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Ibrahim Wahab

Ibrahim Wahab


Ibrahim Wahab

A bird's eye-view of smallholder productivity : Current measurement shortfalls, farmer perceptions and rationality on rainfed family farms in Ghana


  • Ibrahim Wahab

Summary, in English

Smallholder farming, which is largely rainfed and relies on mostly rudimentary tools, predominates Ghana’s agricultural sector. The sector’s importance to the national economy is exemplified in not only the proportion of the active national labour force engaged in it but also in terms of its export earnings and service as a source of food for the vast majority of the population. However, the sectors is also plagued with historically low productivity. Statistics from the country’s national statistical service shows that while more than six tons per hectare is achievable for maize, what farmers actually obtain from their plots is less than a third of this. Being the most important staple crop and given the continuously increasing population growth rate, these low yield levels are most worrying. This is particularly so if the agriculture sector is expected to play the historically important role of being the engine of economic growth for the national economy as it has been for other countries.
Through this thesis, I aim to augment our present understanding of crop productivity levels on smallholder family farms. I do this by showing the limitations of current methods of yield measurement, analysing the factors contributing to current yield levels and variability, as well as analysing farmers’ perspectives on their current productivity levels. Using a multidisciplinary framework, I employ a mixed methods approach to analyse data from field and household surveys as well as aerial photographs and photo-elicitation interviews. For inspiration, I also draw on a number of theories; Boserup’s theory on agricultural intensification in the face of population growth and Chayanov’s theory of the smallholder economy help provide the frame for the thesis. The more practical induced innovation model of agricultural development and the sustainable livelihood approach help provide the bridge to the empirical work.
The thesis comprises four articles, which are preceded by a kappa. I argue that current measurement approaches do not adequately capture the dynamism of smallholder farms and that the use of new remote sensing tools as employed in this work could be critical to improving the reliability of agricultural statistics in such complex farming systems. I also argue that the factors contributing to current yield levels are varied and inconsistent across yield measures and villages even in the same agroecological regions. I further argue that while management activities such as the timing of planting and quantity of fertilizer applied are important immediate determinants of yield levels, they are often underpinned by some socioeconomic factors relating to labour and land tenure dynamics. The thesis further establishes that, by and large, farmers are content with current productivity levels and this attitude is rationally based on their experience and knowledge of poorly functioning agricultural inputs and outputs market. These findings have significant implications for the future of these small farms in terms of their own survival as well as their ability to continue to play critical roles in the economies of developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.


  • Institutionen för kulturgeografi och ekonomisk geografi








Lund University


  • Agricultural Science, Forestry and Fisheries


  • Smallholder productivity
  • measurement shortfalls
  • maize yield levels
  • aerial photos
  • farmer attitudes
  • Ghana




  • Ola Hall
  • Magnus Jirström


  • ISBN: 978-91-7895-565-7
  • ISBN: 978-91-7895-564-0


8 oktober 2020




Rio alternativt Världen, Geocentrum I, Sölvegatan 10, Lund


  • Jordan Chamberlin (Dr.)