The Migrant Cocoa-Farmers of Southern Ghana: A Study in Rural Capitalism

The Migrant Cocoa-Farmers of Southern Ghana: A Study in Rural Capitalism

The Migrant Cocoa-Farmers of Southern Ghana: A Study in Rural Capitalism

The Migrant Cocoa-Farmers of Southern Ghana: A Study in Rural Capitalism

Excerpt

In this book Polly Hill expounds a series of discoveries and observations that will surely delight readers who are academically, professionally or practically concerned with social studies in West Africa and who are not averse to revising some of their most time-honoured beliefs. Miss Hill calls herself a 'field economist' to distinguish her methods from those of the more normal variety of economist who nowadays swoops down upon an 'underdeveloped economy' for a week or a month, peruses the files and the blue books, and presently produces a plan or a treatise. Miss Hill takes a very different course, and the result is a book packed with original data of first-rate interest, accompanied by a sharp and scholarly theoretical elucidation. In the sphere of economics, Ghana is virtually synonymous with cocoa to the world at large. This book treats of cocoa. But not as normal economists do. Their interest lies in the crop itself, in questions of costs and prices and terms of trade. The producer, the cocoa- farmer, comes into their analysis only as a peripheral character; and when he does so it is in a stereotyped form that has hardly changed since it was first invented by traders and colonial officials in the early days of the cocoa-export trade. In extenuation it must be admitted that surprisingly little study has hitherto been made of the cocoa-farmers' way of life in different regions of Ghana. W. H. Beckett's Akokoaso, of twenty-five years ago, is still the most authoritative description of the social organization of cocoa-farming available to students.

Miss Hill's book is an opportune first instalment towards filling the gap. But it is a different kind of study altogether from that of Beckett. Where he confined his attention to one long-settled farming village, she ranges extensively over a large area of the hinterland of Accra where cocoa was first established at the turn of this century; where Beckett's interests are those of the agricultural economist concerned with the statistics of finance, production, acreages, labour and marketing, hers are closer to those of the economic anthropologist concerned with such matters as the leadership, enterprise, social composition, legal framework and historical development of cocoa-growers' undertakings. Her principal sources are the people themselves, interviewed, as in anthropological fieldwork, in their villages; but she also draws brilliantly on the scattered documentary material she has been able to ferret out to give the historical depth to her narrative which clinches the case for her main thesis.

Miss Hill's book is concerned with the oldest cocoa area of Southern Ghana, one that has, in recent years, been almost denuded by swollen shoot. Indeed it was the farm maps prepared in the campaign to rehabili-

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