The Globalization and Foreignization of Indigenous Landscapes:
Gender, Agrofuels, and Ecological Transformation Among Dagomba Communities of the Northern Savannah of Ghana, 2004-2017
In the twenty-first century, green energy is increasing in prominence as a sustainable alternative to environmentally harsh fossil fuels. Globally, countries have emphasized agrofuel requirements and investment toward a green economy, most notably; there was a surge in investment in the aftermath of the global food, fuel, and financial crises of 2007 and 2008. While, in theory, agrofuels can be a sustainable source of energy, the manner in which they are being developed and produced in the global economy by largely foreign-owned corporate entities has had grave impacts on rural populations. The rapid rate, shear mass, and human rights violations in indigenous communities have characterized such investments as land grabbing. How do these global processes influence the lived realities of indigenous communities? To answer this question my dissertation employs a focused ethnographic case study approach to examine the collective experiences of Dagomba women and men subsistence and small-scale farmers in the Mion District, Northern Region of Ghana during this period of transformation from 2004 to 2017. The plant, Jatropha curcas [hereafter, Jatropha] was promoted in Ghana as a “wonder crop” for agrofuel industry development in the early to mid-2000s. By the end of the decade, the burgeoning industry collapsed leaving behind a fractured rural economy and long-term ecological scarcities. Mion is a site of a Norwegian-owned large-scale Jatropha project that collapsed in 2011.
My dissertation examines changes in socio-ecological relations during project operations and the current livelihood conditions of affected communities. Agrarian transformation that has resulted, has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups, particularly women food producers, their claims to land, and access to the ecological commons, vital resources to sustain the livelihoods of themselves and their families. As women play a vital role in the agrarian economy as food producers and supplying the nutritional needs of their families, my study seeks to unearth the changes in gender relations, at the household and community levels, as it pertains to food security, nutrition, and biodiversity. My research also uncovers how changes in the environment interact with Dagomba cultural beliefs, practices, and influences adaptive strategies in adjusting to the “globalization of their landscapes.” I assert that the complexities of rural land tenure systems, rights of indigenous people, and the vital role of women food producers are essential aspects to be addressed in the global green energy project. There is a dearth of literature on land grabbing about gender equality and affects for particularly African women and indigenous societies. Therefore, my work contributes a critical gender perspective through an Afrocentric Feminist and Environmental Justice lens and calls for collective action on the part of African Diasporic communities around the world to advocate for human-centered development policies.
Bathsheba F. Bryant-Tarpeh is currently a doctoral candidate at Howard University in the Department of African Studies and Research. Her research interests are women and gender issues in sustainable rural development, food and nutrition security, and land and natural resource management in West Africa. She received her Master’s degree from her current department in 2012. Bathsheba became very passionate about women’s issues during her matriculation at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics in 2007. She has interned at two leading non-governmental organizations, Africare and Vital Voices Global Partnership. She also completed a research traineeship at the Department of Political Science, African Studies at the University of Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic in 2014. Bathsheba was selected as a U.S. Borlaug Global Food Security Fellow and she is currently a recipient of the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Foundation Fellowship. During college, Bathsheba mentored elementary students in the Reading Adds Up! Program. She also has served as a mentor for middle school African American girls with the Northern Virginia Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. During her time in Tamale, Ghana, she volunteered with Little Beginnings Trust Foundation, a program that seeks to empower young children academically through values-based education.
Bathsheba talks about her work on the blog Nothing Stronger Than A Girl.