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porträtt Ol Hall

Ola Hall

Head of Department, Senior Lecturer

porträtt Ol Hall

"The maize is the cost of the farming, and cassava is our profit": Smallholders' perceptions and attitudes to poor crop patches in the Eastern region of Ghana


  • Ibrahim Wahab
  • Ola Hall
  • Magnus Jirström

Summary, in English

Crop yields are lowest in sub-Saharan Africa compared to other regions, and this is true even for such an important staple crop as maize. Persistence of patches of low crop vigour side-by-side to patches with healthier maize crops has been shown to significantly contribute to low yields on smallholdings. Farmers' perspectives on the presence of such poor patches are important as far as their on-farm investment attitudes are concerned. We analyse maize yield levels and farmers’ perspectives of their production levels in two farming communities in rural Ghana.

We find substantial potential for yield improvements; while local attainable yields (average of the yields attained by the top 10% of farmers in each village) were 4.4 t/ha and 3.6 t/ha, average crop cut yields were 2.0 t/ha and 2.4 t/ha for Asitey and Akatawia, respectively. As much as 62% of the maize fields in both study locations were unable to reach the respective average village yield level. From the photo-elicitation interviews, the general attitude of smallholders to the presence of poor patches is that of indifference. We find contradictions in farmers’ perceptions and attitudes towards low yields. While more than half (54%) perceived they were getting adequate yields relative to their expectations, an even greater proportion (88%) of farmers interviewed aver that their plots could yield much more. Similarly, a significant majority (63%) did not attempt to remedy the poor patches even though the same proportion perceive that it is worth it to invest in yield-improving inputs.

Farmers in such contexts view investments in fertilizers on their farms as too risky. As alternatives, they would rather invest their already limited resources in non-farm ventures. Farmers opt for yield optimization rather than maximization and this has important implications for diversification off the farm. These findings have important implications for smallholder households’ ability to meet their subsistence needs and for efforts to reduce yield gaps on small farms particularly in resource-poor contexts.


  • Department of Human Geography

Publishing year





Agriculture & Food Security





Document type

Journal article


BioMed Central (BMC)


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Agricultural Science


  • smallholders
  • yield gaps
  • risk attitudes
  • Drones
  • Ghana




  • ISSN: 2048-7010