Perseverance in the Face of Hardship: Chinese Smallholder Farmers’ Engagements in Ghanaian Agriculture

Future Agricultures Working Paper 130
Lu Jixia, Yu Lerong and Henry Tugendhat
August 2015

This paper uses qualitative research methods to study small-scale Chinese farmers in Ghana, in contrast to research generally found in mainstream media and academic literature which focuses on large-scale Chinese farms in Africa. Through field-based observations of three small Chinese-run farms, this article explores how some Chinese expatriates are engaging in agricultural development in Ghana. We argue that this engagement contributes diverse new agricultural products to the local market.

Furthermore, we find that the activities of these farmers are driven by increasing numbers of Chinese migrants in Africa, and that instead of being powerful competitors, they are in fact squeezed into the margins of the local market. They meet the needs of a specific niche market through perseverance and learning from failure. In doing so, they face unfamiliar challenges from both the natural climate and the social environment, and they are at a disadvantage in this process compared to local farmers who have over the years developed better adaptive mechanisms. Looking ahead, a decline in the specialised market for Chinese goods caused by a decline in Chinese migrant labour presents real challenges for the future viability of small Chinese farms in Ghana.

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