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What lies beneath: Climate change, land expropriation, and zaï agroecological innovations by smallholder farmers in Northern Ghana

Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong

Land Use Policy, 2020, vol. 92, issue C

Abstract: Large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) are increasing in Ghana amid a weak legal and regulatory framework. This paper explores the impacts of this phenomenon on farmer innovations under recurrent environmental changes. Using a case study of zaï, an indigenous innovative farming practice, the paper makes two interrelated arguments. Firstly, it shows that the pervasive enclosures coerced by the Ghanaian state undermine how indigenous knowledge could be proactively deployed for climate risk management. Secondly, LSLAs produce a social barrier to climate change adaptation, as they lead to heightened uncertainty and apprehension among farmers, which affects decisions on climate risk management. More specifically, land expropriation is an example of how adaptation could be hindered by governance, institutions, and policy at the extra-local scale, including not only existing land use laws, but also the constitutional guarantee of private property. The evidence supporting these arguments come from survey data on 619 plots, 70 in-depth interviews, village-level transect walks, and participant observations. Overall, the paper contributes to emerging debates at the interface of land use policy, climate justice, and sustainable adaptation. Theoretically, it also contributes to understanding State-society relations, as well as the political economy of eminent domain, often justified through discourses of “public benefits.”

Keywords: Eminent domain; Land tenure; Large-scale land acquisitions; Zaï; Farmer innovations; Social barriers to adaptation; Ghana (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2020.104469

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