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Assessing the sustainability of vegetable production practices in northern Ghana

Nchanji, Eileen Bogweh, Bellwood-Howard, Imogen, Schareika, Nikolaus, Chagomoka, Takemore, Schlesinger, Johannes, Axel, Drescher, Rüdiger, Glaser
International journal of agricultural sustainability 2017 v.15 no.3 pp. 321-337
cabbage, environmental hazards, environmental health, farm income, farmers, gardening, humans, livelihood, open space, pesticides, politics, sustainable land management, urban agriculture, urbanization, vegetable growing, wastewater, Ghana
Urban vegetable production is an intensive agricultural strategy through which urban dwellers secure income and improve their livelihoods. An ethnographic study was conducted in Tamale, Northern Ghana, to understand whether vegetable gardening was a sustainable form of intensification. The study used an updated version of the Food and Agricultural Organization’s International Framework for Evaluating Sustainable Land Management. Accordingly, qualitative data were collected on the security and access to land, political acceptability and human and environmental health implications of urban patch farming. Changes between 2008 and 2014 in the spatial area of the vegetable sites were measured. Cabbage farmer incomes were quantified. The study found that urbanization has prompted an increase in the cultivation of highly profitable vegetables like cabbage. However, they are irrigated with grey and waste water while eaten raw. This, and the use of pesticides in high dosages, poses health and environmental hazards. Industrial growth has reduced the area of open space urban agriculture by 8.7% between 2008 and 2014. Farmers cope with this by cultivating on interstitial spaces and moving to periurban fringes. There, farmers develop institutional liaisons to gain access to intensification technologies and commercialize their production. This production system is dynamic but not yet sustainable.