Charity Butler Agyemang, a Ghananian tour guide looks on at the Cape Coast Slave Castle in Ghana

JOHANNESBURG - Urbanisation in Ghana has spurred growth in non-farm jobs in rural areas, with little impact on agricultural intensification, defined by higher land productivity. 

Simultaneously, neglect of public investments, low even by African standards, in the non-cocoa sector has stagnated agricultural growth in the country. These are some of the key findings of a new book from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) researchers and collaborators.

The book, titled ‘Ghana’s Economic and Agricultural Transformation: Past Performance and Future Prospects’ offers key insights into harnessing agriculture’s potential in the country.

Despite over 30 years of continuous growth in per capita income and rapid urbanisation, Ghana has not been able to industrialise and most of its workers are trapped in traditional or low productivity agriculture or low productivity jobs in the services sector.

Using a wide range of primary and secondary data at multiple scales, the book examines Ghana’s overall economic performance since the major Structural Adjustment Programme in the mid-1980s and provides an in-depth empirical analysis of the performance of the agricultural sector and broader economy over the past four decades.

One of the points raised, providing insight and implications for policymakers and practitioners, is that raising land productivity in agriculture is one of the few options available for helping to transform the national economy and ensuring future growth in per capita incomes.

And contrary to popular theory, urbanisation has not kick-started agricultural intensification despite the hypothesis that urbanisation induces this as farmers respond to increased demand for their products but face growing competition for their land.

In Ghana’s case, as rural wages have gone up, people have shifted to more non-farm jobs, adopted labour saving technologies in farming like mechanisation and herbicides, and found more land to bring into cultivation.

The result has been a substantial decline in the share of households that depend primarily on agriculture, an increase in agricultural labour productivity, but only a modest increase in land productivity, according to the IFPRI authors.

This pattern of agricultural growth could present problems for the future as without investing in agricultural intensification, increased production will depend on further expansion of the cropped area, either by clearing virgin forest or reducing the length of traditional fallow periods.

In order for the Ghanaian government and other African countries to harness the transformative potential of agriculture, more effort will be needed to strengthen relationships with business and target scarce resources to selected value chains with the greatest growth and employment potential, IFPRI advises.

- African News Agency (ANA)