Osman Hakim back to his farm harvesting after a failed attempt to secure a job in the city
Osman Hakim back to his farm harvesting after a failed attempt to secure a job in the city

Abandoning villages for cities: Climate crisis triggering exodus from northern Ghana

When Yakubu Asana, a 16-year-old girl at Buipe in the Savannah Region, set out for Accra with her friends in search of greener pastures, little did she know that she was going to live with memories of a harrowing experience forever.


After being displaced by a devastating flood which destroyed all their belongings in October 2023, Asana and her family had to perch in a school building and virtually depended on the benevolence of people for survival.

At a point in time, things became very difficult for the family, to the extent that affording a three-square meal could only be possible through a miracle.

The situation compelled her parents to let her join her friends to Accra to engage in the head-porter business, otherwise known as ‘kayaye’, in a bid to support the upkeep of the family.

However, life was not as rosy in the capital as they thought it to be.


Narrating her ordeal to the Daily Graphic, she said it was her first time and as little as she was, she could not engage in the ‘kayaye’ trade.

“When I tried it for a day, I fell sick for days so I had to stop. Things became hard for me and even how to feed myself over there became difficult, so I regretted going there,” she said.

She said she had no option but to depend on a young man for survival, who later got her pregnant, adding that “due to the pregnancy, I had to manage and come back to my parents to continue with the suffering.”

Back at home, her situation can simply be described with the popular saying: “From frying pan to fire”.

The story of Asana is not different from that of Osman Hakim, a 30-year-old farmer at Duu, a farming community in the West Mamprusi Municipality in the North East Region.

Hakim had been farming throughout his entire life for his livelihood. However, for the past three years, things have taken a nose dive at the onset of the crop seasons due to a prolonged drought. 

The area has been facing severe drought at the beginning of every crop season in the last few years, resulting in poor crop yields, which hamper farmers’ livelihoods.

“I have been cultivating about seven acres of maize and soya beans each year. But given the prolonged drought witnessed a few weeks after farming each year, I have lost virtually everything.

“In 2022, I decided to abandon farming and travel to the south to look for work. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any meaningful work so I had to finally come home to face the reality,” he narrated.

Climate crisis 

Ms Asana and Mr Hakim are part of hundreds of people, particularly the youth, in northern Ghana who are facing the sharp realities of climate change, compelling them to migrate to the south and foreign countries in search of non-existent greener pastures.

The persistent drought and perennial floods experienced in most parts of the north are glaring consequences of climate change.

These are a result of the fast depletion of the fragile vegetation cover caused by human activities such as indiscriminate tree felling and the destruction of water bodies.

Each year, torrential rainfall, coupled with the spillage of the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso, continues to cause floods in many parts of northern Ghana, particularly the Savannah, North East and Upper East regions.

The disaster often results in the displacement of hundreds of people, with property running into millions of Ghana cedis being destroyed. Similarly, the impact of drought is dire and catastrophic. 

For instance, the West Mamprusi Municipality, which is one of the food baskets of the country, registers poor annual rainfall, culminating in poor crop yields with its attendant consequences of food insecurity and poverty.


Climate-induced migration

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that up to 216 million people globally could become internal climate migrants by 2050 if specific climate action is not taken. 

However, with concrete, collective and timely actions, this number could be reduced by 80 per cent.

In 2022 alone, nearly 32 million new internal displacements resulted from climate-related hazards, underscoring the mounting need to address this issue.

Similarly, the World Bank projects that by 2050, climate change could force the internal migration of over 200 million people, most of whom would move to already densely populated urban areas. 


A Climate Activist, Alima Sagito Saeed, said the consequences of climate change were very devastating in the rural areas where farming was the only source of livelihood.

She said many farmers were losing their farms due to prolonged drought, perennial floods and rainstorms, a situation which was worsening food security and inequality situations in the north.

“Those who are worst affected are the women because with their limited resources, they farm and at the end of the day drought and floods destroy everything.

“So, what happens is that most of them are compelled to migrate to the south to engage in ‘kayaye’. Unfortunately, they return home with pregnancies and various kinds of sicknesses,” she said.


Hajia Alima, who is the Executive Director of SWIDA Ghana, said if the situation is not given the needed attention, it could widen the inequality gap in the area.

For the Advocacy and Engagement Officer in charge of Climate Change at YEFL-Ghana, Fathiaya N. Zakari, the situation appears to be biting harder on the youth, as most of them continue to risk their lives in search of opportunities elsewhere.

Beyond that, she noted that climate-induced migration posed significant challenges to national stability, security and development, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive action to address the root causes of climate change and support vulnerable communities.

Migration policies  

In 2016, the Government of Ghana formulated a comprehensive National Migration Policy (NMP) to help manage its internal, intra-regional and international migration flows for poverty reduction and sustained national development.

However, the policy did not capture climate-induced migration despite the growing consequences of climate migration, both internally and externally.

In the same vein, the National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP) has not recognised the climate crisis as a push factor for migration.

A Medical Sociologist and Migration Health Researcher at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Dr Seth Christopher Yaw Appiah, is advocating a review of Ghana’s migration policies to include climate-induced migration.

He believes that the move would help address migration-related issues caused by the climate crisis.

“In Ghana, we have the National Migration Policy and the National Labour Migration Policy, but they don’t focus on how climate change induces migration. There is some silence on that,” he noted.

Dr Appiah is also advocating the establishment of a Migration Commission to deal with all migration-related issues.

Addressing migration issues 

At the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in November 2023, there was mounting pressure to push global climate action further and keep the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement alive, as well as the establishment of the loss and damage fund.

However, what was mostly missing from the conversation was the interconnection between climate and migration and how international migrants could contribute to supporting that vital agenda.

A Migration and International Development Expert, Dr Victor Massaquoi, believes the creation of deliberate interventions and employment opportunities for young people by governments will help to address the growing exodus of the youth, especially from the continent to other parts of the world.

He is of the view that prioritising the needs of the youth would restore hope and confidence in their ability to make it in their respective countries, instead of going through the harrowing ordeal of trying to cross the Sahara and Mediterranean Sea to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

He also emphasised the need for increased collaboration between the African Union, European Union, International Organisation of Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) to create a common policy for dealing with migration issues.

Achieving SDGs/Way forward 

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises that migration is a powerful driver of sustainable development for the migrants and their communities. 

In fact, it is a cross-cutting issue in the agenda, relevant to all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, migration can result in increased pressure on resources in host towns and cities, exacerbating poverty and inequality, which could undermine progress towards several SDGs, including those related to poverty eradication (SDG 1), zero hunger (SDG 2) and sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11).

To address the phenomenon, there is a need to tackle climate change, which is a key driver of migration head-on, to mitigate its impact on the lives of the people.

Also, alternative sources of livelihood and opportunities should be provided to persons hardly hit by climatic conditions, to prevent them from migrating to cities and foreign countries for non-existent greener pastures.

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |

Like what you see?

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...