-risk impacts on agricultural production, while resource-moderate and resource-rich farmers are concerned about risk impacts on climatic variables and health and socio-economy, respectively. The findings obtained from the FGDs confirmed the results of the analysis. Resource-moderate and -rich farmers are more able to meet the financial demands of adaptation to climate change and are therefore unlikely to perceive the full impacts of climate change risks on the farming activities. This finding is consistent with the results of previous studies [28
In addition, the findings showed that education and age are significant predictors of risk perception. The positive coefficient for age indicates that older farmers are more concerned about climate change risk on agriculture than their younger counterparts. With regards to education, the results imply that educated farmers are more likely to be concerned about climate change risk because they are more knowledgeable due to their ability to access global, regional and country-level information and discussions about the risks and impacts of climate change. The results are consistent with findings of farmers’ climate change risk perceptions in Mexico and India that showed that age, farming experience and education were significant determinants of risk perception [28
]. However, gender, marital status and income status are not predictors of climate change risk perception in agriculture.
Also, farmers’ anxieties about increased droughts, dry spells, floods, temperatures and worsening harmattan winds are identified as factors influencing climate change risk perception. These findings are in line with results obtained from the focus group discussions. Farmers claim that they have apprehensions and concern about abnormal variability in precipitation and temperature trends because these factors constitute the most immediate and noticeable effects of climate change [26
Farmers’ concerns about an increase in pests and disease, perceived probability of a decrease in crop yield, cropping area, soil fertility and increase in cost of production are all found to be determinants of climate risk perception. These results are consistent with previous findings in Mexico, which showed that farmers’ experience with coffee pests is a significant predictor of climate risk perception [29
]. The results of the FGDs confirmed that farmers have perceived a decrease in crop yields and soil fertility and are concerned about the severity of future consequences of climate risk on their farm activities.
Furthermore, the results show that farmers’ apprehensions about a decrease in forest area, reduction in bird and animal species and reduction in plant and forest species are predictors of farmers’ risk perceptions. These results are likely the case, taking cognizance of the level of deforestation and desertification in the district. Further probing during the FGDs showed that farmers relied on deforestation as alternative income source (e.g., from firewood or charcoal) since recurrent droughts and dry spells constantly cause low crop yields. Also, the farmers claimed they are worried and concerned about a decrease in plant species and migration of certain birds and animal species due to adverse climatic effects.
The results also show that severity of increased migration is not a predictor of farmers’ risk perceptions. This finding is quite intriguing considering the level of out-migration occurring in the district. Further probing during the FGDs showed that farmers believed out-migration for greener pasture in urban towns was purely for brighter economic opportunities rather than due to climate change.
Farmers’ perceived ability to control risk is also not a predictor of climate risk perceptions in agriculture. This finding is consistent with results obtained from the FGDs. Farmers’ concerns and apprehensions about the effects of climate change are reduced with increased ability and skills to control or adapt to the risk. Similar findings, such as that the long experience accumulated for generations by winegrowers in fighting powdery mildew under varying weather conditions provides a sense of confidence (controllability and manageability), show that that managerial skills tend to reduce risk perceptions [30
Generally, farmers have perceived climate change risk. It is observed that farmers in Lawra district generally perceive climate risk impacts in terms of agricultural production, biodiversity and forestry, health and socio-economy, and climatic variables. Resource-poor farmers are concerned about climate risk on agricultural production, while resource-moderate and resource-rich farmers are concerned about risk impacts on climatic variables, and health and socio-economy, respectively. Factors related to impacts on climatic variables and agricultural production are significant determinants of farmers’ climate change risk perception. The psychological factor (i.e., perceived ability to control risk) is not a predictor of risk perception. Biodiversity and forestry related factors are also found to be predictors of climate change risk perception. In terms of impact on health and socio-economy, only perceived increase in human disease and mortality, and decrease in food security and incomes are predictors of risk perception. Finally, demographic features such as education and age are significant predictors of risk perception while gender, marital status and income status are not. Based on the results, it is essential for governments and policy makers to make climate risk communication and awareness an integral part of climate change policy. The risk impacts of climate change on human health, migration and other socio-economic factors need to be adequately identified and mainstreamed into climate risk communication policy. This will improve farmers’ concerns about, and ensure enhanced adaptation to climate change. In addition, considering that the majority of farmers in Lawra district are resource-poor and are concerned about climate risk impacts on their farming activities, it would be appropriate for government and development partners to establish and promote irrigation in the area. Further, research scientists and agricultural staff could collaborate to develop and promote appropriate climate change adaptation alternatives (e.g., drought-tolerant and early maturing crop varieties). The finding that farmers have perceived decreasing tree, plant, bird and animal species requires that the government, forestry commission, plant protection agency, environmental protection agency and other development partners take steps to restore and protect the ecosystem against climate change impacts. These findings are worth further investigation to identify how perceptions of the different wealth categories of farmers are influenced by the various climate risk phenomena and impacts. The outcome of such an investigation will further enhance the formulation of appropriate climate risk communication models and policies to meet different target groups.