Land tenure and sustainable livelihoods in north-east Ghana
Many authors have blamed African land tenure systems for the poor agricultural production and environmental degradation in sub-Saharan Africa, and therefore the resulting hunger, environmental refugees and the lack of socio-economic progress. The aim of this investigation was to investigate the customary and statutory tenure practices in north-east Ghana and their implications for agricultural production and environmental degradation and recommend ways of improving tenurial practices. The study revealed that contrary to the mainstream view that lack of security of customary land tenure is the main cause of the poor agricultural production and environmental degradation, stakeholders’ perceptions of their security of tenure was generally high. Stakeholders’ religious background, gender, levels of education, age, occupation and community membership status were important factors influencing their perceptions and attitudes to land tenure, and land and environmental management practices. Yet poor agricultural production and environmental degradation characterised the study area. Interviewees perceived the main causes to be due to non-tenurial factors including lack of finance, poor soil fertility, inadequate and unreliable rainfall, pests and diseases, inadequate farmlands, bush burning and excessive tree cutting. It was also shown in the study that women and strangers generally had little or no power and control over land use decision-making and management under customary land tenure. These findings have negative implications for tenurial conditions, environmental and livelihood sustainability in north-east Ghana since most women are involved in food production. Results of the investigation were used to develop a participatory and holistic approach to land use and management and developed an integrated framework of customary and statutory tenure as a way forward in sustainable land management and the provision of sustainable livelihoods in north-east Ghana in particular, and sub-Saharan Africa generally. The study has contributed to an understanding of the political ecology of north-east Ghana and concludes that the emerging changes in land resource access and use have conflicts as an inevitable element of the process, which broad-based stakeholder participation provides a useful solution.