Climate change, perceived human environment changes, and adaptation responses in coastal Indigenous community of Akplabanya, Ghana

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Virginia Tech

Coastal communities are facing unprecedented challenges as impacts of climate change continue to escalate globally. Rising sea levels, intensified storm activity, and coastal erosion are extreme climate impacts noticed frequently in coastal communities. Indigenous coastal communities in Ghana are impacted by these extreme climate impacts. In this thesis, I studied the perceived human-environment changes in Indigenous community of Akplabanya. Akplabanya community on the coast of Ghana is experiencing changes in their cultural heritage, environmental surroundings, and their climate. This thesis sought to explore adaptation dynamics within Akplabanya and offer insights into their human-environmental changes and resilience in the face of climate change. In studies that focus on Ghana, little is known about the changes of human-environment interaction in Akplabanya, or their Indigenous peoples' responses to those changes. The two objectives of this study are: 1). To identify changes in coastal human-environment interactions as perceived by the Akplabanya Indigenous community, and 2). To examine the human adaptation responses of the Akplabanya community to the changes in their coastal human-environment interactions. I used four qualitative data collection methods. Semi-structured interviews (n=61) enlisted personal experiences and insights on changing environment and adaptation responses. Key informant interviews (n=28) provided additional insights into context and history. Focused group discussions (n=3), each comprising five participants, focused the community's collective narratives on changing environment and adaptation responses. Participant observation conducted throughout data collection helped me to understand daily life of Akplabanya. Data collection occurred over a period of two months (December 2022-February 2023). I found five themes to explain Akplabanya's perceptions about the changes of coastal human-environment interactions. They are: 1). Biodiversity loss (e.g. vegetation loss), 2). Pollution (e.g. unsustainable practices), 3). Coastal climate change (e.g. coastal erosion), 4). Resource change (e.g. freshwater change), and Population change (e.g. increasing population). I also built participant responses that addressed objective 2 on themes of place, agency, collective action, institutions, coastal Indigenous knowledge, and learning. The findings built on these themes highlights changes in coastal human-environment interactions in coastal fisheries, water systems, land utilization, livestock management, architectural practices, and the preservation of Indigenous knowledge in Akplabanya.

Climate change, coastal fisheries, human-environment changes, adaptation responses, Indigenous peoples