Rural-Urban Reciprocity in Northern Ghana: Complicating Youth in Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Development

Authors: Siera Vercillo*, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, Bruce Frayne, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Development, Africa
Keywords: youth; agriculture; rural-urban linkages; social reciprocity; development; Ghana; Sub-Saharan Africa
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

While business-oriented agricultural development approaches have long been promoted as a pathway to curbing urbanization, it has largely excluded youth. Where literature does examine youth farming, it tends to treat them as a unified group, when their identities, livelihood opportunities, constraints, and movements are highly varied. Using opportunity spaces theory and qualitative case study research, this paper investigates different youth aspirations and engagements in farming compared with agricultural development policy and practice in northern Ghana. Our findings advance literature that generally posits farmer migration as either from rural to rural areas or from rural to urban areas and out of farming all together. In contrast, in our study, we find that youth pursuing larger-scale farming tend to be from urban areas because they have more capital, better networks, and information than those youth from rural communities. Rural youth livelihood aspirations are shaped by working on their families’ farms, which are vulnerable to increasingly erratic rainfall, aridity, land competition, and rising costs. Their farming aspirations generally differ from and complicate the business-oriented approach promoted in policy. Intersectional disparities were also found amongst youth, with few young women aspiring to farm because it is considered a masculine endeavor. Uneven land inheritance and agricultural development interventions also largely exclude women, further discouraging young women from farming. Ultimately, making agriculture inclusive of all youth requires moving beyond business and entrepreneurship approaches to accommodate for diverse aspirations, and associated constraints and opportunities.

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