Bamler, Jan-Niklas (2016). Value for the Vulnerable? Sustainable Smallholder Development in Northern Ghana and the Value Chains of Tomato, Chili and Rice. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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Ghana has managed to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world with a vibrant agricultural market. The country could be a prime example of successful, pro-poor development following economic liberalisation. Though first change is visible even in traditionally impoverished areas of the north, namely the Upper East Region, hunger and chronic poverty are still prevalent. Yet, after decades of restricted public expenditure, ‘pro-poor’ agricultural policies could now be put in place, to actively improve smallholder lives in the area by various forms of government support. Similarly, foreign development agencies have recently become more engaged in supporting the local agricultural sector. All actors of current relevance have thereby pursued a value chain approach to developing the markets and livelihoods of northern Ghanaian agriculturalists. The contribution to pro-poor, ‘sustainable’ development, however, remains unclear as at now. This study is therefore concerned with how market dynamics and interventions have influenced ‘sustainable development’ of the vulnerable and poor in an emerging economy like Ghana. To do so, the study takes a look at smallholder livelihood systems in the Upper East Region of the country. Here, local peasant society is confronted with environmental changes, economic globalisation processes and interventions in agricultural value chains by the local Ministry of Food and Agriculture and foreign donors like USAID. To grasp the impact of market dynamics and interventions within this multidimensional context, this study argues for a combination of a holistic livelihood and a more specific value chain and production network approach as a useful conceptual background. Given this theoretic backdrop, data was collected for over 10 months in two villages of the Upper East, namely in Biu and Mirigu, with a focus on tomato, chili and rice, products of major significance to locals. The main methods applied in the field included qualitative as much as quantitative approaches. Farmer focus group discussions (n=37), in-depth farmer interviews and farm budgets (n=47) were the primary source of data gathered. Expert/key-informant interviews (n=70) and expert group discussions (n=2) were held. A household head survey (n=177) and an expert survey (n=25) were used to check hypotheses previously generated by qualitative methods. Primary and secondary data for tomato, chili, rice and partly also shea value chains was collected. Secondary data, such as confidential government and NGO documents, allow an insider view into farmers’ access to subsidies and support. An archive survey of church diaries dating back to 1905, enable a view on local developments in a long-term, historic perspective. This study thereby yields a number of insights with concern for conceptual approaches to the issue of understanding the pro-poor impact of markets, their dynamics and interventions within these. Livelihood analysis proved to be an indispensable approach to understanding important aspects of people-centred, human development potentials and constraints in a local environmental and institutional context. Value chain and production network analysis provided further fruitful insights on market dynamics, their structural outlines, their basic rationales and market terms for the successful participation of locals. It can therefore be concluded that both of these basic notions, either people- or market-centred approaches, should be conceptually merged to advance future research on the pro-poor effect of markets and interventions within them, to specifically address questions of what is here understood as ‘livelihood upgrading’. This study further contributes to an understanding of central aspects of local development and possible future avenues to achieving greater livelihood sustainability through government or donor development interventions. Most significantly, it became clear that ‘positive’, pro-poor market dynamics are also encountered at a local level, but cannot be made use of by spatially and socially marginalised, vulnerable and poor smallholders. That is mainly due to elite capture and corrupt practices, ultimately a question of mal-governance, a lack of grass-roots participation and a disregard for societal dimensions within which interventions are interwoven. Furthermore, neither environmental degradation nor present or future environmental changes, especially climatic ones and those with regard to soils, are accounted for. Interventions thereby remain far below their possible impact and even contribute to a loss of the natural resource base, aside the fact that they further increase an already high level socio-economic inequality. In the face of recent economic awakening, despite globalisation tendencies, future efforts in enabling sustainable development at local level must thus increasingly embrace environmental and, mostly, societal concerns in their concepts and daily practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Bamler, Jan-Niklasniklas.bamler@gmx.deUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-66302
Date: 15 January 2016
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences > Department of Geosciences > Geographisches Institut
Subjects: Social sciences
General statistics
Political science
Public administration
Commerce, communications, transport
Customs, etiquette, folklore
Natural sciences and mathematics
Earth sciences
Technology (Applied sciences)
Public performances
Geography and history
Geography and travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Sustainable DevelopmentUNSPECIFIED
Upper East RegionUNSPECIFIED
Population DynamicsUNSPECIFIED
Date of oral exam: 15 January 2016
NameAcademic Title
Braun, BorisProf. Dr.
Dannenberg, PeterProf. Dr.
Funders: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
Projects: WASCAL
Refereed: Yes


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