Much-needed improvements in recordkeeping are on the way

While there is plenty of fertile land available for agriculture in Ghana – an estimated 6.1m ha of its 13.6m ha of agricultural land is not cultivated at present – land acquisition remains a challenging process.

As stipulated in Ghana’s constitution, a variety of customary tenure systems run by chiefs govern land use in the country. Around 80% of all land falls under these frameworks, designating the chiefs as the key stakeholders regarding ownership, distribution and dispute resolution. Of the 6m parcels of land throughout the country, very few are officially registered. The World Bank’s Land Administration Project (LAP), which began in 2003, is the primary mechanism Ghana is using to support the decentralisation of land administration. While providing resources to expand the title registration system, LAP also aims to enhance accountability of land administration, increase transparency and improve recordkeeping. By 2010 eight regional capitals had deed registries, compared to two before LAP began, and registration time fell from six months to one or two months, according to the World Bank.

Skin & Stool

Land ownership and the process of land acquisition differ between the north and the south. In the north, inheritance is largely patrilineal and codified as “skin lands”, while in the south, inheritance is mostly matrilineal and considered “stool lands”, according to a World Bank report. As urbanisation rates are growing far faster in the south, land prices are soaring compared to the north. As a result of this, southern chiefs are turning to real estate development instead of leasing their land to farmers, to take advantage of unprecedented windfalls for projects.

“As Accra grows and engulfs its outskirts, what was originally rural farmland is now in high demand for developers,” Nana Bebaako Addo, executive director of Jei River Farms, told OBG. “The income from leasing this land to farmers is a fraction of the price that landowners can now obtain for developing it. State intervention on behalf of the farmer will become more important as we move forward.” In the country’s north, which is underdeveloped and arid, Ghana offers tax-free arrangements to incentivise agricultural investment. According to Reuters, farming projects in the north would be expected to divide output evenly between the domestic and export markets to be eligible for the tax exemption.

New Alliance

Potential investors are pushing for the development of a comprehensive land bank to help elucidate the acquisition process, and the government is working to implement this. Ghana is a signatory of the G8 New Alliance initiative, launched by US President Barack Obama in 2012, which (among a variety of efforts in other sub-Saharan African countries) intends to open up 10,000 ha of agricultural land in Ghana for private investment in agribusiness by the end of 2015. The goal is to increase food security and reduce poverty levels across sub-Saharan Africa. In Ghana, details of all suitable land will be collated in an easily accessible and comprehensive database. Regulations in place as a result of the policy guidelines include seed registry systems, seed sampling, production surveying and field inspections. G8 funding for this project in Ghana to the end of 2013 amounted to $37m.

Under the New Alliance scheme, 15 companies have signed letters of intent outlining their investment commitments in Ghana, including nine international firms – African Cashew Initiative, Armajara Trading, Rabobank, SABM iller, Swiss Re, Unilever, United Phosphorous, World Cocoa Foundation and Yara International. Local players signed on include Agriserve, Ecobank Group, Fintrade Group, Ghana Nuts, Premium Foods and Savanna Farmers Marketing Company.

However, the initiative remains controversial. A lack of consultation between the multinationals and local civil society representatives has generated a sense of opacity surrounding corporate intentions. According to the UK’s The Guardian newspaper, a number of investments from foreign firms are targeting non-food crops, such as rubber, biofuels and cotton meant for export markets, straying from the food security objective.

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The Report: Ghana 2014

Agriculture chapter from The Report: Ghana 2014

Cover of The Report: Ghana 2014

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