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Plantation, outgrower and medium-scale commercial farming in Ghana: Which model provides better prospects for local development?

 Published in May 2016, this policy brief provides some evidence on the impact of diverse agricultural business models supported by African governments, with some promoting largescale farming on plantations while others promote small- or medium-scale commercial farming. Particularly, the study examined three agricultural modernisation models in three areas of Ghana: plantation, outgrower and medium-scale commercial farming. 

The findings of this research reveal how the three models have different implications for rural agrarian change, in terms of access to land, labour conditions, employment opportunities, local economic linkages, food security and livelihood outcomes, etc. Based on the evidence from the 3 case studies, the plantation and commercial models resulted in more land concentration while the outgrower model produced the least. In terms of employment, the plantation and outgrower models employed more workers than the commercial model but the latter had better-paid workers at the lower level of employment.  Although workers in the outgrower model were paid less, there were no significant gender differences in wages received by men and women. The other two models paid male workers much more than female workers.  Food security is better in the outgrower area than in the plantation and commercial farming areas.

Overall, it seems that both the plantation and commercial farming models produced similar effects on land and labour relations by growing inequality in their areas. Even though the outgrower model, which integrated with a processing plant, outperformed the other two models in the assessed criteria used for this study, the authors suggest that it may only be a question of time before land concentration and other negative outcomes emerge.

The overall message of the study is that African governments should be more aware of the diverse consequences which different agricultural commercialisation models can have and it then provides some final recommendations on what are the main observations for States to take into acccount in their policy choices for agriculture modernisation.  

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Giorgia MEI
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26 August 2016

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