Sheanut and sustainable poverty reduction in Northern Ghana: a case study of West Gonja District

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Poverty is major problem confronting many rural people in Ghana .This is especially true in the case of the people of the three northern regions of Ghana. Despite the fact that Ghana has chalked remarkable gains in her poverty reduction effort over the past two decades the North still records the highest levels of poverty. The Ghana living standard survey indicates that poverty is more severe among food crop farmers as compared to the cash crop farmers. The West Gonja District in the Northern Region of Ghana experiences a high level of poverty which is manifest in high illiteracy, malnutrition, and a perennial food crisis, a combination of which makes it difficult for the poor to come out of poverty as a result the interaction effect. The district however abounds in shea nuts ( Vitellaria paradoxa) a non-timber forest product which grows in the wild and is currently among the top ten Non-Traditional Exports of Ghana. Apart from the fact that there is growing demand for shea nuts the industry is dominated by rural women who are normally the most economically disadvantaged group due to their limited access to productive assets. There is the opportunity therefore to use shea nuts as an alternate source of livelihood for West Gonja District which forms the basis of this study. In order to completely investigate the problem an inductive research design approach was adopted for the conceptual design of the research. The research process began with the problem statement following an introductory background. Research objectives were then derived. The research problem which together with the desk study informed the design of data collection instruments to suit the technical design of the research. In the technical design the study combined the survey and the case study methods of data collection and analysis. Interviews were held with officials of various relevant institutions including opinion leaders and traditional authority. The results from the study showed a very high level of poverty in the District especially among women. The study also indicated that women were mainly engaged in the non- farm informal sector largely made up of shea based activities which unfortunately is less rewarding as compared to the effort. The little gains made from the shea nuts are however used on food provisioning, education and investment in agriculture which constitutes significant net additions to what is earned from farming. Following these findings the study concludes that a national shea policy should be put in place by the government for the setting up of a shea nut board tasked with the exclusive research and marketing of shea nuts. The formation of cooperatives should also be encouraged and all other stakeholders should help solve the teething problems confronting shea nut collectors, processors and those engaged in marketing. It is hoped that the development of sheanut into a dependable cash crop will drastically reduce poverty in the District in particular and the entire Northern Ghana.
A Thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Development Planning and Management, 2008