Customary land administration in Agogo
Most lands in Agogo are managed under communal property arrangements where custodians of the Agogo stool (paramount chief, sub-chiefs and council of elders) act as fiduciaries who hold the land in trust for the community. The study confirmed that about 70% of the total land area of the Agogo Traditional Area is directly managed by the chiefs while the remaining 30% is held by usufruct families and the central government though the forestry commission (Kuusaana and Bukari 2015). The Agogo stool (paramountcy) thus holds claim to the allodial title which denotes the highest right in land from which all other rights are derived (Da Rocha and Lodoh 1999). Being the occupant of the stool, the final power to transfer land or otherwise rests solely with the paramount chief (Omanhene) with advice from his council of elders. This authority over land exercised by the paramount chief is exerted at the local level by community chiefs (Odikro) who control smaller spatial areas on behalf of the paramountcy. Community chiefs have the power to grant up to 5 ha of uncultivated stool land for usufruct cultivation while all land demands by strangers (non-usufructs) are handled by the paramount chief (Kuusaana and Bukari 2015). A 78-year-old elder of the Agogo Traditional Council acknowledged the land ownership rights of the Agogo paramountcy by remarking that “He [Nana Akuoko Sarpong] is the paramount chief and he is the owner of the land but he allows us [his subjects] to also use the resource” (Field Data, 2017).
Secondary to the allodial title are the usufructuary land rights (customary freehold interest) granted by the stool and held by usufruct families. These lands are held in trust by family heads who usually possess rich knowledge of the land boundaries and act in consultation with the family council to allocate parcels upon request to family members. Aside managing family land, usufruct families may lease or sublet land in consultation with the stool; however, they do not necessarily require express and prior consent of the stool before executing such agreements (Asante 1965). Despite the superiority of the allodial title, the paramountcy cannot exert any power to transfer family lands unless such land is required for public purposes (Asante 1965; Da Rocha and Lodoh 1999). Even so, the paramountcy is required to consult the family head and table a request for the use of land for the public purpose identified. Most indigenous farmers in Agogo gained access to farmlands through family membership, inheritance of family land or allocation by chiefs. While affirming this notion, a male farmer in Kowireso remarked; “I inherited my father’s farm land of about 30 acres when he died. I have not heard of an indigene here in Agogo who has bought land. If you ask your family head or community chief [Odikro] for land, he will give you after verifying your lineage, so that you can also farm and feed your family”
Thus, land access by usufructs remains largely non-market based and they possess an inherent right of access to lands held by the paramountcy, yet the paramountcy reserves the discretion to allow or restrict such usufruct land use in favour of what may be customarily prescribed as public interest. The words of a 76-year-old family head in Agogo Ahenbrono, who stated that “The land belongs to us. Our forefathers gave it to us and it has been held in the family for generations” (Field Data, 2017), indicates that usufructuary land rights in Agogo are administered in accordance with the tenets of communal land tenure, which typifies land as an asset that is owned collectively by an identifiable group with a common ancestral heritage (Chimhowu and Woodhouse 2006). Meanwhile, due to the scarcity of stool and family lands, some usufruct farmers obtained lands outside their primary family unit through negotiable oral licences, renewable share cropping agreements with other usufruct families and taungyaFootnote 14 arrangements with the forestry commission of Ghana. Farmers related the preference for taungya, licences and share cropping arrangements to the difficulty in accessing arable stool lands, marginal nature of remaining stool lands, long distance from homesteads to newly allocated farm lands and the proximity of new allocations to the areas of the Agogo plains where activities of sedentary Fulani herdsmen is rampant all year-round.
Pastoralist’s land rights—from seasonal tenancy to statutory leasehold
Pastoralists may acquire land through agreements with the Agogo paramount chief and usufruct families who both have the discretionary right to grant customary land (see Andersen 2011). In Agogo, the Krontihene confirmed a grant of about 50 acres of land to Fulani herders in Abrewapong Village in 1997. Without statutory registration, this grant was considered a customary grazing tenancy for seasonal sustenance of cattle by migratory pastoralists (see “The first Agreement with Pastoralists” section) The tenure type (seasonal customary tenancy) was markedly different from the spatio-temporal customary licences that pastoralists held in the northern regions where they were not required to make any periodic payments nor obey explicitly defined covenants. The Krontihene intimated that the decision to agree to a customary grazing tenancy on a seasonal basis with Fulani herders in 1997 was underpinned by humanitarian factors because herders had been pushed out of their original grazing zones in northern Ghana as a result of recurrent tribal conflicts. Soon, migratory pastoralists having realised the lush vegetative cover in Agogo started to adopt a sedentary nature. The previous symbiotic relationship where herders were only present in Agogo after the planting season to graze in allocated zones and feed on crop remnants, changed markedly with some herders settling permanently and tending cattle throughout the planting season. More specifically, this switch from migratory to sedentary pastoralism changed the once spatio-temporal and complementary land rights of herders to a competitive one. With increasing competition, farmer and herder groups developed hostile views of each other instead of being allies with shared interests. Many farmers in Abrewapong (community where the first four Fulani herders were granted grazing tenancies) and their environs reported cases of farm destruction by cattle; an indication that herders were in contravention of the covenants of the customary grazing licence. Even though dialogue, ultimatums, appeals, mediation by chiefs and other dispute resolution measures were sought, farm destruction remained rampant. This posed a threat to farmer's livelihoods leading to conflicts and a termination of the customary tenancy agreement by the Agogo Traditional Council on account of breach of covenants.
Nonetheless, in 2006, the Agogo Traditional Council considered a new agreement for a statutory lease of 190 acres of land to six (6) Ghanaian cattle owners (see “The Second Agreement with Pastoralists” section). Unlike the previous seasonal grazing tenancy which was underscored by humanitarian influences, the new lease agreements were aimed at stimulating economic development by harnessing the economic benefits of cattle rearing, including a vision to establish a meat processing factory to provide employment for the youth. Against this backdrop, a market-based transaction for grant of customary grazing leases characterised by monetary payments (drink moneyFootnote 15) was agreed. An elder of the Agogo paramountcy, Wofa Nti-kyei, opined that most of these large-scale land transactions by the paramountcy are conducted secretly with selected members of the traditional council who do not oppose the chief’s views or themselves have vested interests in the land transaction. He stated that “Even though I am a key member of the traditional council, some of these land decisions are taken at a much higher level and I wasn’t part of the group of elders and chiefs who took the decision to give our lands to the pastoralists”. Thus, the decision to lease land to pastoralists occurs among the top executive functionaries of the allodial hierarchy.
Generally, major stakeholders including the Agogo traditional council and members of the local government assembly acknowledge the market-based rights of pastoralists to graze in the areas demarcated for their use. However, the reaction among farmers is mixed. Many farmers (60%) do not acknowledge that the Fulani pastoralists have any land rights in Agogo. Their notion on the perceived land rights of the Fulani is best captured by the statement of a member of the Kowireso farmer’s cooperative. He remarked that “we don’t think the Fulani’s have any rights in land here in Agogo. We are the indigenes and we are the ones who own the land by virtue of inheritance from our forbearers”. Non-recognition of the land rights of pastoralists was high among farmers who have limited knowledge about the land transaction, duration of lease, land boundaries and covenants for use of the land. Meanwhile, community engagement and information sharing are important for establishing legitimacy, reducing contestations and ensuring accountability in land resource management. Other farmers (30%) agree that the grant of customary land by family heads and the paramount chief to cattle owners gives pastoralists the exclusive right to use the allocated lands. This view is elucidated in the words of Kweku Asante a 54-year-old farmer in Agogo Ahenbrono who noted that “the land belongs to the Fulani’s, the Agogo paramount chief gave the land to them so there isn’t much we can do…… The Fulani’s even claim they have legal grazing permits signed by the chiefs” (Field Data, 2017). Conversely, most farmers do not hold statutorily registered titles that may serve as proof of land ownership. Instead, proof of land ownership hinges on a self-regulated communal acknowledgement of the family’s land assets as well as long-term or active cultivation of land parcels.
The changes in pastoralist’s land rights from customary licenses primarily in northern Ghana to customary tenancies and statutory leases are in line with Platteau’s (1996) evolutionary theory of customary land tenure. While the customary license conferred no inherent proprietary right to customary land, the seasonal customary tenancy agreed at sub-market rates did not confer any proprietary rights either. Meanwhile the leasehold interest in its nature confers a proprietary right of ownership to the allocated land area for the agreed period. Pastoralists’ leasehold tenure is characterised by division of tenure and rights of exclusion while it actively erodes the communal sense of sharing that characterises customary licences and seasonal tenancies. Contrary to Platteau’s (1996) predictions, the recent changes cannot be viewed as a natural transition from communal to private tenure arising from population pressures; instead, the changes arise from the nature, type and quality of negotiations between herders and land owners.
Power dynamics and abuse of discretion
Land acquisition by pastoralists in Agogo was largely micro-managed by the paramount chief of Agogo and members of the traditional council without informing community members. Ninety-five percent of farmers acknowledged little or no knowledge of the lease terms between pastoralists and chiefs because the chiefs did not seek their consent during land grants. Article 267(6) of the Constitution of Ghana (1992) supports the nature of customary land management in Agogo and mandates the chief to maintain the authority of his paramountcy through market-based processes including negotiating land deals and collecting revenues accruing from land. This provision has been largely misconstrued thus creating major lapses of power concentration with traditional authorities (Goldstein and Udry 2008). While article 36 (8) of the Constitution of Ghana (1992) recognises chiefs and family heads as land trustees, they have instead annexed such communal land, treated it as their private property and unilaterally profited from the proceeds (Ubink and Quan 2008). Blocher (2006) attributes the abuse of discretion by chiefs and some family heads to lack of written records and indeterminate boundaries of customary lands. Nonetheless, Article 36 (8) of the Constitution of Ghana (1992) condemns such power abuse and encourages chiefs and family heads to recognise that their roles as trustees carries a social obligation to serve their communities rather than their self-interests.
Owing to the notion of total ownership of land by the paramountcy without accountability, members of the Agogo Traditional Council opined that chiefs did not appreciate the need for engagement with the larger community during large-scale customary land allocations. While similar absolute land ownership sentiments were expressed by farmers, the toleration of abuse of discretion by the paramountcy is best captured by the remarks of a 78-year-old elder of the Agogo Traditional Council who remarked that "He [ Nana Akuoko Sarpong] is the paramount chief working on behalf of the Asantehene [King of the entire Ashanti kingdom] and he can do with the land as he pleases” (Field Data, 2017). Thus, the Agogo paramountcy is subservient to the political authority of the King of the Ashanti state (Otumfuo) who exercises executive power over all other sub-paramountcies within the spatial confines of the kingdom. Interviews with family heads in Agogo Ahenbrono confirmed similar grant of usufruct family lands totalling 40 acres to pastoralists. Such leases were granted by the family heads without the express knowledge of the community chief (Odikro) let alone the paramount chief (Omanhene). These usufruct-herder land deals were similarly observed by Kuusaana and Bukari (2015) who concluded that the customary grant of grazing leases to pastoralists by the paramountcy opened the flood gates for indiscriminate grants by usufructs without informing the paramountcy for record keeping purposes. While farmers expressed low trust in the stool to protect their farmlands, they reported high levels of trust in the family unit and its ability to safeguard lands under cultivation by family members while granting uncultivated lands and usually farther and marginal lands to herders.
Perceived tenure (in)security
When asked about the extent of perceived tenure insecurity, a 32-year-old farmer in Agogo Ahenbrono opined that “It is a real threat, you may lose all your harvest. Many people have quit farming and migrated to the cities. Even some villages are empty now and those who are farming do so in constant fear of being attacked by herders or their crops being destroyed”. Most farmers orally expressed perceived tenure insecurity however they related such insecurity to three major factors including land scarcity and monetisation of customary land rights, farmland encroachment and distrust in dispute resolution processes.
Land scarcity and monetisation of customary land rights
First, farmers related perceived tenure insecurity to land scarcity. They attributed land scarcity to population growth and technological changes which leads to demands for new cultivable lands among usufructs. Land scarcity fuels perceived tenure insecurity by increasing competition for the resource thus, forcing farmers to move into herder grazing areas and herders to move into farmer’s cropping areas (Flintan 2012). Aside increases in human population and technologically induced land demands, farmers intimated that increases in cattle numbers, leads to overgrazing which encourages continuous movements towards the greener farmland areas. A unit committee member of the district assembly alleged that "some of the 6 [Ghanaian] cattle owners [who hold leases] have sublet portions of their land to new cattle owners and recent enumeration surveys shows the existence of over 25 different [settler] cattle groups with an approximate total of 50,000 cattle in the district". He further intimated that cattle numbers in the Agogo plains are variable. The numbers are higher in the dry season (November- March) when migratory herders join sedentary ones and that is when crop destruction and perceived tenure insecurity is highest. Farmers further noted that land scarcity encourages the monetisation of customary land rights and development of customary land markets as found for example by Goldstein and Udry (2008) and Boamah (2014a).
Monetisation of customary land poses a potential risk to tenure security of usufruct farmer’s non-market-based land rights. The FGD’s revealed farmers’ belief that pastoralists were favoured by chiefs in land allocation due to the latter’s ability to pay market rates for leases as opposed to them (usufruct farmers) who pay nothing for use of land. To buttress this claim, farmers reported that chiefs and family heads give excuses of land unavailability and disregard usufructs during land allocations. Instead, lands that are sometimes under cultivation by usufructs are granted to herders for grazing purposes and in exchange for monetary payments (Field Data, 2017). These claims by farmers proved difficult to verify because they did not have access to the lease agreement that specified the spatial boundaries of lands granted to herders. Thus, the allegations were based on speculations among farmers, some of whom believed their farms were destroyed because chiefs and family heads had granted their lands as part of larger concessions to pastoralists. Nonetheless, tenure insecurity arising from speculations of multiple and parallel ownership (pastoralists through market-based leases and usufructs through non-market allocations) was low among farmers whose land holdings were inherited but higher mong such farmers who depend on the family collective or chieftaincy institution for access to unallocated land. The extent of monetisation of a hitherto non-market resource is captured in the words of an executive member of the Kowireso farmers’ cooperative. He alleged that "because cattle owners are rich, the chiefs are easily influenced to give them our lands in exchange for money as opposed to us [usufructs] who usually pay nothing or only as much as one bottle of schnapps as a token for use of the land". The preference for land users that provide higher remuneration and consequent disregard of usufruct’s land rights may invoke feelings of deprivation, discontent and unfairness that serve as an undercurrent for tenure insecurity (Schaefer 2008).
Furthermore, farmers identified land encroachment and farmland destruction by cattle as a fundamental indicator of tenure insecurity. Interviewees opined that farm destruction was done deliberately by pastoralists as an expression of power and ownership of the land that farmers cultivate. Farmers complained that Fulani herdsmen leave cattle unattended or deliberately move them to feed on crops. While acknowledging that pastoralists may have very generous yet verifiable market-based rights to lands in Agogo, it is important to note that the lease agreement gives pastoralists the right to graze animals within a certain perimeter and not to graze in a manner that destroyed farmlands. Evidence of deliberate crop destruction is given by a male farmer in Agogo Ahenbrono when he remarked “I took a loan of 20,000 Ghana Cedis to farm and when I harvested my watermelons, put them together in a mound and left to get a vehicle to convey it to the market, I came back to find the Fulani cattle feeding on the watermelons. They had been deliberately cut into halves by herders to make feeding easier for cattle. When I complained I was told even cattle like watermelons……How do you expect me to react to this?” (Field Data, 2017)
Farmers further observed that much of the farm destruction takes place when the Fulani herdsmen lead the cattle to feed at night and when they deliberately set fire to usufruct’s farms during the dry season, in an attempt to encourage the early growth of fresh grass. Farmers relate the incidences of deliberate crop destruction, setting of fires to farms and violent clashes, to pastoralists’ attempt at asserting their land ownership claims and intimidating farmers off their farmlands. A 52-year-old female farmer in Kowireso remarked that “Fulani’s neither respect our [usufruct farmers'] land rights nor boundaries. They view our crops as feed for their cattle……...the Fulani boast that the chief has given them documents that show they can graze anywhere and can destroy farms in the process” ( Field Data, 2017).
Additionally, farmers perceive their tenure insecurity as highest in the dry seasons when the grass in the plains are inadequate and cattle numbers increase due to the influx of migratory pastoralists. A 43-year-old female farmer in Agogo Ahenbrono while asserting that pastoralist’s activities are rampant in the dry season stated that “when the dry season comes and the grasses in the plains start drying, then they move more towards the greener areas where our farms are located and that is when they go on the wildest rampage” (Field Data, 2017). This is in line with results found by (Moritz 2010) that climate change is a precipitator of farmer-herder land contestations. The constant contentions between farmers and herders relates to a sense of either group feeling relatively deprived of their perceived legitimate rights to land which invokes feelings of discontent and antagonism between both groups (Schaefer 2008). Lund et al. (2006) ascribe the contentions between farmers and herders to the concept of resource competition which typifies a competition over land resources for survival by different use groups. In the case of Agogo, resource competition is evidenced by either group believing in depriving the other of ultimate access; hence, both lay legitimate claims to the land; farmers through usufructuary rights and herders through market-based rights.
Distrust in conflict resolution institutions
Customary dispute resolution primarily lies with the paramount (Omanhene) and community chiefs (Odikro) in Agogo. However, 85% of farmers distrust the traditional mechanisms for dispute resolution and allege that chiefs unduly favour pastoralists. The Krontihene however debunked the allegations of favouritism and explained the difficulty in identifying which exact herd of cattle destroyed a farmer’s crops, more so when the herders are not registered with the Agogo Traditional Council. Farmers (60%) therefore resort to formal state institutions including the police and court systems but many (54% of those who resort to state institutions) report perceived corruption and distrust in the formal processes of dispute resolution. Farmers alleged during FGD’s that the police and court systems have been corrupted by the rich cattle owners, some of whom were politicians and prominent persons. The level of distrust in state institutions is succinctly captured in the words of a farmer in Agogo Ahebrono who remarked;
"Go to the police station or court? What? How much money do I have? Don’t annoy me, don’t annoy me at all. Go to the police station or court and find out whether they will help you. What are you talking about? The police here are so useless. When you report that your farm has been destroyed by cattle, they tell you to go and catch the cow and bring it. But how can you catch a cow? Can you take a cow to court?"
With a breakdown of trust in both customary and formal conflict resolution processes, farmers preferred resorting to direct confrontations with herders as the ultimate solution to protecting their customary land use rights and preventing crop destruction. Farmers find that the inability to amicably resolve disputes and surcharge herders for crop losses fuels tenure insecurity and reduces the propensity of exclusive enjoyment of the economic fruits of cultivation. Similar results of low trust among farmers in customary and state dispute resolution processes was found by Opoku (2014) in his study on management of farmer-herder conflicts in Agogo. Despite high levels of perceived tenure insecurity among farmers, they were confident that pastoralist activities which were periodic and only rampant during the dry season could not expropriate them from their lands. In asserting this confidence, a 58-year-old executive of the Kowireso farmers’ cooperative iterated that “The land belongs to us and it’s the only intergenerational commodity that we will leave for our children so we will not allow foreigners to claim it”. Thus, farmers exhibited a high propensity to cultivate their plots in the coming seasons and they plan to hold their plots long enough to pass them on to succeeding generations.
Tenure insecurity and farmer’s investment decisions
The conflict situation in Agogo provides a verifiable case of tenure insecurity expectations. When asked about the investment decisions they had taken in the light of threats to their land tenure, farmers reported mixed responses that have been categorised in accordance with some theoretically informed measures of the relationship between investment and tenure security.
Farm size changes?
Majority (85%) of farmers reported no change in their farm sizes. While motivating this decision, a farmer in Agogo Ahebrono remarked "Whether you make the farm big or small, they will still attempt to destroy it, so it is better to make it big once and for all so that even if they destroy parts of the farm, you will still be able to get quite a healthy return". When probed further on the rationality of cultivation in expectation of crop destruction by cattle, farmers noted that farming in Agogo was a very profitable venture with a high propensity to recover losses in subsequent years even if a farmer lost all his/her crops to pastoralist activities in a given year. A 47-year-old farmer in Kowireso explained that; “As for us here in Agogo, God has really blessed our land…it is very fertile. We don’t use any chemicals or fertilisers on our farms but our harvest is always good. Our cost of production is very low so even if you lose all the harvest in one year, you know you can recover your loss in the subsequent years unless you contracted a bank loan that attracts high interest. Look at the beautiful house up the hill [pointing finger at a blue painted building], it was built in less than 6 months by a young man who cultivated plantain but fortunately did not experience much farm destruction by cattle. Our only problem is the cattle. If only they stayed in the areas allocated to them by the chiefs”.
Further analysis revealed that farmers invest little financial capital and high sweat equity by cultivating farms themselves or receiving help from family members. Thus, their most important proxy for measuring profits is the difference between returns from farms and financial capital invested (including cost of hiring farm machinery) without quantifying ‘free’ labour costs from their own efforts or family members. This thinking which largely underestimates farmer’s expenditure and fuels false profit calculations partly explains why farmers have made no changes to their cultivated farmland area, regardless of expected farm destruction by pastoralists. Additionally, farmers acknowledged that they continue farming because their livelihoods depended primarily on it and they lacked the opportunity and ability to learn new non-farm skills. While affirming this notion, a female farmer in Kowireso remarked "Stop farming totally and do what? That will be equal to me committing suicide. How will I survive? I will rather go to the farm and risk being killed than starving to death because hunger is painful".
The finding was inconsistent with Besley’s (1995) theoretical expectations of decrease in farm sizes when there are verified and perceived threats to land tenure security. By deduction, most farmers (85%) in Agogo are unwilling to allow pastoralists to force them off their land nor do they feel the current threat to their tenure security is great enough to push them totally away from their primary livelihood activity (farming). Resulting, the expectations of direct relationships between land tenure security and investment are challenged in Agogo when (a) farmers feel their ultimate survival depends on the land, due to a lack of viable livelihood diversification options that offer commensurate returns as farming and (b) when they conceive the financial capital they invest as little and have false profit notions.
Changes in cropping patterns
Most farmers report cultivating three to five different types of crops on their farms in accordance with mixed or seasonal (dry or rainy season) cropping techniques. They intimated that the types of crops cultivated have not changed much because their lands are suitable for cultivating those crops with very minimal fertiliser application. Thus, 92% of famers report continuous cultivation of plantain as their primary food crop. A small minority (8%) mostly female farmers have moved away from cultivating plantain. When asked the reason for such change, they explained that plantain cropping takes up to 12 months to mature hence the crop risks being destroyed during the dry season when agropastoral activities are highest. Some farmers (6%) acknowledge avoidance by not cropping during the peak dry season to avoid contact and altercations with Fulani herders. Plantain farmers especially preferred to start cropping towards the end of the dry season or the beginning of the light rainy season (September to November) to ensure crops are mature and not easily destructible in the next dry season when pastoralist activities are highest. They revealed strategies of altering crop planting dates and cultivating early maturing crops including vegetables and cereals although the returns are much lower than returns from cultivating plantain. A 32-year-old female farmer in Kowireso details how she undertakes crop diversification by remarking that “during the dry season, we normally diversify into garden eggs, okro, tomatoes and water melons because they have shorter maturity periods….and when the dry season is prolonged unexpectedly, we prepare our nurseries and wait until the first few rains for the pastoralists to move further towards the plains before we start cropping” (Field Data, 2017).
The nature of farmer’s crop diversification strategies against threats to tenure security is in consonance with results found by Saumik (2015) in his investigation of crop diversification strategies by smallholders in the southern provinces of Cote d’Ivoire between 2002 and 2008. Saumik (2015) found that farmers resorted to cultivating different crop types and altered their planting dates is response to changing severity of tenure insecurity. This observation is difficult to relate to expectations of changes from longer maturity crops (cash crops) to early maturing crops occasioned by threats of tenure because farmers are already traditionally engaged in cultivating annual crops and keep historical cultivation patterns passed on from their parents. The preference for plantain farming in Agogo is explained by historical losses in cocoa cultivation attributed to diseases and bush fires in the 1980s (Kuusaana and Bukari 2015). It is further influenced by the high cost of maintaining longer maturity cash crops, including fertiliser application, weed and disease control as compared with cultivating plantain which farmers assert requires less fertiliser and pesticides hence is easier and cheaper to cultivate. The finding contradicts theoretical expectations by Pagiola (1999) because the farmer-herder conflict has not occasioned much changes to farmer’s cropping patterns despite increasing threats to land tenure security posed by the conflict.
Farm improvement strategies
Due to historical cropping practices and bi-modal rainfall pattern in Agogo, farmers did not use permanent tree cropping or irrigation development as investment strategies to lay claim to their land as shown for example by Sjaastad and Bromley (1997). Instead, strategies adopted by farmers (10%) in a direct attempt to ward off pastoralists and protect the spatial area of their farms included building farm houses to show their presence on farms and investing in the erection of wire mesh fencing to reduce crop loss. These farm improvement actions that serve as a statement of claim to the land are however contrary to theoretical predictions by Blarel (1994) who finds that investments in farm improvement are likely to reduce as tenure becomes insecure. Though these acts do not expressly serve as mechanisms for laying claim to land by making permanent or long-term changes to the land itself, they may be viewed as auxiliary mechanisms of farm improvement for reaching similar objectives of improving tenure security. However, neither the farm houses nor fences have proven adequate in totally preventing cattle from encroaching on farms. A farmer in Agogo Ahenbrono recounted how he erected fences around his 20-acre plantain farm but the fences were destroyed by cattle in less than two years. While alleging that Fulani herders deliberately pull down the fences to allow cattle access to their farms, he agreed that fencing slows down the ease of destroying farms.
Off-farm investment and livelihood diversification
Even though farmer’s investments in land have not changed much to accommodate the threat to tenure security, they acknowledge an increased probability of partial or total crop losses; hence, many adopt coping strategies to supplement incomes from farming. These strategies can best be described as partial diversification which relates to an intermittent resort to other income earning activities to support farm revenues, without the total abandonment of farming. Farmers acknowledged that they engage more with secondary and auxiliary jobs during the minor season when the activities of pastoralists are high. Common jobs include engagement in off-farm casual labour (usually in cities), petty trading, management of micro-enterprises, carpentry, teaching, lumbering , charcoal burning and other off-farm economic activities. A 62-year-old farmer from Kowireso remarked that “Some people have their husbands or children open small retail shops for them to sell. But what happens if you don’t have a child or husband, who will do this for you?” (Field Data, 2017).
Data collected indicated that most farmers (62%) intermittently take casual labour jobs mostly in Konongo, Kumasi and other nearby urban areas however educated and skilled farmers (14%) switch to their secondary occupations. Similar results were found by Trærup and Mertz (2011) in Tanzania while investigating climate vulnerabilities and associated coping strategies thus validating the hypothesis that farmers adopt partial or permanent diversification activities when threats to their livelihood is imminent (Ellis 1998). In the case of Agogo, none of the farmers engaged in permanent livelihood diversification activities. When asked why they have not considered the option of total livelihood diversification, a female farmer in Agogo Ahenbrono remarked “We are too old to learn new skills. Farming is what we are good at but we have decided to educate our children well so that they don’t have to farm and risk being killed by pastoralists like we do daily”. However, farmers recounted stories of how some farmers totally quit farming and moved to the urban cities of Accra and Kumasi because of death threats from pastoralists and the consistent destruction of their crops.
Lazarus and Folkman (1984) posit that individuals are likely to adopt gradual minimisation and abandonment strategies when they conceive threats to their livelihoods as high. Though no respondents admitted to plans of total abandonment of farming, they recounted many cases of abandonment by colleague farmers who now engage in petty trading or have migrated to cities. A local government officer of the district assembly explained the severity of the abandonment problem by acknowledging that in another community (Pataman), the population of 500 has reduced to less than 200 because many people abandoned farming due to the recurrent threat posed by pastoralist activities to tenure security (Field Data, 2017). These abandonment decisions may not be entirely attributable to agropastoral activities because subsistence farming as an economic activity is gradually losing prominence in rural Ghana (MoFA 2015). However, the decision to quit farming, given a verifiable option is much quicker when threats to land tenure security are high. The assembly member for Kowireso electoral area succinctly described his leaning towards abandonment. He remarked “Even as an assembly man, I am no longer interested in farming. I rather concentrate on my teaching and less on my farm because I incurred a huge debt that took me 5 years to repay after 30 acres of my plantain farm was destroyed by cattle” (Field Data, 2017). In lieu of total abandonment, the interviews revealed that farmers take periodic breaks or minimise their farm investment in years they expected high agropastoral activity due to droughts. Furthermore, farmers indicated low likelihood to undertake cultivation in the absence of the operation Cow Leg joint police-military force or when they perceive low political will by state and traditional institutions to remedy the recurrent farmer-herder clashes.