Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Rachel Bezner Kerr


Whilst Ghana has made momentous strides in national food security over the last decade, peasants in the rural north, indeed, those who produce the bulk of the country’s food, are also the hungriest population. This paradox immediately raises profound questions for research in human-environment geography. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate some of these questions, with particular emphasis on why Ghana’s food system is failing precisely those who produce food. The research combines insights from agrarian political economy and political ecology, and is informed by nine months of intensive fieldwork. Three carefully selected case studies uncover the full measure of struggle, suffering and resilience among peasant households in two savanna villages. A cross-cutting argument in the case studies is that peasant production systems are able to manage the inherent risks posed by the savanna ecology, and it is rather the induced vulnerability from external factors that undermines food production systems. Among the most far-reaching factors include land-grabbing, the introduction of Green Revolution technologies, and the rise and consolidation of neoliberal development. The study shows how these forces are interwoven, and layered upon gender politics to render women and children more vulnerable to food insecurity. In particular, land-grabbing has resulted in a landless class of peasants, who reproduce themselves through proletariatization in unrewarding sharecrop schemes. Theoretically, the thesis sheds light on how food insecurity is socially and politically produced, but continues to be cast as drought-induced. In the end, a strong case is made for an alternative agriculture that will keep peasants on the land, and feed the hungry population now and into the future.