Environment, Migration and Food Security in the Upper West Region of Ghana
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Ghana has achieved dramatic improvements in national food security in recent years, but concealed in this overall progress is a considerable measure of regional unevenness, with the population living in the dry savannah regions in the north faring the worst. The Upper West Region (UWR) is the poorest region of Ghana and has long served as a reservoir of migratory labour for the southern parts of the country, but in recent years migration patterns have been both escalating and changing. Increasingly, permanent UWR migration is focusing on the more fertile lands of the Brong-Ahafo Region (BAR), where migrants are able to access farmland in different leasehold relationships. A rapid research appraisal conducted in Techiman (BAR) suggests that UWR migrants view their growing settlement in the BAR to be a long-term phenomenon. It also highlighted how land tenancy issues are central to the challenges migrant farmers face, and are largely perceived as being immutable by the farmers themselves. Nearly all new UWR migrants must begin working in sharecropping relationships for BA landlords, paying out one-third of their harvest as rent, and over time they hope to save sufficient market earnings in order to lease the land outright. Despite these rents and the high cost of transportation, this chapter suggests that evolving migration patterns from the Upper West Region (UWR) of Ghana are connected to an intensifying system of domestic “food aid” (i.e. non-market transfers) back to the region, providing a crucial means of coping with its precarious food insecurity. With environmental conditions in dry regions of Sahelian Africa projected to worsen with climate change, the agricultural capacity of the UWR is likely to deteriorate further in coming years, with migratory pressures therefore continuing to rise. In light of this, this study points towards both future research objectives in the UWR and the BAR, as well as to the implications such research could have for policy interventions and locally grounded regional initiatives.