Working Papers – Agricultural Commercialisation

Adomaa, F.O. (2021). Tenure Security and Incomes for Cocoa Farmers: A Political Economy Inquiry of Cocoa Swollen Shoot Viral Disease Eradication Programme in Ghana

Agrarian political economy is a critical area of inquiry in agrarian studies. Plant disease outbreaks and associated eradication efforts or the lack thereof, mediate local political economies with implications for smallholder livelihoods. This paper offers a political economy inquiry of a plant disease eradication programme. The paper is situated within the cocoa swollen shoot viral disease (CSSVD) eradication programme in Ghana and examines how CSSVD eradication fosters changing land relations in Ghana’s Sefwi cocoa landscape and how this disrupts tenure security and crop incomes for smallholders. Results from the study reveal that an alliance between the government and chiefs in the eradication programme provided an avenue to invoke and institutionalise latent customary tenure norms that changed host-stranger land relations and had consequences for smallholders’ willingness and ability to replant their CSSVD-infested farms by themselves. This had attendant consequences for income from cocoa. This paper offers insights on the interests, powers and alliances forged in the plant disease eradication programme and how they (re)construct social relations amid land commercialisation and deepening social differentiation.

Access to land and income from crop production are important livelihood assets in agrarian societies. Due to their importance, agrarian scholars raise critical questions when agrarian change or reform exhibit the potential to disrupt them. The disruption to land access and crop income in instances of plant disease epidemics is pronounced and has potential consequences for national and local political scenarios, as well as for economic landscapes. Zadoks’ (2017) work on the political economy of plant diseases highlights that the potential outbreak of plant diseases could result in unrest due to deeper socio-economic causes. While Zadoks (2017) highlights that the absence of national and international intervention results in dire political economic consequences regarding the outbreak of diseases discussed in his work, the presence of such interventions also has the potential to (re)construct local and global political economies, as evidenced in the work of De la Cruz (2017) and De la Cruz and Jansen (2018) on Panama disease in banana plants.