Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 41–66 | Cite as

Changes in Ghanaian farming systems: stagnation or a quiet transformation?

  • Nazaire Houssou
  • Michael Johnson
  • Shashidhara Kolavalli
  • Collins Asante-Addo


This research was designed to understand better the patterns of agricultural intensification and transformation occurring in Africa south of the Sahara using the Ghanaian case. The paper examines changes in farming systems and the role of various endogenous and exogenous factors in driving the conversion of arable lands to agricultural uses in four villages within two agro-ecologically distinct zones of Ghana: the Guinea Savannah and Transition zones. Using historical narratives and land-cover maps supplemented with quantitative data at regional levels, the research shows that farming has intensified in the villages, as farmers increased their farm size in response to factors such as population growth, market access, and changing rural lifestyle. The overall trend suggests a gradual move toward intensification through increasing use of labor-saving technologies rather than land-saving inputs—a pattern that contrasts with Asia’s path to its Green Revolution. The findings in this paper provide evidence of the dynamism occurring in African farming systems; hence, they point toward a departure from stagnation narratives that have come to prevail in the debate on agricultural transformation and intensification in Africa south of the Sahara. We conclude that it is essential for future research to expand the scope of this work, while policies should focus on lessons learned from these historical processes of genuine change and adaptation.


Agriculture Intensification Farming systems Stagnation Transformation Green Revolution Ghana Africa south of the Sahara 



Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Green Revolution


International Food Policy Research Institute


Structural Adjustment Program


Africa south of the Sahara



The authors would like to thank James Osei Mensah, Lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, and Seini Yussif Abdul-Rahman, Assistant Lecturer at the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Tamale, for facilitating the field interviews. We thank the staff of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Savalegu–Nanton and Ejura–Sekyedumase districts for assisting in the identification of the farming communities and for facilitating field interviews during the study. We thank Georges Owusu and William Odoi at the Center for Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Services (CERSGIS, University of Ghana) for providing the land-cover data. We express our sincere gratitude to the farming communities who participated in the interviews. We thank Peter Hazell for providing valuable comments on a previous version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ghana Strategy Support Program, Development Strategy and Governance DivisionInternational Food Policy Research Institute, CSIR CampusAccraGhana
  2. 2.Care InternationalAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Department for Market AnalysisJohann Heinrich von Thünen InstituteBrunswickGermany

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