The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

What do oil revenues have to do with smallholder farmers?

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Oxfam Active Citizenship Advisor Abdulkarim Mohammed, (left, in red and white shirt), Oxfam President Ray Offenheiser (middle) and Oxfam Board Chair Joe Loughrey (with glasses) traveled in January to Ghana, where small-scale farmers, women’s organizations, and local citizen organizations are celebrating the government’s commitment to investing oil revenues in agriculture. Here they talk with community members at the Anglogold processing plant in Teberebie, Ghana. Photo: Enoch K. Norvor / Oxfam Oxfam Active Citizenship Advisor Abdulkarim Mohammed, (left, in red and white shirt), Oxfam President Ray Offenheiser (middle) and Oxfam Board Chair Joe Loughrey (with glasses) traveled in January to Ghana, where small-scale farmers, women’s organizations, and local citizen organizations are celebrating the government’s commitment to investing oil revenues in agriculture. Here they talk with community members at the Anglogold processing plant in Teberebie, Ghana. Photo: Enoch K. Norvor / Oxfam

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Oxfam pushes the Ghanaian government to break new ground.

Ghana’s oil exports are expected to generate an average of $1 billion per year over the next 20 years. The question is where this revenue will go to support sustainable and inclusive development.

A quarter of Ghanaian citizens are poor, with rates of poverty particularly high among smallholder farmers – especially women who labor on small amounts of land usually no bigger than a football field. These farmers represent 60 percent of the population of Ghana, though too often, their perspectives are hardly considered in policy decisions regarding resource allocation.

That was, until last November, when a remarkable breakthrough occurred.

The Ghanaian government committed to invest a significant portion of its oil revenues in agriculture in its 2014 budget.

Oxfam has been working with local partners and allies* to convince the Ghanaian government to invest more of its oil revenues in agriculture. Fifteen percent of oil revenues going to the 2014 budget is now pledged for agriculture modernization, 94.5 percent of which will be allocated towards agricultural initiatives that alleviate poverty for small-scale farmers.

This is a major improvement over the previous distribution of oil revenues. This funding would go to increased quality of fertilizer and seed, expanding access to processing and storage facilities, and affordable credit for small-scale farmers. Oxfam also prioritized investing in women and securing their land rights.

In additional to using traditional media channels and having conversations with policymakers, Oxfam engaged and mobilized the public, farmers in rural areas, and urban youth in Ghana—the latter group emerging as an active constituency on this issue. Thousands of youth joined Facebook and Twitter pages focused on agriculture in Ghana. Using these platforms, as well as Instagram and text messages, the campaign focused on getting users to sign an e-petition asking the government to use its oil money to feed Ghana’s people.

One hundred farmers marched to the Ghanaian Parliament in November to present a petition of more than 20,000 signatures as part of the Oil 4 Food campaign. Ghanaians successfully influenced the government to invest oil revenues into smallholder farmers. Photo: http://bit.ly/1aOHyxv
One hundred farmers marched to the Ghanaian Parliament in November to present a petition of more than 20,000 signatures as part of the Oil 4 Food campaign. Ghanaians successfully influenced the government to invest oil revenues into smallholder farmers. Photo: http://bit.ly/1aOHyxv

We targeted farmers in rural communities with a petition that ultimately collected more than 20,000 signatures. One hundred farmers marched to Parliament to present the petition. We’re also seeing new and strengthened partnerships and alliances linked to improving the quality of investment in agriculture.

Because small-scale farmers represent such a significant portion of Ghana’s population, the government’s investment in agriculture could significantly impact the livelihoods of thousands of small-scale farmers and thus the overall economy of Ghana.

But this is great news for citizens of resource-rich nations everywhere.

Ghana’s decision to invest in smallholder agriculture serves as an example of the acceptance of public sector responsibility to ensure that oil revenues are spent transparently and wisely. Oxfam and our allies celebrate the government’s demonstrated leadership on how to reinvest oil money back in their people.

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*The coalition of civil society partners undertaking the Oil for Food campaign includes the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Friends of the Nation (FoN), Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC), Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen (GNAFF), Food Security Policy Advocacy Network (FoodSPAN), and SEND Ghana, and is being supported by Oxfam.

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