Why, after decades of neglect, has transforming African agriculture become a focal point for international action? What struggles over authority, knowledge, and identity define this ‘new Green Revolution’ in Africa? I address these questions through a blend of discourse analysis and ethnographic fieldwork in Northern Ghana. Ghana’s agricultural future is at a critical juncture: according to coalitions of international and domestic actors, increased population pressure and the negative effects of climate change necessitate modifications in farming practices, such as the adoption of genetically modified (GM) seed. The construction of Northern Ghana as a site of “deficiency” that fails to realize its potential creates an opening for such interventions that promote high agricultural productivity. Investment in African agriculture has been further supported by legislative changes that promote investors’ rights alongside the development of ‘pro-poor’ biotechnology. My research views the debates over GM seed and agricultural modernization as contestations between multiple stakeholders over competing imaginaries of development—what it should look like, who should guide it, and whether success means integration into the global market economy. Both proponents and opponents of GM seed deploy discourses of emergency and salvation to usher in, or to resist, biotechnology’s reach in the developing world. Both sides of the debate, in dramatizing future food scenarios, construct conditions whereby small steps, compromises, or piecemeal approaches appear deficient and inappropriate in the face of such urgency. This suggests that preoccupations with ‘feeding the world’ can have the unintended consequence of favoring ready-made, “off-the-shelf” technical solutions controlled by experts, rather than incremental and inclusive approaches to addressing collective food security challenges.
Jacqueline Ignatova is a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park. With the support of a Fulbright fellowship to conduct ten months of fieldwork in Ghana, her dissertation research examines the politics of the cultivation of genetically modified crops in Africa. Jacqueline's research interests also include global environmental politics, the politics of development, global social movements, and the politics of technology.