Land Tenure, Food Security, Gender and Urbanization in Northern Ghana

September 2023
E. B. Nchanji, T. Chagomoka, I. Bellwood-Howard, A. Drescher, N. Schareika, J. Schlesinger

This open access article in the academic journal, ‘Land Use Policy’, reports findings from an ethnographic study and a food and nutrition survey carried out from October 2013 to November 2014 in Tamale, in the Northern Region of Ghana. The study was designed to examine the land access and food production challenges faced by urban and peri-urban populations, and their abilities to maintain resources to meet long-term needs. The authors report that food insecure households were more likely to mention lack of land than anything else as the primary reason for their inability to grow their own crops. Agricultural needs competed with infrastructural developments for land, and the shortage of agricultural land was more pronounced in urban than peri-urban areas. Coping strategies for dealing with the lack of land to grow food included buffer zone cultivation and urban to peri-urban to rural migrant farming. The article also explores various mechanisms utilised by women to circumvent their lack of access to land and provide food for their families. In one case cited in the article, a woman informant reports that strangers are kinder than family members to women with no land, and that cultivating personal relationships through giving gifts or crops after every harvest is a key strategy to being able to borrow land securely. Other strategies used by women include maximising their rights to gather resources such as shea nuts and dawadawa fruits on communal land that can be processed into oil and spices for consumption or sale.