Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Natural Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Dr Eddie Van Etten

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Jacques Oosthuzien

Third Advisor

Professor Tord Kjellstrom

Abstract

With the increase in average global temperatures, heat-related illnesses and deaths have unfolded as occupational and health issues. Periods of high to extreme temperatures are becoming more common and are a leading cause of weather-related deaths in many countries. In agricultural settings of African countries, heat stress is a major concern as many smallholder farmers work outdoors with limited access to cooling systems even in their resting and living environments. This study, conducted in the Bawku East part of Northern-East Ghana in 2013, examines, in the context of climate change, the trends and impacts of heat stress on smallholder farmers, as well as their responses to heat stress and the barriers to adaptation they face. The study used qualitative and quantitative research approaches, including survey questionnaires, focus groups discussions, policy reviews and measurements of environmental heat exposure. The study identifies that heat exposure is prevalent at the household level and on the field of cultivation. Many farmers reported very hot conditions, in both their resting places and working environment, which were conducive to heat stress and other heat-related illnesses. The situation is further exacerbated by their weak adaptive capacity due to poverty and the usage of low technological equipment which requires the expenditure of many hours in hot conditions to conduct their farming businesses. Farmers employed coping strategies instead of long-term adaptive methods. This situation is particularly manifested by farmers who grow legumes, vegetables and cereals. Farmers’ dwellings are designed using local architectural styles with limited ventilation. On farms, apart from high heat exposure in the range of WBGT 33-360C, the situation is worsened by the use of primitive equipment such as cutlasses and holes that require high physical input. The nature of heat at farmers resting places during the day falls within the threshold of 19-30.50C in WBGT, while night the time is 19-30.50C. Further to this, farmers have inadequate knowledge about precautionary health measures to avoid or minimize heat-stress related health effects and specifically the need to rest when tired. Generally, farmers’ day to day activities are underpinned by the dictates of their human energy with little cognizance of health effects of hot environmental conditions. The practical measures enshrined in the Ghanaian National Social Protection and Climate Change Policies do not recognize and address heat stress as an occupational issue. The study recommends the need for government led intervention to tackle farmers’ accommodation and improve manual farming by incorporating mechanical methods. Also, based on one rainy season throughout the year, it will be necessary for government to provide more irrigation schemes for farmers. This will prevent them from using their manual energy to draw water from hand dug boreholes, which requires a farmer to spend many hours in hot and humid conditions.

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