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Traditional agriculture in transition: examining the impacts of agricultural modernization on smallholder farming in Ghana under the new Green Revolution

Kansanga, M., Andersen, P., Kpienbaareh, D., Mason-Renton, S., Atuoye, K., Sano, Y., Antabe, R., Luginaah, I.
Theinternational journal of sustainable development and world ecology 2019 v.26 no.1 pp. 11-24
Pennisetum glaucum, Sorghum bicolor, agricultural policy, climate change, corn, cropping systems, farm size, farmers, food security, geographic information systems, innovation adoption, interviews, markets, mechanization, modernization, peanuts, plowing, private sector, rice, small-scale farming, staple crops, tractors, traditional farming, Ghana
Following the renewed effort at achieving a new green revolution for Africa, emphasis has been placed on modernizing smallholder agriculture through the deployment of improved inputs especially mechanized technologies. In Ghana, the government has in the last decade emphasized the provision of subsidized mechanized ploughing services to farmers alongside a rapidly growing private sector tractor service market. While mechanized technology adoption rates have increased rapidly, the deployment of these technologies has been without critical analysis of the impacts on production patterns and local agrarian systems. This paper examines the distributional impacts of agriculture mechanization on cropping patterns and farm sizes of smallholder farmers in northern Ghana using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) techniques, and semi-structured interviews with smallholder farmers (n=60). Specifically, comparative analysis of the field sizes and cropping patterns of participant farmers prior to and after the adoption of mechanized technologies was conducted. In-depth interviews were used to contextualize the experiences of smallholder farmers toward understanding how mechanization may be impacting traditional agriculture. Our findings reveal a mechanization paradox in which farm sizes are expanding, while cropping patterns are shifting away from traditional staple crops (pearl millet and sorghum bicolor) to market-oriented crops (maize, rice and groundnuts). This transition we argue, has adverse implications on the cultural dimension of food security, the organization of social life, and climate change adaptation. We recommend a retooling of the current agricultural policy focus to ensure context sensitivity for a more robust battle against food insecurity.