A feminist political ecology of farm resource entitlements in Northern Ghana


Siera Vercillo


Research Fellow

Faculty of Social Sciences

University of Waterloo

Siera is an Adjunct Professor in Environment and Development at the University of Waterloo ,and Postdoctoral Fellow in Food Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Her research is in feminist geography, political ecology, critical agrarian, food and development studies.


Climate change in Ghana is intensifying gender inequalities in agriculture, but gender must be viewed intersectionally to fully understand vulnerabilities and their causes

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Key Findings

    How to apply research

    • Understand differences in climate change vulnerabilities within communities, you must consider how they are shaped by commercialisation, donors and other development actors, and wider policies.
    • Gender should be viewed intersectionally with other factors, ethnic minority status, wealth, etc.
    • To make people more resilient to climate, e.g. women, you must consider factors on multiple levels
    • It is important to consider the ways that women interact with different types of people and institutions. Cultural norms may limit women more than men, but this is worsened by wider political, environmental and economic factors as well. For example, if land is in short supply because people are having to farm more to cope with changing climate it becomes harder for women to access land
    • Resolve land tensions within communities by strengthening community land tenure governance structures
    • Agroecology to protect vulnerable peasant farmers & protect their access to resources & resilience

    What findings means

    The study finds that there are intensifying gender and other intersecting inequalities in agriculture, in particular gender/class, gender/ethnicity that are getting worse as a result of climate and and international development-oriented commercial agriculture interventions. Disparities are getting worse based on these inequalities: access to seed, fertilizer, tractor mechanization, credit, processing/marketing services and extension and information.

    The gendering of farming is being shaped and exacerbated by all of these things, not just climate change or development.

    Ethnic minority women in these communities are most acutely vulnerable to changing economies & climate change – intersectional analysis is imperative to properly identify markers of vulnerability.

    Land tenure arrangements are complicated, with land grabs being facilitated from within communities resulting in internal disparities. Many studies falsely talk about African communities as single, homogenous entities. Donor support does not affect all individuals equally within communities.


    6 months of immersive qualitative fieldwork (2016-2017)- living within communities & spending time on farms to understand vulnerabilities and causes.

    • Surveyed communities members on who owns what, who does what and how they use resources and who benefits from their use
    • Interviewed farmers from different demographics.
    • Conducted focus groups & interviews with key informants working for the government, NGOs, businesses who are involved with the community.
    • Conducted a representative intra-household survey across one district.

    Focused in one district, so cannot necessarily be generalised to other parts of Ghana or the African continent.


    Feminist political ecologyA body of scholarship based on feminist scholarship & political scholarship. A critical theoretical framework for viewing the environment as a socially produced and politicized phenomenon, based on many factors at different scales.
    Farm resource entitlementsResources individuals are entitled to; distinct from ownership. Ownership does not fully represent who uses, controls and benefits from a resource such as land
    IntersectionalityLooking at the way social relations and identities can combine or intersect to create different privileges and vulnerabilities

    Share these insights

    The full paper is not available open access

    Siera Vercillo (2021) A feminist political ecology of farm resource entitlements in Northern Ghana, Gender, Place & CultureĀ