Small-Scale Traders' Key Role
in Stabilizing and Diversifying
Ghana's Rural Communities
The importance of gender dynamics in agriculture has been widely accepted, not least in Africa, where the majority of farmers are women. Social constructions of gender affect the control farmers exercise over labor, land, and other assets necessary to their farming systems, as well as their control of the crops resulting from energetic husbandry. Effective incentive structures rely on farmers' access to markets and to the proceeds of their labor for reinvestment. The equity and efficiency of the marketing system therefore constitute a significant aspect of the total farming system, so the traders' gendered attributes consequently have a strong influence on the structure and function of the farming system through the pattern of availability of social and material resources valuable to trade. This characteristic remains true whether or not the gender division of labor assigns trading predominantly to men (as in many Sahelian districts), assigns particular commodities or levels of trade to men and women, or assigns trading predominantly to women, as in the Asante case examined here.
Among the Asante, a matrilineal ethnic group that dominates the forest zone in Ghana (West Africa), both men and women are active farmers on their own accounts. Some Ghanaian ethnic groups divide up particular food crops, farm tasks, or food-processing work by gender. Most of the cocoa, a tree crop exported through the public Cocoa Marketing Board, is grown by male farmers in this and related Akan groups. Both men and women participate widely in commercial food production to feed the growing cities, the cocoa farming districts, and other specialized farmers. Districts and individuals specialize heavily in particular food crops that take advantage of local climate variations to improve the timing and yield of annual harvests. Commercialization of food crops for local consumption