Land right and tenure security, necessities to increase agricultural production
7/12/2012 9:30:24 PM -
GNA Feature by Kwabia Owusu-Mensah
Kumasi, July 12, GNA - It is not a deviation from the fact that agriculture is the bedrock of Ghana's socio-economic development.
Agricultural production and related activities account for more than 80 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product, while exports in the sector contribute significantly to the foreign exchange earnings.
Agriculture also serves as a source of employment for more than 80 per cent of Ghanaians who are engaged in commercial and subsistent production.
The contribution of cocoa as the mainstay of the economy has been well known and acknowledged by many people.
Non-traditional export crops such as mangoes, banana and pawpaw, are gaining prominence in the country.
Notwithstanding, the sector had over the years been plagued with numerous challenges. Among them are erratic rainfall pattern and occasional flooding as a result of climate change, depletion of soil nutrients, environmental degradation, lack of credit facilities to farmers, inappropriate farming methods, insufficient funding for research into the development of improved crop varieties and post harvest losses.
Governments had over the years done whatever could be done to address some of these problems in order to increase and sustain the contribution of the sector.
One area, which has remained a serious challenge and inhibiting investments to grow the agricultural sector has been land tenure right and security, especially for tenant and caretaker farmers.
Most farmers in rural communities have over the years depended on the traditional customary agreement method called 'Abunu' or 'Abusa', which often tends to be oral or verbal for acquiring land as well as the sharing of farm produce.
This form of agreement is at times not well defined and properly documented and could therefore not serve as a legally binding material for litigation and settlement, especially in case of the death of one of the parties.
Experiences of long, bitter and resource-consuming litigations that emanate from these types of arrangements make people in the communities who are in similar situations reluctant to commit more resources and invest to increase productivity.
This has accounted for the continued subsistence nature and high level of poverty among many farmers.
It is therefore heart warming that a Kumasi-based non-governmental organisation, Land Resources Management Centre has developed innovative tools based on the traditional customary agreements to help address some of the bottlenecks in some communities in two districts in the Ashanti and Central Regions.
The beneficiary communities are Odikro-Nkwanta, Nyamaa, Kyekyewere, Bonkron, Atobrakrom and Kwafokrom in the Ahafo-Ano North District, in Ashanti Region and Akrofuom, Nkubem, Adadientem, Larteh Amambete and Hommado in the Assin South District, in the Central Region.
The project which is being implemented with financial support from the International Institute of Economic Development of the United Kingdom, aims at introducing innovations into the customary agreements to make them legally acceptable to secure the rights of landowners, tenants and caretakers.
It seeks to support boundary demarcation and survey of farm lands through community-based land administration.
Another component of the project is the documentation of agreements between land owners and caretakers through community-based land administration and improved participation in tenancy markets through awareness creation and local dialogue between tenants and landowners.
It will also build local capacity to reduce and manage land conflicts through Alternative Dispute Resolution.
The Centre has under the project, come out with four innovative agreement templates based on the customary agreements, which are being discussed by stakeholders in the beneficiary communities and experts in stool land management, law, lands commission and dispute resolution.
The templates are the 'Abunu' Tenancy - involving sharing of farmland into equal halves between the landowners and the tenants after the tenant had cultivated cash crops such as cocoa, citrus and rubber.
There is also 'Abunu' Tenancy - involving the sharing of farm produce only in equal parts between a landowner and caretaker.
The third template called 'Caretaker Agreement' facilitates a farmer handing over his farm to a colleague to maintain by way of weeding, application of fertiliser, spraying among other interventions and harvesting the produce and sharing with the farmer in proportion of two-thirds to the farmer and one-third to the caretaker.
The fourth 'Spousal Transfer Agreement' is to make it convenient for a member of land owning family, with the consent of the family in his or her lifetime, transfer part of his or her farm on family land to the spouse.
These templates, according to Mr Mark Kakraba-Ampeh, Project Coordinator, were developed with expert support and inputs from officials of stool lands, lands commission, survey department, as well as customary and family lawyers.
The security of land, he noted, would engender more investment of time and resources in agriculture.
'More investment in agriculture would lead to increased productivity, improve incomes of farmers and reduce poverty in the farming communities.'
Mr Kakraba-Ampeh said the successful outcome of the implementation of the innovated agreement tools would be documented whilst lessons are shared with key stakeholders in agriculture, land management and policy makers and lay the foundation for possible replication in other parts of the country.
If successful the project would bring big relief to landowners and tenants as well as caretakers. It would guarantee and secure the future of farmers and provide the motivation for increase investment and productivity, which would not only boost returns to farmers but also transform the country's agriculture and enhance food security.
It is therefore important for the Ministries of Food and Agriculture, Local Government and Rural Development, and Lands and Forestry as well as other stakeholders to take keen interest in the project and monitor its success to see if it could be implemented for the benefit of other farmers in other districts.
Facilitating access to land acquisition by farmers would entice the youth to go into agriculture, which has now been left in the hands of ageing and weak rural folks. It would also help to reduce rural-urban migrati