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Space, Time, Rhetoric and Agricultural Change in the Transition Zone of Ghana

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This paper examines change within farming systems in the Brong Ahafo Region in Ghana, and the impact of agricultural modernization and mechanization on the regional economy and local farming systems. It combines anthropological, historical, and remote sensing techniques to document changes in farming practice and land use and land cover. It argues that change is not the product of simple evolutionary sequences of responses to population pressures or adoption of modern technologies, but arises out of a complex set of factors interacting within wider regional economies, which are increasingly commodified and commercialized and subject to global market pressures. These include technical, institutional, market, movements of labor, and transport infrastructure development dimensions, which often create new opportunities for local farmers other than those envisaged in agricultural development policies. Tracing the opening up of the transition zone over the last 40–50 years through the development of state farms and mechanized synthetic agriculture, the paper examines the changing fortunes of farming systems within a radius of 30–40 km from agricultural technology hubs and the implications for models of agricultural development.

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  1. This compares with 130 in Ashanti, 109 in the Eastern Region, and 103 in the Upper East Region of Ghana.

  2. According to the 2000 Population Census, the transition zone districts of Kintampo and Wenchi had population densities of 21 and 22 people per square kilometer, respectively, while the high forest zone districts of Berekum and Dormaa have population densities of 88 and 109 people per square kilometer, close to the more densely populated regions.

  3. This information is largely derived from interviews with employees at the state farm, and from small farmers in the vicinity.

  4. One bag of maize weighs 110 kg.

  5. The application of synthetic fertilizer to soils also had a detrimental effect on the quality of yams. Yams planted with synthetic fertilizers grow to very large sizes, but they develop poor taste and texture characteristics and have an unpleasant hairy appearance, which repels urban consumers.

  6. This compares with similar figures for use of inputs in farming systems near other state farms in Ghana in the same period. In a study of farmers near the Ejura State Farms in northern Ashanti, Tripp (1993) recorded that 66% of farmers used fertilizers and 58% of farmers used tractors in land preparation.


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The research on which this paper is based was sponsored by the Natural Resource Management Systems Programme (NRSP) of the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not the NRSP. Opoku Pabi was also supported by funding from Wenner Gren Foundation to visit University of Louvain to further develop analysis of remote sensing data. We would also like to thank Jane Guyer for her assistance, encouragement and help.

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Correspondence to Kojo S. Amanor.

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Amanor, K.S., Pabi, O. Space, Time, Rhetoric and Agricultural Change in the Transition Zone of Ghana. Hum Ecol 35, 51–67 (2007).

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