Plant Health Program, Doctor of


Document Type

Doctoral Document

Date of this Version



Wood, Tara N. 2013. Agricultural Development in the Northern Savannah of Ghana. D.P.H. Doctoral Document, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.


A Doctoral Document Presented to the Faculty of The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Plant Health, Major: Doctor of Plant Health, Under the Supervision of Professor Gary L. Hein. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Tara Nicole Wood


Since declaring independence in 1957, the Republic of Ghana has become a stable constitutional democracy. Ghana’s economy has grown substantially over the past decade, yet remains primarily agrarian, accounting for 50% of the total employment and 25% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Smallholder rain-fed farming using rudimentary technologies dominates the agricultural sector accounting for 80% of total agricultural production. Approximately 90% of smallholder farms are less than two hectares in size, and produce a diversity of crops. The major crops cultivated in Ghana include numerous cereal, root and tuber, leguminous, fruit, vegetable and industrial crops. Maize is the most widely cultivated crop in Ghana, and accounts for a significant proportion of the daily caloric intake. However, significant yield gaps exist where actual maize yields are 50 to 80% less than achievable yields.

The following document was written after conducting a three month 2012 summer internship in Ghana as an agronomic expert volunteer for the Ghana Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) Project. My primary objectives included monitoring ADVANCE crop production demonstration plots and farmers’ fields to diagnose and address crop health issues, with the goal of identifying why smallholders in the north continue to get lower than expected yields even when good agronomic practices (GAPs) are being implemented. Observations indicate GAPs are not being adopted, partly because they are not often being implemented correctly at demonstration plots. The benefits of GAPs can be better realized through improved planning, communication, cooperation and education among all participants.

This document is divided into four chapters. The first chapter is an introduction to the Republic of Ghana. Chapter 2 is a brief introduction to agriculture production in Ghana, emphasizing agriculture in the northern savannah and the major challenges facing development in the north. Chapter 3 is a detailed summary of my experience working on the ADVANCE Project. The final chapter discusses how agricultural development—in particular maize productivity—can be improved in the northern savannah of Ghana.

Advisor: Gary L. Hein