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Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

The Making and Unmaking of Gendered Crops in Northern Ghana

Martina Padmanabhan

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institute of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences (IWSL), Germany


Based on fieldwork among the ethnic groups of Dagombas and Kusasis in
Northern Ghana, this analysis shows how the construction of gender and crop categories are intertwined and subject to negotiations. The linking concept between gendered responsibilities and access to the cultivation of crops is the ideological connotation entailed in who makes contributions to the proper meal. This consists of the categories staple and soup, which act as the blueprint for assigning crops to a specific gender. While men are responsible for providing millet or maize, they turn to onions and cowpeas as cash-crops in order to acquire the staple. Traditionally, certain taboos have ensured that staple crops would be a male domain, but this domain today remains male because of women's exclusion from access to technology. Women's local soup-ingredient, ‘kpalago', which is made from the fruits of the ‘dawadawa' or locust bean tree (parkia clappertoniana), is slowly being substituted by soybeans. Among the Dagombas, the ‘dawadawa' fruits symbolize the male power hierarchy. Their replacement by soybeans represents an encroachment of male territory, which has to be orchestrated in a clandestine manner. Furthermore, soybean cultivation is Dagomba women's gateway into own farming activities and for Kusasi women, it opens up viable economic activities. Thus we observe the making and unmaking of gendered crops, demonstrated by the case of the transforming staple and the transcending soup.

Keywords: Agricultural innovation, food preparation, local knowledge, gender

Contact Address: Martina Padmanabhan, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institute of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences (IWSL), Luisenstraße 56, 10099 Berlin, Germany, e-mail: martina.padmanabhan@agrar.hu-berlin.de

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