Eric Mensah Kumeh is a Ghanaian with a BSc and an MSc in agroforestry and natural resource governance respectively from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana. Currently, he is a DAAD funded PhD Candidate researching the cocoa-forest nexus in Ghana. Eric is passionate about landscape approaches to rural development, writing and activism. A former development worker, Eric has won and implemented projects funded by the FAO, the EU, the Dutch Government and the Norwegian Development Agency. He is the founder of Breakout Africa, a blog dedicated to how youths can contribute to good governance and economic development in Africa.
Criminals by necessity: Dynamics of access to land for food and cocoa production along Ghana´s cocoa-forest frontier
Emerging studies highlight the importance of land access to address hunger and extreme poverty in rural Africa. Access is argued to transcend ownership and entails diverse mechanisms actors employ to secure, control and maintain their ability to benefit from resources. Recent efforts to examine access dynamics in areas characterised by protected forest encroachment do not provide a full account of how historical land grabs for forest conservation and permanent tree-crops production can undermine food security in communities along forest frontiers. Instead, farmers along such frontiers are depicted as villains that are relentless in destroying forests and the environment which leads to conflict-ridden management regimes. This study assesses the linkages between land access for food production in Ghana´s Juabeso landscape where forest conservation and cocoa production are the predominant land-use options. Data was collected through participatory mapping and semi-structured interviews with 487 cocoa farmers and 54 other key informants that work in and around the landscape. The study found that with support from state and non-state actors, farmers have traded their land for crop cultivation for cocoa production. The farmers have become “cocoa trapped” and can only produce food crops by encroaching into the last remnants of protected forests. However, as a legally proscribed activity, farmers are met with resistance, including beatings and imprisonment which only lead them to deploy more sophisticated access mechanisms. Thus, in this frontier, the contest to regain land for food is riddled with criminality–a battle that is won by guile, brute force or both. But even the most decisive victory is ephemeral and uninheritable. A futuristic solution may lie in embracing the realities of the “necessary criminals” and a willingness for stakeholders to jointly navigate context-specific solutions. Without this, neither conservation nor food security aspirations are attainable within the landscape.
Affiliation: University of Hohenheim