Local Knowledge and Livelihood Sustainability: The Role of Indigenous Institutions in Sustaining Rural Agriculture in North-eastern Ghana

  • EK Derbile


This paper drew on new anthropological and social perspectives on institutions for exploring the nexus between local knowledge and the sustainability of rural agriculture in north-eastern Ghana. In particular, it analysed the role that tacit local knowledge, explicit in indigenous and non-indigenous institutions play in the sustainability of rural agriculture in a dynamic environment. The paper used qualitative data from fourteen in-depth interviews and observation on two different types of farm systems in two purposively sampled communities in the Atankwidi basin, north-eastern Ghana. These include Sammani farming and small-scale groundwater irrigation agriculture. The results show that farmers have resorted to the Sammani farming system, an indigenous farming practice for agriculture intensification, and application of indigenous forms of manure and checking soil erosion for soil conservation. Farmers are also depending on indigenous forms of social solidarity in labour pooling and combined application of indigenous forms of organic manure with least application of chemical fertilizer, for sustaining ground water irrigation. The paper highlights the flexibility in indigenous land tenure systems for accommodating both ‘individual’ and ‘collective’ interests in small-scale ground water irrigation in the dry season. Drawing on these findings, the paper asserts that local knowledge, as explicit in the utilization of indigenous farming practices and in combination with least application of conventional knowledge systems, enhances the resilience and sustainability of rural agriculture under wider environmental conditions, including climate variability, land degradation and poverty in north-eastern Ghana. Key Words: Local Knowledge; Indigenous Institutions; Agriculture; livelihood Sustainability; Ghana

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2315-6317