With the growing concerns about the likely implications of climate change, the long term sustainability of conventional agricultural approaches and biodiversity loss have contributed to a growing interest in the potential of the so-called underutilised crops to address food, nutritional, and income security challenges. In support of their wider use, advocates of underutilised crops associate a number of benefits with them. These include agronomic and nutritional benefits such as drought tolerance and micro-nutrient content and the perceived socio-economic benefits of their wider use. It is widely suggested that the adoption of such crops can generate improved agricultural resilience and support nutrition, food and income security. Simultaneously, the adoption of underutilised crops is seen as a means of conserving biodiversity. However, scientific evidence concerning the use of such crops remains extremely limited. Crucially, little research has been undertaken concerning the contribution of such crops to the welfare of producers. This study investigates the socio-economic factors characterising the production of Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterrana (L.) Verdc.) in Northern Ghana and the impact of its production on farmers’ welfare. Primary data was collected based on the 2013 farming season, 240 farmers were selected using a multi-stage sampling technique. A treatment effect model, comprising an adoption and a welfare model was estimated. The probability of adopting Bambara groundnut was found to be greater for: unmarried farmers; farmers in larger households; farmers with little or no formal education; and farmers who had no access to credit. The production of Bambara groundnut led to increased household welfare, as measured by the level of household per capita expenditure/consumption. Results suggest that while further research and support for Bambara groundnut production could contribute to addressing high poverty levels in the region, many of the basic assumptions underlying current advocacy of underutilised crops need rigorous empirical verification.
Key words: Adoption, underutilised crops, Bambara groundnut, Northern Ghana, treatment effect model, welfare.
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