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De-agrarianization, re-agrarianization and local economic development: re-orientating livelihoods in African artisanal mining communities

Banchirigah, S. M. and Hilson, G. (2010) De-agrarianization, re-agrarianization and local economic development: re-orientating livelihoods in African artisanal mining communities. Policy Sciences, 43 (2). pp. 157-180. ISSN 0032-2687

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s11077-009-9091-5


This article contributes to the debate on livelihood diversification in rural sub-Saharan Africa, focusing specifically on the growing economic importance of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in the region. The precipitous decline in the value of many export crops and the removal of subsidies on crucial inputs such as fertilizers have made smallholder production unviable, forcing many farmers to ‘branch out’ into non-farm activities to supplement their incomes. One of the more popular destinations for poor farmers is the low-tech ASM sector which, because of its low barriers to entry, has absorbed millions of rural Africans over the past two decades, the majority of whom are engaged in the extraction of near-surface mineral deposits located on concessions that have been demarcated to multinational corporations. The efforts made hitherto to control this illegal mining activity, both through force and regulation, however, have had little effect, forcing many of the region’s governments and private sector partners to ‘re-think’ their approaches. One strategy that has gained considerable attention throughout the region is intensified support for agrarian-orientated activities, many of which, despite the problems plaguing smallholder agricultural sector and challenges with making it more economically sustainable, are being lauded as appropriate ‘alternative’ sources of employment to artisanal mining. After examining where artisanal mining fits into the de-agrarianization ‘puzzle’ in sub-Saharan Africa, the article critiques the efficacy of ‘re-agrarianization’ as a strategy for addressing the region’s illegal mining problem. A case study of Ghana is used to shed further light on these issues.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of International Development
ID Code:17945
Uncontrolled Keywords:De-agrarianization; Livelihood diversification; Re-agrarianization; Artisanal mining; Sub-Saharan Africa;

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