PhD student Bernard Ekumah studies smallholder farmers' organisations and large-scale land acquisition in rural Ghana
What is your research about?
My research is part of a larger project, "Mobilizing farmer organisations for sustainable agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa." My focus is to examine the emergence and growth of smallholder farmers' organisations in Ghana and how they employ collective action in their engagement with government and private investors to safeguard the interest of smallholder farmers in large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs). It explores the complex ways in which smallholder farmers respond to the impacts of LSLAs. The study also assesses the environmental and food security consequences of the (mal)adaptation strategies adopted by smallholder farmers in the face of LSLA.
What did you do before you started your PhD at LUCSUS?
Before I started my PhD studies, I was working as a Research Associate at the University of Cape Coast at the Directorate of Research, Innovation and Consultancy. I also taught Geographic Information Systems, an undergraduate course, and provided teaching support for Environmental Statistics and Research Methods to postgraduate students at the Department of Environmental Science. Before that, I worked on the USAID/UCC Fisheries and Coastal Management Capacity Building Project at the Centre for Coastal Management at the same university. The overall goal of the project was to improve the sustainable management of Ghana's marine and coastal resources. Prior to joining the Centre for Coastal Management, I had worked with two organisations. The first organisation was involved in planting forest trees as part of the Green Ghana Plantation Project implemented by the Government of Ghana. The second was a non-governmental organisation with broad focus on nature conservation and rural development.
What sustainability challenge do you find most interesting?
I have always been interested in land use and the related complex issues that drive the rapidly changing landscape we see today.
My interest in land use stems from the fact that land use is central to addressing sustainability issues, including food security, biodiversity conservation, climate change, and poverty alleviation.
Prior to my PhD studies, most of my research centred on using geospatial tools to assess the magnitude, rate, and patterns of change to identify the underlying processes driving transformation in ecologically important landscapes such as forests and wetlands. My interest in land use stems from the fact that land use is central to addressing sustainability issues, including food security, biodiversity conservation, climate change, and poverty alleviation. Many sustainability challenges are related to land use, which often underlies land management and land use change, resulting in a variety of consequences (desired, undesired, intended, unintended). Land is the focus of competing claims worldwide, particularly in developing countries due to its various productive, ecological and cultural functions. The claims of local land users are usually overridden by the claims of more powerful national or transnational actors. In the end, any productive land use leads to the exclusion of some land uses and some land users. The most vulnerable land users, whose lives and livelihoods have been severely affected by the scramble for large tracts of agricultural land, are smallholder farmers in rural areas.
How does your research contribute to address these issues?
My research focuses largely on large-scale land acquisition (LSLA) in rural Ghana. Although several studies have reported the dire consequences of LSLA on smallholder farmers, not much is known about how affected smallholder farmers mobilise and respond to the impacts of LSLA. Besides, the environmental and food security consequences of the (mal)adaptation strategies adopted by the smallholder farmers in the face of LSLA have not gained the attention of researchers. My research will contribute to knowledge about the potential of collective action by smallholder farmers' organisations to initiate needed structural reforms in LSLA to protect the livelihoods of local smallholder farmers. The study will provide inputs into how gaps in the governance framework for agricultural land in Ghana can be addressed to protect smallholder farmers’ interest in LSLA transactions. The study will also contribute to understanding the complex ways in which smallholder farmers have responded to the impacts of LSLAs and the consequences of their (mal)adaptive strategies on the environment and food security. In a broader context, my research will contribute to Sustainable Development Goals 1 (end poverty), 2 (zero hunger) and 15 (life on land).
Read more about Bernard Ekumah's research on his personal website