Cash crop production vs. food security

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Synergies and trade-offs between cash crop production and food security: a case study in rural Ghana

by Anderman, T.L.; Remans, R.; Wood, S.; DeRosa, K.; DeFries, R.

in Food Security, Vol. 6(4): 541-554

Springer (2014)

Despite dramatic improvements in global crop yields over the past half-century, chronic food insecurity persists in many parts of the world. Farming crops for sale (cash cropping) has been recommended as a way to increase income that can, in turn, improve food security for smallholder farmers. Despite long-term efforts by development agencies and government to promote cash cropping, there is limited evidence documenting a relationship between these crops and the food security of households cultivating them. We used a mixed methods approach to build a case study to assess these relationships by collecting quantitative and qualitative data from cacao and oil palm farmers in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Three dimensions of food security were considered: food availability, measured by the months in a year households reported inadequate food; food access, indicated by the coping strategies they employed to secure sufficient food; and food utilization, gauged by the diversity of household diets and anthropometric measurements of child nutritional status. We found significant negative relationships between each of these pillars of food security and a household intensity of cash crop production, measured by both quantity and area. A qualitative assessment indicated community perception of these tradeoffs and identified potential mechanisms, including increasing food prices and competing activities for land use, as underlying causes. The adverse relationship between cash crop production and household food security observed in this paper calls for caution; results suggest that positive relationships cannot be assumed, and that further empirical evidence is needed to better understand these tradeoffs.

See the text: Biodiversity International

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.