Reclaiming our Land and Labour: Women’s Resistance to Extractivist Agriculture in Southeastern Ghana
Neoliberal development projects have invaded multiple spaces. In rural areas, women’s livelihood activities are targets for interventions in the name of poverty
reduction and this is often conveyed through commercial agricultural production schemes. These initiatives have become the source of tension between householdbased production and capitalist production systems. This qualitative research uses the establishment of an industrial cassava company in south-eastern Ghana to reflect on some of the lingering questions of commercial agricultural production. This was done by examining its features, its implications for livelihoods, and women’s resistance strategies to the extractivist production system. Women combined evasive and confrontational resistance strategies based on class—including demands for new land, land occupation, labour withdrawal from household farms and the company, and absenteeism from work—to reclaim their land and labour. The women’s politics had wider ramifications for the new production systems, causing the company to change its production model as a response to the many concerns of the women and other social groups. The strategies largely contributed to rescuing the local economy from extractive agricultural production. The women were united in their individual and collective struggles against a system which they soon realised threatened thei livelihoods. In this study, I argue that women’s responses to the changes in their agrarian landscape, although differentiated on the basis of class, should ultimately be seen as questioning the neoliberal development vehicle that encroaches on autonomous production and gives less than it takes.