Urbanisation reducing Ghanaian smallholders’ lands

Copyright: Alfredo Caliz/Panos

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  • 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

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[ACCRA] 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.

“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

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.  
The report resulted from a two-year research involving Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal and Uganda and is supported by the Italy-headquartered International Fund for Agricultural Development and the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development.
Eric Yeboah, a co-author of the report and a lecturer at the Department of Land Economy at KNUST, says the main effect of the changing trends of access to fertile farmlands is that farmers will have to manage with the small parcels of land available to survive, a situation that could also reduce crop yields.
The study finds that activities of oil production in southern Ghana and incidental development have led to the massive acquisition of land, not for immediate use, but to be sold when the market value of the land appreciates. 
“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],” says a smallholder cited in the report. “They gave me one month to harvest my crops… Nobody gave me any compensation.”
Yeboah tells SciDev.Net that farmers are also converting their land from planting food crops to growing cash crops such as rubber trees to make more income. “Five years from now, those converting their crop farms into rubber plantations are going to internally import food. Many are even buying food from other towns,” Yeboah adds.
The study calls for land audits to know what land is suitable for which specific purpose and urges the development of high-yielding crops for smallholders. Yeboah says smallholders need to form cooperatives to split the cost involved in farming and to access financial credits.

John Tiah Bugri, another co-author of the report and head of Department of Land Economy at the KNUST, says erratic rainfall patterns and prolonged drought resulting from climate change are, adversely affecting farming.
"Communities across the coastal belt in the south are equally being squeezed as climate change is contributing to an increase in seaweed as a result of rising sea surface temperature,” Bugri explains.
Lydia Sasu, the executive director of Development Action Association, a rural farmer-based organisation in Ghana, says urbanisation is replacing farming lands in southern Ghana.
Sasu explains that traditional leaders who own lands have been selling large parcels to miners and commercial farmers, leaving smallholder farmers with access to few fertile lands.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.


John Tiah Bugri and Eric Yeboah Changing land issues for poor rural people in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana) (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, August 2015)