Beyond legislation: Unpacking land access capability in small-scale mining and its intersections with the agriculture sector in sub-Saharan Africa

Obodai, Jacob; Mohan, Giles and Bhagwat, Shonil (2023). Beyond legislation: Unpacking land access capability in small-scale mining and its intersections with the agriculture sector in sub-Saharan Africa. The Extractive Industries and Society, 16, article no. 101357.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2023.101357

Abstract

The complex relationship between mining and agriculture in Africa is deeply rooted in a complex network of spatial, political, and socio-economic dynamics. In Ghana, for instance, the forest agroecological zone, responsible for 57 % of food crop production, coincides with 61 % of mineral-rich areas. This overlap leads to significant implications, such as competition and conflicts over land, as both livelihood activities rely on a finite natural resource: land. To examine land access politics at the intersections of mining and agriculture using Ghana as a case study, we adopt a unique blend of Amartya Sen's capability approach and political ecology approach. Our study draws on secondary information, on-site observations, and primary data acquired from interviews and focus group discussions with stakeholders in both sectors. Through the lens of political ecology, our research highlights the significant powers of state actors, especially in the mining sector, on land access, exacerbating tensions and conflicts among non-state actors like small-scale miners, smallholder farmers, and traditional authorities. Additionally, by applying the capability approach, we uncover the diverse agency-driven strategies employed by non-state actors, sometimes operating outside existing laws, and we emphasize the competitive dynamics between small-scale miners and smallholder farmers as they vie for land resources to support their economic activities. We therefore argue that the spatial and socio-economic interconnectedness of mining and agriculture is rife with dramatic tensions underpinned by unequal power relations and a hierarchical structure of actors within the two sectors, with potential for zero-sum or worse than zero-sum outcomes for humans and the physical environment at multiple scales.

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