Declining agricultural land, particularly for smallholder farmers

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Alfredo Caliz/Panos

Urbanisation reducing Ghanaian smallholders’ lands

by Samuel Hinneh

“About two years ago, I went to my farm only to meet two people with documents to the effect that they have acquired my farmland for building [a house].” – Ghanaian smallholder, Report

Speed read

  • Ghana’s urban areas are increasing by 3.5 per cent a year, says a new report
  • It finds declining agricultural land particularly for smallholder farmers in Ghana
  • Climate change and attitudes of traditional leaders are to blame, experts say


Fertile farmlands are rapidly declining in Ghana due to pressure from population growth and urbanisation, threatening rural livelihoods and food security, according to a new report.

The report says Ghana’s urban areas are expanding at a rate of 3.5 per cent annually as a result of a rising population.

The report based on a study conducted by researchers at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana was released last month (18 August) in Accra at a workshop.

According to the report, researchers selected 140 respondents in southern Ghana and 150 respondents in northern Ghana and examined the trends, drivers and players of changing land access in rural areas through household surveys, interviews and focus group discussions.
Read the full article: SciDevNet


Better water management practices in Ghana


Improving water productivity in crop-livestock farming systems in northern Ghana


Smallholder farmers in northern Ghana face a number of water-related challenges. Soil fertility is inherently low and in decline due to continuous cropping. Erratic rainfall patterns result in alternating floods and droughts, and there are limited small-scale irrigation technologies to bridge farmer family income and food security during 6-monthly dry season.

Some of these challenges could be addressed through better water management practices. For example, rainwater harvesting or sourcing groundwater through shallow wells for supplementary irrigation during the rainy season. This enables farmers in northern Ghana to increase the productivity of their crop and livestock farming systems. They can grow vegetables in the dry-season when they are in strong demand and the higher prices will provide important income for better livelihoods during the dry season.

Read the full text: Africa Rising

Indigenous knowledge, food security and sovereignty of the African farmer

Photo credit: Ghana Crusader

Substantial grain yields have been recorded by small holder farmers who have adopted the Zai Technology Farming in the Upper East Region.

‘Indigenous Knowledge of African farmers be enhanced’

Source: GNA

Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, the Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of Crops, on Wednesday reiterated the need for indigenous knowledge of the African farmer to be enhanced, to achieve food security and sovereignty.

He said Africa had the needed trained human resources in scientific research to contribute to that knowledge or technology development.

Dr Alhassan, who was speaking at the opening of the Fourth Planning and General Meeting of Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) in Accra, said “the era of despair, timidity and sometimes outright cynicism of African agriculture must give way to confidence, mutual trust and co-operation among stakeholders.”

AFSA is a Pan-African platform of 21 networks and farmer organisations championing small African Family Farming/Production Systems based on agro-ecological and indigenous approaches that sustain food sovereignty and the livelihoods of communities.

The three-day meeting is on the theme: “Building on International Year of Soils, Strengthening Family Farming,” and it is being attended by over 30 participants from the continent.

Dr Alhassan said: “African family farms need technology generated by African scientists in Africa to increase productivity. This is paramount in the light of eroding natural resources and therefore dwindling potential for exploitation,” he said.

He said only Science and Technology could sustain the twin challenges of increasing productivity with less water and soil resources, and that explained why African governments were seeking the best technology either from conventional or biotechnology sources, to address the growing problems of climate change and its impact on food security.

That, he said, governments do by creating a level playing field for safe engagement of all technologies in agriculture and “we cannot achieve these objectives by pulling apart, but by pooling our collective strengths as public and private non-governmental sectors for the benefit of enhanced family farm productivity and African food and nutrition security”.

He said evidence suggested that family farmers in Africa were highly vulnerable to poverty, especially considering their limited capacity to absorb shocks, such as climate change and market forces, which had implications for food and nutrition security.

He, therefore, called for a holistic action to effectively put in place appropriate policy environment to help resource poor family farmers, to deploy their productivity potential, and sustainably manage the natural resources to enable them to feed the world and care for the environment.

Read the full article: Ghana Web

See also: Ghana Crusader

More trees in Ghana

Photo credit: Pulse

Hon. Mahama Ayariga (Ghana)

Ayariga advocates for more tree planting

Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation,Mahama Ayariga has urged Ghanaians to plant more trees to boost the vegetation cover.

According to him, the country risks losing its ecological zone, if measures are not collectively taken. He indicated that part of the country was depleting at a faster rate.

“Key success in combating desertification is behavioural change by all to protect our trees, plant more trees and engage in appropriate farming practice.

Read the article: Pulse

Cash crop production vs. food security

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

Raising awareness of the implications of climate change for cash crops

Photo credit: DAPA-CIAT

Cocoa production in Ghana needs to confront heat and drought

Raising the stakes in Ghana

Photo credit: IWMI

Abdullah, a Fulani crop and livestock farmer, at home on the farm near the village of Jimli

Why fences, crop rotation and water storage mean one farmer is no longer losing the plot in Northern Ghana


Abdullah practices a livestock/crop rotation system. He keeps livestock on a designated piece of land for a period of time ensuring a build-up of manure in one specific area. He achieves this by using simple fencing made from sticks and branches. After moving the livestock on to another site on his farm he grows crops there for three years. After that the soil fertility begins to drop and he brings the livestock back to the same site again.

Abdullah Ahjedi and Chief Issahaku Jesiwuni inspect Abdullah’s simple but effective livestock fences made from branches -
Abdullah Ahjedi and Chief Issahaku Jesiwuni inspect Abdullah’s simple but effective livestock fences made from branches –

Fencing is an unusual technology for a Fulani to embrace. Yet it is a strategy that has the potential to improve his crop yields and also play a role in reducing conflict between different communities. Conflict between predominantly semi-nomadic, pastoralists and more sedentary crop farmers is a regular occurrence in the north of Ghana sometimes leading to violence and death of one or more of the parties involved.

Collecting water for household use every day takes a lot of time and effort. This activity is mostly done by women and children. -
Collecting water for household use every day takes a lot of time and effort. This activity is mostly done by women and children. –

Trouble invariably arises when a pastoralist’s livestock (generally cattle) have crossed over into someone else’s crop fields and eaten or otherwise destroyed them, and along with it their owner’s livelihood. Increasing the use of fencing in the region to keep livestock in certain areas and, equally importantly, out of others will help to remove a key catalyst that pits one community against the other.