Issah Suhiyini Alhassan holds a PhD in Silviculture and Forest Management from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana; MPhil Agribusiness from the University of Ghana, Legon; Bachelor of Arts Degree in Integrated Development Studies from the University for Development Studies (UDS), Ghana; and Diploma in Education from the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Ghana. Dr. Suhiyini is currently a Graduate Research Associate at the West African Centre for Shea Innovation and Research, University for Development Studies, Ghana.

Dr. Suhiyini is a trained agricultural and resource economist, and his research interests include land grabbing, food security, climate change adaptation, carbon credit, natural resource conflicts and governance, vulnerability analysis, poverty, and rural livelihoods. His doctoral dissertation investigated farmer-herder conflict and livelihood nexus among households in Ghana. Dr. Suhiyini has co-authored seven peer-reviewed journal publications, four book chapters, and eight conference paper publications. For more information on his research publications, kindly visit his Google Scholar citation. Currently, Dr. Suhiyini is a freelance researcher and consults for governmental and non-governmental organizations, private individuals, cooperatives, and enterprises.

Photo by Dr. Daniel Kojo Brenya Leon Yeboah

Next Gen: Please describe the central argument of your doctoral dissertation. What is its main contribution to knowledge in your field?

Issah Suhiyini Alhassan: My doctoral dissertation investigated farmer-herder conflicts and livelihood nexus among households in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Specifically, the dissertation examined:

  1. Households’ livelihood vulnerability to farmer-herder conflicts.
  2. The factors influencing households’ livelihood vulnerability to the conflicts.
  3. The effects of farmer-herder conflicts on households’ multidimensional poverty and subjective wellbeing.
  4. Households’ conflict adaptation strategies.
  5. The effects of adopting these strategies on the multidimensional poverty and subjective wellbeing of household.

My doctoral dissertation contributes to the ongoing debates on farmer-herder conflicts and livelihood nexus by making three main arguments:

  1. Livelihood vulnerability to farmer-herder conflict is driven by climate and environmental factors.
  2. Whereas farmers’ and sedentary herders’ multidimensional poverty and subjective wellbeing worsen when they experience farmer-herder conflicts (due to crop destruction by cattle, cattle-killing by farmers and security personnel, and herders allowing their cattle to destroy crops in retaliation for killing of cattle transhumant), herders’ multidimensional poverty and subjective well-being improve when they experience conflict through competing with other natural resource users for the resources. This is because they have more access to pasture and water for their herds during the dry season through migration in search for water and pasture.
  3. Farmers’ subjective wellbeing and multidimensional poverty are better off by focusing on on-farm adaptation strategies, rather than adopting both on-farm and non-farm adaptation strategies, while herders’ multidimensional poverty and subjective wellbeing are better improved when they focus on herding adaptation strategies, rather than adopting both herding and non-herding adaptation strategies.

My doctoral dissertation contributes to policy and development at global, continental/regional, and national levels. At the global level, farmer-herder conflicts directly hinder the achievement of some of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as ending poverty (SDG 1), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), and promoting peace, security, and justice (SDG 16). At the continental level, farmer-herder conflicts hinder the achievement of regional goals, such as the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the ECOWAS’s agenda on Regional Integration, Peace, and Security. Findings from my doctoral studies will contribute to programs tailored towards the achievements of these continental/regional goals.

At the national level, this study contributes to the Ghana government’s development priorities on peace and security, food security, private sector development, and regional integration. Finally, regarding academia, the findings of this study contribute to the body of literature on the relationship between conflicts and livelihoods. Most studies have concentrated on the causes and history of farmer-herder conflict with little emphasis on the social and livelihood dimensions of the conflict, especially its impact on poverty and wellbeing.

How did the Next Gen fellowship program impact your doctoral journey?

The SSRC Next Gen fellowship had a valuable impact on my doctoral completion and tremendously shaped my career development as an emerging or early-career scholar. Firstly, as a 2023 Next Gen Doctoral Completion fellow, the funds received afforded me the opportunity to collect additional data to answer more research questions that I hitherto would not have been able to finance. Secondly, I got good ideas from the keynote speakers at the training workshop in Botswana on how to link climate change to farmer-herder conflict. I contacted them later for relevant literature to be cited in my thesis. Thirdly, my mentors were very instrumental to the completion of my doctoral studies. They encouraged me to set ambitious but realistic targets for myself and stick to these targets and timelines. This has been a springboard to completing my PhD studies ahead of schedule. Finally, the comments from my peers and mentors during the workshops immensely improved the quality of my doctoral dissertation. As fellows, we were grouped into cohorts consisting of fellows with similar research topics and tasked to peer review each other’s works. Whereas this gave me the opportunity to learn from my peers and mentors, addressing their comments on my work was one of the reasons why I received minimal queries from my thesis supervisors and examiners.

Furthermore, with the support from the Next Gen fellowship, I was able to take time off my part-time teaching job to focus on writing my dissertation chapters. This improved my writing efficiency and sped up my doctoral completion. Finally, the fellowship provided a platform to build my networks. I built both horizontal and vertical networks during my fellowships with SSRC. Regarding horizontal networks, I encountered peers who were PhD students from different universities across Africa working on farmer-herder conflicts. To date, we often share ideas regarding peculiarities and similarities of conflict dynamics across space and time for a broader understanding of our research topic. Vertically, I met experts and senior researchers working on natural resource conflicts. Through them, I was exposed to several theories and methodologies I applied in my doctoral studies. Going forward, I intend to collaborate with fellow colleagues and senior researchers to conduct research relevant to peace, security, and development in Africa.

Now that you have completed your PhD, what are your plans for the future?

Beyond my PhD graduation, my plan for the future is to be a renowned and trusted researcher, either working with a research institution or operating as a freelance researcher. Since research is my passion, I wish to be widely recognized for conducting impactful research based on a high level of integrity while also collaborating with other researchers globally. I plan to focus on the nexus between natural resource governance, natural resource conflicts, land grabbing, climate change, and livelihood outcomes (food security, vulnerability, poverty, social inequality, well-being, etc.) in the Global South. Finally, recognizing the relevance of connecting academic knowledge and development during my doctoral studies, I intend to engage in community outreach programs that promote peace, security, and development through collaborative and self-sustaining community-based initiatives. The aim of these outreach programs is to bridge the gap between academic research and practice and to foster tangible improvements in sustainable household livelihoods and local community development.

What advice do you have for upcoming doctoral students?

Based on experience from my doctoral studies and as a former 2023 Next Gen fellow, my first advice to the current and future Next Gen fellows is to connect with both former and current fellows of the SSRC. It is important to maintain and broaden your networks. These networks are informative, help widen your research horizons, provide opportunities for information sharing, and ease your collaboration ability in applying for grants and scholarships and accessing other research-related opportunities. For example, in my case, before applying for the Doctoral Completion Fellowship, I was in constant touch with a former Next Gen fellow, who provided some guidance while sharing her application file with me to illustrate the qualities a successful application should possess. She further agreed to review and provide some feedback on my draft proposal before I revised and submitted it as part of my application for the fellowship award. I believe that her guidance contributed to my being selected as a fellow for the 2023 Next Gen fellowship cohort. The same former fellow, together with another fellow in the cohort of 2023 Doctoral Completion fellows, shared the Call for Proposals for the “Writeshop” organized by the Journal of Peasant Studies, and reviewed my abstract for me before I revised it for submission.

Secondly, I advise current and future fellows of Next Gen to remain focused on their doctoral studies once they receive a fellowship award from the SSRC. The SSRC’s Next Gen fellowship is an opportunity to help complete your doctoral dissertation in time. Hence, spend your time and the funds on your doctoral work, not social events. Completing a doctoral program depends not only on your intelligence but also on your ability to remain disciplined and focused and persevere until the end.

Thirdly, take the feedback and comments from your mentors and other fellows seriously. In some cases, supervisors from our home institutions cannot find enough time to review and comment extensively on our work. Hence, getting comments from other Next Gen fellows and mentors, who are experts in your field of research, should be seen as an opportunity to improve your doctoral dissertation and never be taken for granted. Always find the best ways to convey these suggestions or comments to your main supervisors in your universities; after all, they have the final say in the approval of your doctoral thesis.

Fourthly, identify fellows (current and former) who are working on similar research topics and form study groups or scholarly networks. You could continue to share ideas and opportunities and also review each other’s works. Seeing another fellow progress in their doctoral studies is enough encouragement for you to elevate your skills to ensure you complete your dissertation in time. You could benefit more by reviewing each other’s works and serving as a sounding board for each other’s write-ups. When reviewing someone’s write-up, you not only give him/her suggestions to improve the work but also allow them the opportunity to learn what others are doing in your research area. Try to start building your scholarly network with your SSRC fellows and mentors. Take advantage of dinners, tea/coffee breaks, and informal discussions during workshops to interact with other fellows and mentors/guest speakers, and note contacts and areas of research interest for networking purposes.

Finally, take good care of your health. Always remember that the PhD is a lonely and enduring journey. The doctoral journey can be very stressful and socially isolating. Your physical and mental health is necessary for completing your doctoral studies. Therefore, take short breaks and engage in social or simply fun activities that cause you to laugh and relieve stress, depression, and loneliness. You cannot complete your doctoral study when you break down. Make sure to keep fit and healthy to endure the stress and pressure amid the rigors of doctoral studies.

Dr.  Suhiyini is open to collaborating with other researchers, civil society organizations, NGOs, governmental organizations, individuals, and organizations willing to conduct research and/or development projects in the Global South. You can contact him via email at issahsuhiyini@yahoo.com.

 

A collection of Issah Suhiyini Alhassan’s published works.

Selected Peer-reviewed Journal Articles:

Mwinkom F. X. K., Damnyag L., and Abugre S., Alhassan S. I. (2021). Factors Influencing Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in North‑Western Ghana: Evidence of Farmers in the Black Volta Basin in Upper West region. SN Applied Sciences, 3 (548). doi.org/10.1007/s42452-021-04503-w

Alhassan S. I., Shaibu M. T., Kuwornu J. K.M, Damba O. T., Amikuzuno J. (2020). The Nexus of Land Grabbing and Livelihood of Farming Households in Ghana. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 23, 3289-3317. DOI 10.1007/s10668-020-00719-9

Zakaria A., Alhassan S. I., Kuwornu J. K. M., Azumah S. B., Derky, M. A. A. (2020). Factors Influencing the Adoption of Climate‑Smart Agricultural Technologies Among Rice Farmers in Northern Ghana. Earth Systems and Environment, 4, 257 – 271. https://rdcu.be/b0WHP

Zakaria A., Alhassan S. I., Kuwornu J. K. M., Azumah S. B. (2021). Beyond Participation: the effect of fertilizer subsidy on the adoption of certified seeds among rice farmers in Northern Ghana. European Journal of Development Research, 33, 684–709. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-020-00293-w  

Alhassan, S. I.; Kuwornu, J. K.M.; & Osei-Asare, Y. B.: (2019). Gender dimension of vulnerability to climate change and variability: Empirical Evidence of Smallholder Farming Households in Ghana. International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 11 (2), 195 – 214. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCCSM-10-2016-0156

Mustapha A. Sadiq, John K. M. Kuwornu, Ramatu M. Al-Hassan, Alhassan S. I. (2019): Assessing Maize Farmers’ Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change and Variability in Ghana. Agriculture, 9 (90), 1 – 17. Doi:10.3390/agriculture9050090 

Alhassan S. I., Shaibu M. T. & Kuwornu J. K.M. (2018): Is Land Grabbing an Opportunity or A Menace to Development in Developing Countries? Evidence from Ghana. Local Environment, 23 (12), 1121-1140. https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2018.1531839

Selected Book Chapter Publications:

Alhassan, S.I.; Osei-Asare, Y.B.; Kuwornu, J.K.M. (2019). What Factors Influence Farmers’ Vulnerability to Climate Change and Variability? Empirical Evidence from Smallholder Women Rice Farmers in the Northern Region of Ghana. In Climate change and Sub-Saharan Africa: The Vulnerability and Adaptation of Food Supply Chain Actors; Kuwornu, J.K.M., (Ed.); Series on Climate Change and Society; Vernon Press: Wilmington, DE, USA, 131–155.

Alhassan, S.I.; Kuwornu, J.K.M.; Osei-Asare, Y.B. (2019) A Multinomial Logit Analysis of Farmers’ Adoption of Climate Variability Adaptation Strategies: The Case of Smallholder Women Rice Farmers in the Northern Region of Ghana, In Climate Change and Sub-Saharan Africa: The Vulnerability and Adaptation of Food Supply Chain Actors; Kuwornu, J.K.M., Ed.; Series on Climate Change and Society; Vernon Press: Wilmington, DE, USA, 2019; pp. 191–221.

Alhassan, S. I.; Osei-Asare, Y. B.; Kuwornu, J.K.M. (2019): Assessing the vulnerability of smallholder women rice farmers to climate variability in the Northern Region of Ghana: The livelihood vulnerability index approach. In J.K.M., Kuwornu (Ed): Climate Change and Sub-Saharan Africa: The Vulnerability and Adaptation of Food Supply Chain Actors,: Vernon Press, Series on Climate Change and Society, 29 – 64. https://vernonpress.com/books?sid=78

Selected Conference Paper Publications:

Alhassan S. I., Shaibu M. T., Damba O. T. (2019). Factors Influencing Smallholder Farming Households’ Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change and Variability in the Savelugu/Nanton Municipality of Ghana. Ghana Journal of Agricultural and Agribusiness, 2 (1), 46 – 64.

Alhassan, S. I.; Osei-Asare, Y. B.; Kuwornu, J. K. M.; and Shaibu, M. T. (2018). Indigenous and Research-Based Adaptation Strategies of Smallholder Women Rice Farmers to Climate Variability in the Northern Region of Ghana. ICCCSDA 2017 Special Issue: Agriculture, Natural Resources and Renewable Energy. University of Energy and Natural Resources. Journal of Energy and Natural Resource Management1(1). Pp: 1-17.  http://www.journal.unaux.com/index.php/uenrjournal/issue/view/15

Alhassan, S. I.; Shaibu, M. T.; Kuwornu, K. M. J. and Damba, O. T. (2018). Assessing Smallholder Women Farmers’ Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change and Variability in the Northern Region of Ghana: A Composite Index Approach. ICCCSDA 2017 Special Issue: Environment, Technology and Sustainable Development, University Of Energy and Natural Resources. Journal of Energy and Natural Resource Management. http://www.journal.unaux.com/index.php/uenrjournal/article/view/99

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