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Climate-smart agriculture as a development buzzword: framework for flexible development, or greenwashing the status quo? Insights from Northern Ghana

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Title: Climate-smart agriculture as a development buzzword: framework for flexible development, or greenwashing the status quo? Insights from Northern Ghana
Author: Zundel, Trudi
Program: Geography
Advisor: Fraser, Evan
Abstract: Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is a development concept that arose in response to the potentially devastating impacts that climate change may have on agricultural production, farmers, and food security. The development institutions that promote CSA view it as an open-ended guiding framework to develop context-specific agricultural policies and practices that find synergies between three pillars: food security, adaptation, and mitigation. However, critics in civil society claim that CSA is being used to greenwash harmful agricultural activities. In response to this contention, this research situates CSA in the literature on development discourses and buzzwords, investigating how non-governmental actors use and understand CSA as a buzzword in Northern Ghana. Results were derived from semi-structured interviews with (7) international NGOs and a document review of (2) large development organizations working in Northern Ghana, as well as (7) key informant interviews. Broadly, this research found that non-governmental actors in Northern Ghana interpret CSA through their institutional discourse of development, and that two “CSA champions” have greater influence than other NGOs over which practices and policies become understood as “climate-smart” in Northern Ghana. These CSA champions advocate policies, produce knowledge, and frame participatory processes around a “New Green Revolution” vision of CSA. Analysis considers how CSA acts as a mask for agricultural modernization projects; a bridge between diverse stakeholders; and a password to funding. This thesis posits that CSA could serve to strengthen the dominant agricultural discourse in Northern Ghana, to the detriment of the progressive farmers’ movement that opposes it, potentially affecting power dynamics in the country’s agrarian political economy. However, it also highlights the potential of the CSA framework to be strategically used by progressive actors to translate their vision for alternative agricultural trajectories.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/10481
Date: 2017-05-19


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