This paper draws theoretical insights from political ecology to examine the environmental and livelihood impacts of smallholder agricultural mechanization in Ghana in the context of the ongoing pursuit of a new Green Revolution for Africa. Our findings highlight the complex linkages between agricultural development, environmental degradation, and rural livelihoods. Despite the associated increased returns-to-scale in agricultural productivity and enhanced speed in land preparation with tractor-based mechanization, the clearing of major trees on farmlands as a precondition for obtaining ploughing services encourages land degradation, including the depletion of vital naturally growing tree species—shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) and dawadawa (Parkia biglobosa)—that have critical food provisioning, cultural, and socioeconomic value. The drive towards extensification has further produced competitive forces that fuel the appropriation of previously inalienable communal lands and weakening of longstanding norms that mediate environmental resource conservation and use. This situation is poised to alter customary land governance and the basis on which women assert their rights to land-based resources including shea and dawadawa. Marginalized women are progressively shifting their livelihood strategies into environmentally unsustainable subsistence activities. This study demonstrates the adverse ecological, socioeconomic, and political impacts of agricultural mechanization when implemented in agrarian societies marked by widespread poverty and pervasive gender inequities. Given the growing centrality of tractors and trees to rural livelihoods, we recommend conservation agriculture for the simultaneous promotion of sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. Relevant social policies must also be implemented to ameliorate the adverse livelihood impacts of these agrarian reforms.

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Land Degradation and Development
Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies

Kansanga, M.M. (Moses Mosonsieyiri), Mkandawire, P, Kuuire, V. (Vincent), & Luginaah, I. (Isaac). (2019). Agricultural mechanization, environmental degradation, and gendered livelihood implications in northern Ghana. Land Degradation and Development. doi:10.1002/ldr.3490