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Smallholder commercialization projects for agri-based industrialization and domestic food security have recently emerged in Ghana with government, private sector and international corporations leading efforts to optimize gains from arable customary lands. This development constitutes a new diversion from the capitalist plantation style of agricultural and industrial growth that characterised the largely socialist post-independence and military periods in Ghana (1957-1992). At the turn of the fourth republic (1992) a new directive for strategic statist intervention in agriculture emerged as a mechanism to supplement the new wave of production, trade liberalization and privatization ushered in by structural adjustment policies (1980's). Thus, the Ghanaian state favoured progressive investments through subsidies and farmer-based support for cash crop cultivation. Nonetheless, a historically unbalanced focus on the cash crop sector encouraged a disproportionate neglect of the domestic food crop sector.

Such imbalance raised questions on Ghana's ability to replicate the successes of the Asian-style green revolution that was influenced predominantly by intensive food crop-oriented smallholder agriculture. Consequent new policy directions birthed a nationwide programme for priority food crop cultivation for domestic consumption and industrial development purposes. The policy, through input subsidies, agricultural extension services and IT tools, lends itself to commercialization of smallholder production and encouraging the development of a cadre of  master/commercial smallholder farmers. This observation raises questions around smallholder differentiation; who benefits, how, why and what constraints exist. The imminent implications of the development of rural land markets in response to such smallholder commercialization policy may be far reaching for communities who adhere to the tenets of intergenerational equity and conceptualize land as a customary entitlement; a bundle of inherent rights for past, present and future generations rather than a mere corporal hereditament. A further exacerbation of potentially weakened customary land tenure positions may result from the rapidly growing trend of medium and large scale farms in Ghana.

Thus, the calls for a relook at changing land rights, farmer differentiation and farm structure dynamics in Ghana are well-placed towards ensuring that policy actions that focus exclusively on the collective potential of smallholder agriculture to lead agriculture-driven economic transformation in Africa are re-adapted to recognize social differentiation and changing land tenure and farm structure dynamics. In a country where smallholder agriculture remains the primary employer of rural populations and a major determinant of rural household wealth, the implications of a smallholder-focused policy for structural economic change requires curious research attention. My research therefore seeks to incite a discussion on these broader themes of state policy implications for smallholder differentiation and customary land tenure (with a focus on customarily vulnerable women, youth and migrant groups) in Ghana.




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