Cocoa, Marriage, Labour, and Land in Ghana: Some Matrilineal and Patrilineal Perspectives

Full citation: Duncan, B.A. (2010). “Cocoa, Marriage, Labour, and Land in Ghana: Some Matrilineal and Patrilineal Perspectives.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 80 (2), 301–21. – Based on field research conducted between April 2006 and November 2007 in four matrilineal and two patrilineal communities located in the Brong Ahafo, Western and Volta regions, the study sets out important changes taking place within the institutions of marriage, land tenure and conjugal labour relations, within the cocoa production sector. Many scholars have documented systems of land exchange between husbands and wives for services rendered within the context of cocoa farming. This study shows that new and previously undocumented forms of informal conjugal unions may be coming into existence in the context of cocoa production, and these new arrangements provide much less land tenure security for women.

In the matrilineal communities especially, formal marriage arrangements appear to be an exception rather than the prevailing norm. Contract marriages, popular in the western region, are essentially seasonal arrangements made between men and women particularly during the cocoa harvesting season, which lasts for a period of three to six months, after which the relationship is either renewed or terminated. No land is exchanged in a contract marriage. Consensual unions are not as secure as formal marriages, but are a step toward formal marriage. In one case, the Ghanaian court said women in such relationships were entitled to a one-third share of cocoa land which they had assisted their partners to develop. [Threats to Women’s Land Tenure Security and Effectiveness of Interventions – Annotated Bibliography]

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