A study by UCSB geography researchers and researchers at San Diego State University, George Washington University and the University of Ghana will analyze land change in the country of Ghana and its ties to both rural to urban migration and demographical shifts in the region.

“The Urban Transition in Ghana and Its Relation to Land Cover and Land Use Change Through Analysis of Multi-Scale and Multi-temporal Satellite Image Data” includes a team of over 12 expert researchers from UCSB and is led by SDSU geography professor Doug Stow. Funded by a $993,000 grant from NASA’s Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science program, the project’s objective is to understand land cover and land use change by determining its correlation to rural-to-urban migration while evaluating its effect on the demographics of Ghana as well as quality of life factors there.

Research will be conducted in the Central, Greater Accra and Ashanti regions of southern and central Ghana as well as in the cities of Kumasi, Cape Coast, Obuasi and Accra, Ghana’s capital city. The project will run from 2012 to 2015 and the study period takes place from the mid-1980s through 2010.

After conducting research with optical and radar satellite imagery and creating maps of land cover and land use change, the researchers will compare the discovered patterns with census and health data from both regions.

According to Stow, the research team plans to use their results to find links between land change and Ghanaian immigration and quality of life.

“We will determine what is driving rural to urban migration and how cities are changing in terms of densification and expansion of existing urban areas, and how those may impact child mortality and women’s health,” Stow said in an email. “We will also compare within-city patterns of social-economic status for the four major study cities.”

UCSB geography professor David Lopez-Carr said changes in land, precipitation and temperature can all have a variety of negative effects on the health of the Ghanaian population.

“The patterns in the landscape are changing,” Lopez-Carr said. “We think these processes are going to be linked to the urbanization process increasing in obesity and illness, heart disease and certain cancers and diabetes.”

The connection between urbanization and disease in Ghana is a pressing issue that continues to endanger the lives of many Ghanaians, Stow said.

“We do know from prior work that malaria is the major infectious disease within Ghana,” Stow said. “Water-borne and food-transferred diseases are prevalent, and increasingly, obesity and high blood pressure are becoming the greatest health risk to urban inhabitants.”

According to Stow, thousands of children will be exposed to malnutrition due to less rainfall and warmer temperatures, both of which affect crop yields.

“The children are dying, as measured by stunting and anemia,” Stow said.

Lopez-Carr said once they have gathered all of their data, the team would like to make recommendations for Ghanaian policy aimed at improving the general quality of life while respecting lawmakers’ political independence.