Sustainable and Unsustainable Agriculture in Ghana and Nigeria: 1960 – 2009
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The agricultural sector of African economies has faced considerable challenges within the past 50 years or so. Although agricultural production on the continent rose by an annual average of 2% between 1965 and 1980 and has continued to increase by 1.8% annually since then, population growth of 2.9% per year has resulted in a per capita decline in agricultural production. From self-sufficiency in food production before the 1960s, many African countries have become net food importers, with a handful of them facing severe food shortages arising from drought, desertification, climate change and wars. In this paper we use the case of Ghana and Nigeria to explore some of the salient dynamics that have resulted in the current crisis in the agricultural sector of African economies. We argue that soil conditions, climate change, population growth, in combination with ineffective economic policies have contributed immensely to the sordid state of agriculture in Africa. We use historical and contemporary evidence gathered from Ghana and Nigeria during several visits to show how economic policies have interacted with biophysical and environmental factors to generate an unsustainable use of land, agricultural labor, and natural resources. Based on our field research, we propose an “agro-entrepreneurial” model of agriculture that combines sustainable farming practices with entrepreneurship. This model enables farmers to take advantage of emerging markets in the food value chain, as well as enhance their living standards and self-esteem.