Understanding climate resilience in Ghanaian cocoa communities – Advancing a biocultural perspective

M. Hirons, E. Boyd, C. McDermott, R. Asare, A. Morel, J. Mason, Y. Malhi, K. Norris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper aims to contribute to the ongoing conceptual development and practical pursuit of resilience, the ability to absorb and respond to shocks, in an agricultural and climate change context. It builds on work that aims to dissolve the nature-society dualism and naturalisation of power relations inherent in systems thinking by developing and extending a framework originally conceived to integrate research on biological and cultural diversity. The resultant ‘biocultural’ framework examines livelihood practices, institutions, knowledge and beliefs and is applied to a case study of cocoa communities in Ghana's Central Region. Drawing on data collected over three years spanning an El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) related drought event, the analysis demonstrates the utility of an expanded conception of resilience that links livelihood practices, which define the impact and response to droughts, with the constituent knowledge, institutions and beliefs that shape those practices. The study focuses on two key factors that underpin cocoa farmers' resilience to climate shocks: access to wetlands and access to credit. We argue that particular characteristics of livelihood practices, knowledge, belief and institutions, and their interactions, can be both resilience enhancing and undermining, when viewed at different spatial, temporal and social scales. Although such contradictions present challenges to policy-makers engaging with climate resilience, the analysis provides a clearer diagnoses of key challenges to the resilience of agricultural systems and insights into where policy interventions might be most effective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-129
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Free keywords

  • Beliefs
  • Climate change
  • Cocoa
  • Ghana
  • Institutions
  • Knowledge
  • Livelihoods
  • Resilience


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