Land tenure and peasant farming in Mpohor Wassa East District, Ghana

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The importance of agriculture in developing countries is widely acknowledged. Besides creating employment and guaranteeing food requirements for the population in a given country it improves the balance of payment situation, through import substitution. Consequently, the role of a sustainable agricultural base in any given country cannot be over emphasised. Sustainable agriculture, however, depends on many factors including land, labour, capital, entrepreneurship, technology, transportation network, extension services, and favourable climatic conditions among others. This study, however, focuses on the land factor. In some countries like Zimbabwe, land distribution was one of the causes of the revolution resulting in drastic land reform. This implies that if there is no easy access to land or no equity of distribution of land, conflicts are bound to occur. In Ghana the problems in the rural areas revolve around the fact that the agricultural potential is not fully realized as normally portrayed by low productivity and rural poverty. The study examined the relevance of land tenure and related factors as constraints to agricultural development in Mpohor Wassa East District. By way of methodology the study was based on desk research as well as field surveys based on interviews administered to various categories of respondents including farmers, extension workers, chiefs and landlords. The following findings are worthy of note. The study revealed that land is theoretically accessible to immigrants and natives of the district alike, however, the former mostly acquire land on very unfavourable terms. Inheritance is a major form of land acquisition in the district and it is apparent that this form of land acquisition is largely responsible for the fragmentation of land which is prevalent in the district. In some cases, the establishment of large plantations has withdrawn large tracts of land from peasant cultivation causing “landlessness” and the consequent conflicts between peasant farmers and the plantation owners. Subri area is a case in point. Inapite of this, it was established that though land tenure puts some limitations on agricultural development its influence is usually exaggerated. Other factors inhibiting the District’s agricultural development include the failure to acquire credit facilities to finance farming activities, the ineffective agricultural extension system, labour shortages, the misuse or non-usage of the necessary inputs, use of obsolete technology, the inefficient marketing system which may largely be due to the poor storage facilities and the inefficient road transport network. In the light of the study’s conclusions, ways of improving the peasant farmers were recommended. For instance, since land is generally fragmented it was recommended that the land tenure system be modified by a voluntary consolidation of the farms into economic units. The introduction of legal arrangements preventing a holding below a certain size from being divided up thereby preventing further fragmentation of holdings was also recommended. The need for reforming traditional practices like share-cropping was also emphasised. To be effective, however, complementary reforms are urgently needed in the extension services, the credit procurement system, the marketing and storage systems, transportation and communication systems, inputs supply system along with government commitment and support.
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the Degree of Master of Science in Development Planning and Management, 1991