Working Paper 23: Mechanised Agriculture and Medium-Scale Farmers in Northern Ghana: a Success of Market Liberalism or a Product of a Longer History?
In recent years, the significant uptake of tractor-ploughing services in Ghana has been heralded as a success of market liberal policies. It has been argued that market reforms have enabled medium-scale farmers to expand their operations and invest in tractors, which they also hire out to smallholders, enabling a significant expansion in agricultural outputs of both categories of farmers. However, this argument is based upon the assumption that, with structural adjustment and the rolling back of state services, past policies on mechanisation disappeared and left no footprints in agrarian production.
This paper explores within a political economy framework, the historical dimensions of mechanisation in Ghana and continuities in the agrarian structure between the period of state-led agriculture and market liberalisation. It rejects simplistic understandings of state policies in neo-patrimonial frameworks that associate the expansion of mechanisation with political patronage and diverting state resources for political support. The existence of expanding private markets in tractors after the imposition of structural adjustment in Ghana suggests otherwise.