The impact of livelihood diversification on food Security amongst farm households in northern Ghana: a case study of bole district
Diversifying livelihoods has over the last two decades been identified as an important theme in the development work, particularly concerning the poverty reduction agenda. In the developing world, farm households, urged on by their survival instinct, diversify away from traditional subsistence agriculture to the production of high-value crops and at other times engage in off-farm and non-farm activities. This has become necessary due to the failures of agriculture to guarantee farm households sustainable livelihoods and improve their welfare. In sub-Saharan Africa, diversification is a vital instrument for reducing rural people’s risk to poverty. In recent years, however, diversification has been closely linked to food security. This is due to the fact that chronic food insecurity and its accompanying vulnerabilities continue to thwart poverty reduction efforts in the developing world. Paradoxically, whereas available statistics suggests that there is enough food to feed everyone, close to 900 million of the world’s population is still food insecure. By implication, the food security challenge hinge on ‘access’ rather than food availability. In sub-Saharan Africa and for that matter Northern Ghana, the phenomenon is quite pervasive, often affecting rural farm households. This signals one thing – a travesty to the existence of international human rights frameworks. Already, available empirical studies on the extent to which diversification amongst farm households impact on assuring household food security have revealed mixed results and are silent on the gender consequences. Using World Food Programme’s 2012 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis survey conducted in northern Ghana and an ordinary least squares estimator, this study sought to examine how livelihood diversification contributes to household food security and subsequently validate its effect for male and female-headed farm households in the Bole district of the Northern region of Ghana. Results from the study revealed a significant positive relationship between livelihood diversification (the number of livelihood activities farm households engaged in) and household food security (household food consumption score). Whereas similar result was observed for male-headed households, that of female-headed households was insignificant even though positive. Following this, the study proposes a two-fold policy strategy for optimizing the impact of livelihood diversification on guaranteeing food security amongst farm households in the case study district in particular and northern Ghana in general. Firstly, support for boosting smallholder agriculture should be pursued rigorously, taking advantage of programmes such as the Savannah Plan for Accelerated Growth. Secondly, sustaining, up-scaling and re-orienting programmes such as Rural Enterprises Project and creating the policy milieu for farm households to explore local opportunities like eco-tourism should be mainstreamed, taking into account concerns of gender.