LONG-TERM CHANGES IN THE RURAL AGRICULTURAL LABOUR MARKET OF AFRICA: AN INQUIRY INTO THE LABOUR DYNAMICS ON RICE FARMS IN NORTHERN GHANA
Abstract - This paper assesses long-term changes that have taken place in the rural agricultural labour market of Africa to aid policymakers in taking pragmatic measures to promote sustainable agriculture. To attain this, the paper focuses on changes in the size, gender and generation of the workforce employed onrice farms in Northern Ghana between 1980 and 2017. Drawing on farmer-level data obtained from the seven rounds of the Ghana Living Standards Surveys (GLSS) and on literature review, the paper reveals a downtrend in the size of the workforce (both farmers and labourers) from the 1980s till the early 1990s. However, by the late 1990s, the farmer population grew by 7.4%. In the 2000s, the farmer population experienced both downward and upward trends. Another finding is that from the 1980s to the early 1990s, only household labour was used on rice farms. From the late 1990s to the 2000s, however, rice farms employed both household and hired labour. With reference to gender, the proportion of female farmers has been extremely low, although they grew in number after the early 1990s. The proportion of female hired labour grew faster to surpass the proportion of male hired labour from the late 1990s to the 2000s. Finally, with respect to generation, the proportion of youth rice farmers experienced an upward trend from the 1980s until the late 1990s and a downward trend until the 2000s. The aged population generally maintained an upward trend from the 1980s until the 2000s. The proportion of adult rice farmers has experienced both downward and upward trends, although they significantly outnumbered youth and aged farmers throughout the period studied. Extant literature attributes both the comparatively low size of female rice farmers and the surpassing proportion of female hired labourers to large gender gaps in land ownership and control in favour of men in Northern Ghana. The gradual decline in household labour and the corresponding rise of hired labour are attributed to the increase in demand for youth schooling, which affected household farm labour availability. The study concludes that the lack of consistency in the growth of the workforce employed on rice farms in Northern Ghana results from incoherent policy and development initiatives of post-independence governments towards Northern Ghana as well as from a drastic decline in state support and organised marketing for the domestic rice industry by the post-independence governments since the 1980s.
Keywords - Northern Ghana, Labour Market, Workforce, Rural Agriculture, Rice Farms