Constraints to farmers’ entrepreneurship in Ghana

Food Security07 Dec 2009Hans Eenhoorn

Thanks, colleagues, for pointing to the opportunities small-scale farming holds for development. Family farmers’ position and ability to produce is crucial – not least because of their sheer numbers. How can society support, or cities absorb, hundreds of millions of people with a farming background? The only credible way to resolve rural hunger is for farming to become a source of wealth.

Coming from an entrepreneurial background, we performed value chain analyses in different regions of Ghana by interviewing more than 1200 smallholder farmers. We wanted to understand the constraints these farmers face to improve their abysmal economic conditions through agro-entrepreneurship, which we defined as planned production for a defined market with a profit objective. We found that peasants are ill at ease with concepts like planning, markets and profit. Many of them have become conservative in their daily practices because any innovation in livelihood strategy creates a risk that they cannot cope with. This attitude could provide for a stable livelihood if the environment farmers operate in was not so dynamic: population growth, depleting soils, climate change, and other factors have deteriorated the chances for livelihood and survival. Entrepreneurship in one form or another is required to break the cycle of perpetuating poverty, hunger and misery. In our Ghanaian investigation, we identified 26 discrete constraints that restrict the entrepreneurial development of smallholder farmers. We grouped these into four categories: constraints related to production and processing; constraints of the risks and uncertainties that farmers face; the lack of incentives to invest; and the mindset of subsistence farmers.

We still believe that developing value chains is necessary for improving the domestic and international quality and quantity of trade in agricultural products. However, value chains need to be designed from the beginning to improve the livelihoods of smallholders.