This paper considers linkages between the spatial dimensions of poverty and war in the conflict-prone Northern areas of Ghana. More specifically, the paper focuses on the Northern Region proper. The investigation centres upon one specific conflict, the ‘Guinea Fowl War’ of 1994, which was the most violent episode in the country’s history. The work examines how this conflict relates to changes in the region’s poverty profile. It does so by paying particular attention to agricultural production, consumption poverty and infrastructure accessibility in the Northern Region under economic reforms. The paper produces a counterintuitive conclusion about the relationship between changes in poverty, interethnic inequality and warfare in this region. Many existing arguments about the relationship between remoteness, poverty and insecurity established in the conflict and spatial poverty literature are valid. However, in contradistinction to most analyses, the evidence presented here indicates that the war in question was not caused primarily by the increasing marginalisation of economic agents in the region but rather by pressures related to increasing opportunities for income generation, poverty reduction and national integration under economic reform. These gains created friction in the region’s ranked ethnic system and put local exclusionary tenure and politico-institutional arrangements under strain.
Oelbaum, J. Spatial poverty traps and ethnic conflict traps: lessons from Northern Ghana’s ‘Blood Yams’. CPRC Working Paper 164. Chronic Poverty Research Centre, London, UK (2010) 35 pp. ISBN 978 1 907288 08 1