Abstract: Agricultural Intermediaries and State Resources: Rethinking the "Failure" of a Green Revolution in Ghana, 1966-1984

Alice Wiemers


In the late 1960s and 1970s, mounting debts and political upheaval throughout sub-Saharan Africa spurred a growing international interest in bringing the methods and technologies of Asia and Latin America's "green revolution" to the continent. While elsewhere green revolution technologies were applauded for their effects on crop yields (and criticized for their effects on rural inequality and local environments), they are widely seen to have failed in sub-Saharan Africa—with some scholars arguing that they contributed to a crisis of agricultural production, and others doubting that they were ever widely available. Evidence from rural northern Ghana suggests that informal intermediaries were able to spread green revolution technologies in ways that complicate the image of crisis and failure. While planners worked to channel loans and subsidies toward large-scale farmers, a variety of small-scale farmers made calculated use of state support through secondary markets, new forms of labor organization, and reciprocal exchanges. Chiefs and large-scale farmers became key brokers in these exchanges. While they benefitted from their intermediary positions, they struggled to manage the political consequences of expanding access. The exchanges channeled through informal intermediaries, as well as the yields and sales they facilitated, went unrecorded in aggregate data and unremarked upon by scholars.