Blogs: Small Scale Farming versus Large Scale Farming in Ghana: Issues and Prospects: Benjamin Bilalam Jabik


Small scale farming is defined in Ghana as farmers who produce their output on land size of almost 0 hectares up to 10 hectares. Over 90% of the farmlands in Ghana fall under or are managed by small scale farmers. Also, small scale farmers provide up to 90% of the food supply in Ghana. Large scale farming results in land grabbing driven by global capital accumulation dynamics and strategies in response to a convergence of multiple global crises (finance, environment, energy and food).

State promoted large scale farming in Ghana in the 1960s and 1970s by establishing state farms across the country. The state also established medium irrigation schemes like the Tono and Vea schemes which displaced small scale farmers with the intension that the commercial farmers will recruit the displaced land owners on their farm. This process generated widespread conflicts and struggles for land in certain parts of the country.

While large-scale farming investments are nothing new, the recent debate on small scale versus large scale farming is necessary because the speed and rate at which land ownership changes hands and its consequent effect on wellbeing is a huge concern. The changing patterns pose new challenges at many different levels and affects development in general. Supporters of this new wave of land deals depict attractive scenarios characterized by rapid agricultural modernization, mechanized farming, employment creation, and positive spill-overs across the economy. However, this approach rather worsens poverty prevalence, food insecurity, unemployment and high environmental pollution. What are some advantages of small scale farming in comparison to the large scale farming in Ghana?

  • Sustainable Employment generation (both on farm, off farm and the value chain)

In Ghana, about 90% of the households in agricultural sector are made up of small scale farmers. The farmers are gainfully employed with their farming activities which are either on the farm or off farming activities that brings sustainable livelihood to their families. Also included in the employment generated by farming are the people engaged in the buying of the farm produce from the farm gates and selling them in the urban centres. These people commonly referred to as “Commodity Queens” also engage transport operators, individuals and truck pusher along the chain thereby increasing the number for jobs created along the value chain. The Commodity Queens are very relevant for small scale farming activities as they at time provide loans to the farmers to expand on their farming activities. In addition, Women comprise an average of 50 percent of the agricultural labour force and are dominating in the value chain. Focusing on small scale farming therefore implies generating more jobs for the women in the society.

  • Small scale farming promotes sustainable agricultural practices and sustained food security

When sustainable agriculture practices such as mulching, cover cropping, application of organic manure and crop rotation among others are practiced by farmers, average crop yields increases. The increase in crop yields mean increased household food availability or security and higher household income since money will be saved through less fertilizer and pesticide use. Also, the organic agriculture brings multiple benefits to the community including more nutritious diet and health, reduced occupational hazards through decreased exposure to pesticides and decent job creation.

  • Effective climate change capacity measures (mitigation and adaptation)

Small scale farming practices promote effective climate change mitigation through reduced emissions and enhanced soil carbon sequestration by reducing fossil fuels dependency and energy requirements, as compared to large scale farms that rely on mechanization and other carbon emitting inputs. This implies that small scale farming promotes the application of the principles of local resource commons which is environmentally friendly.

Also, well-managed smallholder systems invest in building soil biomass and soil vegetative cover, which improves water filtration in case of floods and moisture retention in case of droughts. These are both excess water and scarce water management practices that are very relevant for climate change adaptation practices. Besides, small scale farmers use minimal and at times zero tillage practices that reduce erosion of the top soil by either wind or water. The retained top soil increases the retention of soil nutrients which therefore improves on crops yields in a sustainable manner.

  • Valid and easy access to farm information (employment statistics, output levels etc)

Small scale farming also promotes access to more reliable and accurate statistics on agricultural activities in the country. This is so because, in the large scale sector, for fear of taxation and inadequate relevant records, basic farm level statistics are difficult to come by. The difficulty in accessing these relevant statistics leads to “guesstimate and not estimates” of agricultural productivity, which eventually affects the quality and effectiveness of the policy and decisions taken with such “guesstimates”.

Although the small scale sector is a very important sector for the development of the nation, farmers in the sector encounter many challenges. Among those challenges include conflicts over land due to land grabbing and dispossession of land by the large scale farmers, land degradation due to mechanization and application of chemicals, low and fluctuating food prices due to dumping from food aid, extinction of traditional crop varieties that are much nutritious and, reliance on chemicals for production which further worsens the plights of the small scale farmer. Some measures that could be promoted to reduce the effects on the small scale farmer include providing incentives for farmers promoting organic farming, sensitization on the effects and consequence of mechanization among others.