Cashew cultivation, access to land and food security in Brong-Ahafo, Ghana: preventing the intergenerational transmission of poverty?

The cultivation of cashew nuts is expanding rapidly in Ghana and is bringing benefits (more income) and potential problems (conflict over land access and threats to food security). This collaborative research project was led by Ruth Evans with Dr. Simon Mariwah and Dr. Kwabena Barima Antwi, Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Cape Coast, Ghana and funded by the University of Reading and Walker Institute for Climate System Research. The research aimed to investigate the implications of changing agricultural land use from food production towards increased cashew cultivation for food security and poverty alleviation in Jaman North District, Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana.

Background cashewcrops2

Africa's production of cashew has continued to grow rapidly over the last ten years. Yet 90 % of cashew produced in Africa is shipped to Vietnam, India and Brazil for processing. Agricultural land use in much of Brong-Ahafo region, Ghana has been shifting from the production of food crops towards increased cashew nut cultivation in recent decades. This shift towards cashew cultivation is related to increased demand for cashew and the income this provides, alongside difficulties facing small-holder farmers. The introduction of cashew, a tree crop with a long life span, on family land may consolidate communal property rights into an individual's (usually men's) sole ownership and compromise young people's future land inheritance.

Research methodsCashews3

This qualitative. participatory research study involved 60 people from the Jaman North district of the Brong-Ahafo region and key stakeholders working at national and international levels. Community mapping, focus groups and interviews were conducted with a diverse group of men, women and young people involved in agricultural production and with community leaders and other stakeholders at the village, district and national levels.

Following data analysis, a series of participatory feedback workshops were held with men, women and young people in the rural community and with strategic stakeholders, resulting in a short video of key messages.

Research findings 

Increasing income

increased cashew production had led to improvements in living standards for many farmers and their children in Brong-Ahafo, Ghana in recent years. The additional income was being used to improve housing, food quality and supply, education and healthcare. However, other indicators of quality of life, such as access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation and access to healthcare have not kept pace with these improvements.

Unequal power relations and price volatility in global markets

Cashew farmers were subject to price fluctuations in the value of Raw Cashew Nuts (RCN) due to unequal power relations with intermediaries and export buyer companies and global markets, in addition to other vulnerabilities that constrained the quality and quantity of cashew and food crops they could produce.

Threat to food security and conflicts over land

Concerns were expressed by the community about the rapid expansion of cashew cashewmapcultivation on family lands and its detrimental effect on food security and access to land for future generations. When cashew trees mature, it is no longer possible to intercrop with food crops unless trees have been spaced at an adequate distance. Reductions in the land available for food crops is likely to have the most impact on women and young people. However, some women are cultivating cashew on their own farms and benefiting from this additional source of income. Investment in their children's nutrition, health and education may help to prevent poverty.

The expansion of cashew plantations on family lands was leading to increased land disputes, with wealthier farmers encroaching on the land of poorer farmers and exacerbating both gender and class inequalities.

Key messages for policy and practice

Maximise yields and diversify livelihoods

Increasing the quality and quantity of cashews produced through adopting good agricultural practices, use of beekeeping, the use and sale of by-products (such as juice from cashew apples) and adequate spacing of cashew trees to allow for continued intercropping with food crops, could increase income, decrease pressure on land, strengthen food security and diversify livelihoods.

Create strong farmers' groups at local and national level

Cashew farmers in the region felt they were losing out to intermediaries and export buyer companies who pushed cashew prices down. Organising strong groups of farmers at the local and national level would give farmers more power to negotiate a good deal with export companies, processors and traders.

Dialogue within community on land use

Awareness-raising among chiefs, elders, family heads, famers and young people could help to ensure adequate land is allocated to food production in the future and reduce land disputes. This could also help to protect the land inheritance of young people and other marginalised groups.

Credit, investment and education

Access to credit, affordable inputs, the ability to hire labour, information about good agricultural practices, investment in rural development and quality education are key to increase cashew and food crop yields, spread risks and alleviate poverty in rural communities in Ghana. More information is also needed about climate-related pressures and efforts to help farmers respond and adapt to changing environmental conditions.

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