Research Article: Human wellbeing outcomes of involvement in industrial crop production: Evidence from sugarcane, oil palm and jatropha sites in Ghana

Date Published: April 25, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Abubakari Ahmed, Eric Dompreh, Alexandros Gasparatos, Hisham Zerriffi.

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0215433

Abstract

An extensive body of theoretical work has advocated the use of multiple human wellbeing indicators to assess the outcomes of agricultural investments in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA). However, few studies have actually achieved it. This study investigates the human wellbeing outcomes of involvement in industrial crop production in Ghana by comparing the levels of different objective and subjective wellbeing measures for groups involved in industrial crop production as plantation workers and smallholders, and groups not involved (i.e. control groups). We use household income, adult consumption and the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) as indicators of objective wellbeing. We measure subjective wellbeing through self-reported levels of satisfaction with life, worthwhileness, happiness and anxiousness. Propensity Score Matching (PSM) analysis is used to assess whether involvement in industrial crop production increases household income and consumption. Overall, for most indicators of objective wellbeing industrial crop outgrowers, smallholders and independent smallholders are better off compared to other groups in their respective sites (in terms of mean scores), but involvement does not necessarily brings human wellbeing benefits (PSM analysis). On the other hand plantation workers are either worse off or have similar level of objective human wellbeing with control groups in their respective sites (in terms of mean scores), but involvement sometimes brings human wellbeing benefits (PSM analysis). However, workers tend to benefit from access to plantation infrastructure, which has a positive effect to their multi-dimensional poverty. In most cases the objective wellbeing measures do not correlate well with self-reported levels of subjective wellbeing. It is important to combine such indicators when evaluating the human wellbeing outcomes of agricultural investments in order to obtain a more comprehensive outlook of whether industrial crop production can become a valuable rural development strategy in SSA.

Partial Text

Industrial crop production has been expanding in several parts of Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) during the past decades [1]. Perhaps the most widely studied industrial crop expansion occurred in the last decade, with the promotion of biofuel feedstocks such as jatropha [1]. Depending on the national context, this expansion has aimed to meet different policy objectives such as rural development, national economic growth and/or energy security [2,3]. The expectations of improved human wellbeing in rural areas through livelihoods diversification, poverty alleviation, and income/employment generation has often catalyzed national and local support for industrial crop production, and eventually the allocation of large tracts of land for such purposes [3,4]. Although jatropha was the most widely promoted biofuel-related industrial crops in SSA before its widespread collapse [4], other potential biofuel crops such as sugarcane and oil palm are currently being promoted across the continent for multiple industrial purposes [5–10].

This study investigated the human wellbeing outcomes of involvement in industrial crop production using evidence from multiple sites, and objective and subjective wellbeing measures. In general, the results suggest that sugarcane and oil palm growers are better off compared to their respective control groups in terms of lower multidimensional poverty, and higher mean income and consumption. However, the PSM analysis suggests that engagement in industrial crop cultivation might not actually deliver positive human wellbeing outcomes in the oil palm study site (i.e. for oil palm outgrowers and independent smallholders). On the other hand, results for workers in oil palm and jatropha plantations are mixed. Workers have consistently lower (or similar) mean income and consumption than their respective control groups. However, the PSM analysis suggests that employment in the jatropha plantation leads to higher income, while employment in oil palm plantations has the exactly opposite effect. Interestingly oil palm workers have the lowest levels of multidimensional poverty than any other groups in Kwae, which possibly reflects their access to the social services offered by the GOPDC.

 

Source:

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0215433

 

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