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Social network ties predict land use diversity and land use change: a case study in Ghana

Isaac, M.E., Matous, P.
Regional environmental change 2017 v.17 no.6 pp. 1823-1833
agroforestry, case studies, crop production, crops, forests, gender, grasslands, information exchange, land use change, livelihood, longitudinal studies, social networks, Ghana
While it is well documented that informal social ties play a role in information exchange on land management practices, the structural features of such networks that govern individual choice on land use change remain elusive. This study aims to correlate information network structures with localized or “micro-level” land use diversification and land use change. We ask the following: (i) what is the network structure of producers who manage diverse land use types? and (ii) are network topologies and the emergence of new network ties related to land use change? This work draws on a longitudinal study with producers in the transition zone of Ghana. We use social network analysis to assess the social relationships of 40 focal producers embedded in networks of 116 producers, combined with field observation to chart land use types and size. Land use ordered across eight types, from forest and agroforests to crops and grasslands. Converting land to crop production was correlated to the addition of ties in a focal producer’s network, while the diversity of land use types was correlated to the number of institutional ties as well as gender of the focal producer. We illustrate that local networks relate to land use change whereas external ties drive the introduction of new land use types. Given that the diversity of land use types may be a signature of livelihood resilience, the promotion of external, bridging ties can contribute to an increase in land use diversification. However, a strong local network is needed to implement this change.