Assessing the livelihood opportunities of rural poor households: a case study of Asutifi District

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About 87 percent to 89 percent of rural households in Ghana engage in small scale farming to provide a variety of food crops to support the overall agricultural output in the country. However, rural poverty in Ghana is deepest among food crop farmers due to the vulnerable nature of their livelihood. Food crop farmers depend on single weather oriented agriculture and find it difficult to avoid or withstand livelihood stress and shocks such as drought, crop failure, pests and disease infestation. Hence, the ability of the traditional farm sector “alone” to adequately sustain rural livelihoods and income or reduce poverty among rural households is very much in doubt. The promotion of complementary livelihood engines to enhance the income options and provide new coping strategies is thus re-surfacing in rural development debate. This study therefore focused on the need for rural households to develop additional livelihoods to provide vital income diversification, spread risk and provide means to cope when farming and other sources of income fail. A participatory research approach was adopted for the study. The study employed the simple random sampling method to select a sample of 138 heads of household who have adopted either Grasscutter: Thryonomys swinderianus; edible Mushroom: Pleurotus ostreatus and edible Snail: Achatina achatina production as an additional livelihood activity to augment their livelihood options. Four other institutions were also selected and interviewed. The primary data were collected through the use of questionnaires, interview guide and observation to complement secondary data from literature. The study revealed that the major traditional livelihood option for households appears to be food crop farming (76 percent). Other households also engage in petty trading (16 percent), livestock rearing (4 percent) and salary work (2 percent). However, households earn relatively low income from these traditional livelihoods. When the income gains from these traditional and the adopted livelihoods were compared, it was revealed that the economic benefits or income gains from the adopted livelihoods exceeds that of the traditional livelihoods thereby providing the needed coping strategies and reducing the livelihood risks which previously surrounded their livelihoods. The study therefore recommended that, rural households need to be assisted to re-arrange their livelihood portfolios and traditional livelihoods that are no longer economically and socially viable to be supported with new ones better suiting the context of a more mature market economy.
A thesis Submitted to the Department of Planning, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Kumasi, in Partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Development Policy and Planning, 2014