Transnational corporations in Ghana are increasing land acquisitions that have the potential to cause conflicts among farmers, pastoralists and other land users as well as take arable land from smallholders, according to a new study by the University of Ghana. The report called on the state to take a more active role in regulating these deals.
The study focused on Prairie Volta Rice Limited in the North Tongu District, Solar Harvest Limited in Tamale and Integrated Tamale Fruit Company in the Savelugu District. It was undertaken by Professor Dzodzi Tsikata and Dr Joseph Yaro, and was motivated by global concerns about future adverse impacts of land grabs by TNCs in developing countries. It sought to provide a deeper understanding of the processes and risks of land acquisitions by TNCs.
The report claimed that land use conflicts that existed between the local farmers and pastoralists intensified as a result of the acquisition of the land and resettlement of pastoralists by companies, causing tension between the state and communities. In the studied areas there were also tensions between overlords and sub-chiefs, with the disruption of local farms and loss of common land causing inter-community tensions, and forcing people to walk long distances to their new lands.
“We really need a register on land deals. We are deciding our agrarian future without realising it,” Tsikata suggested. She argued that the exposure of smallholders to the vagaries of global markets through the land acquisitions by the transnational companies has aggravated the plight of the communities. “The state as a player has compounded negative outcomes by acts of commission and omission, institutional failures and conflict of interest and ambiguities,” she said.
The report also concluded that gender and class had become more divisive as a result of the acquisitions, with women losing out in the stratification of society and social classes becoming more evident as a result of local chiefs becoming landowners rather than custodians. Expectations of alternative employment for those moved had not been realised. The researchers also discovered that massive destruction of the commons, a source of income generation mainly for female farmers, was posing a great threat to their livelihood and at the same time rendering most of them homeless.
Yet there were some positive impacts on the Ghanaian economy, which may well serve to deter government from becoming more regulatory in terms of the TNCs. Improved infrastructure, livelihood technologies and foreign direct investment are significant advantages. “Land deals impact not only economically, changing traditional dynamics and arrangements of power and resource systems,” Tsikata declared.