University of Sussex
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Migrant livelihoods in a complex adaptive system: investigating the links between internal migration, land tenure, and environmental change in Brong Ahafo, Ghana

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posted on 2023-06-09, 08:11 authored by Jonathan Sward
This doctoral thesis analyses the internal migration of farmers from Northern Ghana to Brong Ahafo Region’s agricultural frontier, theorizing this mobility as part of a wider ‘complex adaptive system’ made up of interlinked social and environmental processes. It draws on original qualitative research conducted in three migrant ‘settler’ communities in Brong Ahafo in 2014 in order to investigate local-level migration trends and histories, the relationship between in-migration and changing land tenure norms, and migrant farmers’ perceptions of environmental change at their migration destinations. Each of these research themes provides an entry point for scrutinising the relationship between in-migration and the local ‘social-ecological system’. Finally, the thesis introduces a typology of livelihood trajectories among migrant tenant farmers in Brong Ahafo based on research findings at the three case study sites, which accounts for livelihood differentiation among migrants. This thesis thus makes an original contribution to the literature on the climate-migration nexus and to debates about rural development in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the case of the former, much of the current literature on ‘environmental migration’ focuses on the extent to which environmental factors influence out-migration from communities of origin, and whether such migration can be thought of as a form of ‘adaptation’ to environmental change. Debates about rural development, meanwhile, are increasingly preoccupied with understanding rural transformations. This thesis illustrates the need to consider how environmental conditions can affect migrant livelihoods at rural destinations, where livelihoods are often highly sensitive to environmental factors, and to account for how in-migration can serve as ‘feedback’ which contributes to changing social and environmental conditions in such areas. Additionally, the stratified migrant livelihood trajectories encountered at my field sites show the diversity of migrants’ agency, which affects their capacity to adapt to climatic and other shocks in situ as well as to provide support for kin in Northern Ghana.


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University of Sussex

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