Gcse Geography Ghana Case Study


What problems does Ghana have? – Poverty in Ghana

Ghana has many problems, the video below summarises the problems of one woman from Northern Ghana.


Video 2 - What does the video show about life in Northern Ghana?

There is a long history of problems in Ghana, despite large resources of cocoa, gold and diamonds.  Historically, the Portuguese were the first people to arrive in Ghana in 1471, they found gold and the name “the Gold Coast” was given to the area.  By 1650, the next major industry developed – slavery.  Over 100,000 people a year were bought from the Gold coast and transported across the Atlantic to work on plantations in the Caribbean.  The British occupied Ghana as a colony in 1901, and used it a s a base to ship gold, metal ores, ivory and cocoa.  This long history of exploitation by foreigners left Ghana very poor, so when independence was declared in 1957 the country faced huge problems.  These have had a long lasting legacy, coupled with current problems of debt repayments and desertification. 

In northern Ghana  many areas are at risk of becoming desert, this is because the savanna is too heavily used because of chopping down trees and overgrazing by cattle, and natural causes such as increased drought and wind erosion.  The end result is soil erosion and desertification.

Ghana is also over reliant on Cocoa – when the price fell it left Ghana with a shortage of income.  Ghana has also borrowed a lot of money, and rising debt repayments are difficult for the country to deal with.

The map below shows a clear trend, the North of Ghana has serious problems with poverty.

Indeed, although there has been an overall decline in poverty in Ghana, poverty still has a firm grip on rural areas, especially in the north. There is a wide gap in income between people living in the drought-prone northern plains, and those living in the south, where there are two growing seasons and greater economic opportunities.

Just over half of the country’s population lives in rural areas. The poorest parts of Ghana are the savannah regions of the north (the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions), where chronic food insecurity is widespread and livelihoods are more vulnerable. Poor rural people have limited access to basic social services, safe water, roads that are accessible year round, and electricity and telephone services. Poverty is most severe among food crop farmers, who are mainly traditional small-scale producers. About six in ten small-scale farmers are poor, and many are women. Women bear heavy workloads. In addition to their domestic chores, they are responsible for about 60 per cent of agricultural production. More than half the women who head households in rural areas are among the poorest 20 per cent of the population. (Source)


The video reveals what life is like for the rural poor in and around the town of Tamale in Northern Ghana.  What challenges do these people face and what would it be like to live there?

Why is Ghana still an LEDC?

A country can be economically viewed and classified by many growth factors, as there are are many development statistics, although there are two groups which divide a country into: MEDC or LEDC. Unfortunately Ghana is an LEDC, due to many influential factors, which hence make Ghana a less developed country by many sectors, which have a very significant role in the modern society. There are several statistical factors which demonstrate whether a country should be categorised as an LEDC or MEDC. For example theses are: Gross domestic Product (GDP) which measures the wealth or income of a country - GDP is the generally total value of goods and services produced by a country in a year; Gross Nomestic Product (GNP) which is is another measure of a country's wealth or income - GNP measures the total economic output of a country; inequality of wealth is another indication of the gap in wealth and income between a country's richest and poorest people; and finally the Economical Structure shows how a country's economy is divided between primary, secondary and tertiary industries.

Ghana is a deprived LEDC country, located in the sub region of West Africa, the country shares borders with states who share a similar economical status, like Togo and Burkina Faso. With a population 25.37 million people (according to the 2012 census), it has a growth rate of 1.25%, hence having a high population growth rate compared to the size of the country. However there are nameless factors which influence Ghana being an LEDC, ranging from environmental and climate factors to economical debts. Ghana is in the tropics of Africa near the earth equator, therefore meaning that the temperature is quite high; in addition the country also has a North East high wind, which blows between March and December. Ghana has an individual and unique climate of its own, as the climate and the ecosystems are split into three different climates/ecosystems: thus the tropical rainforest is wet all year. This is a good economical factor, as it gives the country a good source of timber, although most of the rainforests are being cut down for different industries across the country or for farmland, this therefore clarifies that it is bad for the environment - hence not sustainable. The savannah in the eastern parts of the country is very hot, as it suffers from droughts all-year round, as well as deforestation, and there are a lot of natural resources which can help to boost the country’s economical growth, unfortunately most northern parts of Ghana are also turning into deserts. Desertification is one of those major growing problem in the country (environmental), predominantly because the ground is too dry for agricultural use, so it can slow down the economical growth. The environmental factors in Ghana, come to the conclusion that the desertification and deforestation are typical problems that are faced by numerous unprivileged African countries, so hence there is less food crop to sell: meaning more poverty. Although some oil has been found from the off coasts of Ghana ( but there isn’t a sufficient amount to be sold internationally), furthermore there has been recent discovery of natural gas, which Ghana has begun to frequently used. A deprave government and political system as well as the large gap (like many LEDC countries) between the rich and poor, which contribute significantly to social instability. Another factor which contributes substantially is the economical relation of the country is the fact that Ghana doesn’t hold strong relationships with international countries, having good relationships with MEDC countries may prove to be beneficial as the country may get aided through charity or government schemes, despite if good alliances existed, aid would not reach to the desperate and poverty-strickten parts of the country, instead it may be gone and used by the corrupt government. Terrorism and safety (i.e. law and order) also plays a major part of the countries economical growth, as this hinders tourist visiting the country - (which is hence good for the economy for any country) - despite its rich cultural heritage.

Onc can also distinguish Ghana as being a Less Economical developed country, by evaluating the nature of the economy. For example a relatively high percentage (56%) of its people have established themselves within the agricultural industry. This is not seen as very efficient, for the economy, as only 30% of Ghana’s GDP comes from the labor from that 56%. Another economical measure from the country, is the GDP per capita (when adjusted it takes account of the country’s spendings and what things cost in the country) is well below the expected average, when compared globally. Since Ghana has an agricultural economical structure, hence meaning it strongly relies on its soil to make crops. Although the soil in Ghana is being ruined, as some areas are being turned into deserts. This is due to drought, deforestation and erosion by wind and soil. The most important factor is that Ghana’s GDP per capita unfortunately stands at $2500 per capita - thus putting it at 180th position from the 227 nations listed on the CIA Factbook. These reasons influence significantly, which hence make Ghana stand out to be a LEDC. Although another factor, may prove to be slightly more important, is the fact that Ghana loses US$4.8 billion annually, asa result from government corruption and economic crime by the political parties, which control the state. like many other poorer countries, Ghana, has been paying millions of dollars a year, as interest on money they borrowed. For example some debts have been cancelled out, for the countries in most debt. Ghana still owes $2.4 billion in 2004. But now it pays out less on interest each year. (it still needs to borrow new money for future development). Another economic factor faced by the population of Ghana - is the fact that it suffers from many trading problems. For example many poor countries depend on selling crops such as sugar,cocoa, and coffee, to other MEDC countries.These are the crops that many many supermarkets demand, globally. So why is Ghana no getting a lot richer? … This is because when poorer countries try to sell their valued crops to richer countries (MEDC), they often face big import taxes or tariffs. These puts consumers off . Tariffs like these put countries - like Ghana - off by not fully exploiting trade opportunities between the more highly advance countries; falling world prices mean that they earn less from what they sell. After, farmers in rich countries grow many of the same or similar crops - and get grants or subsidies for doing so. These crops are then exported to the poorer countries. At prices that lower countries can’t compete, hench going out of business. So the poorer countries that depend on exporting crops may stay poor, no matter how hard people work. One may also judge the country’s economy, government and wealth distribution by infrastructure. Poorer countries tend to have substandard infrastructure (i.e. roads, electricity supply, water supply etc..) Ghana has an advanced infrastructure platform when compared with other low-income countries in Africa. Although when compared to some of the more advanced MEDC countries (i.e. European or some Asian countries) the gap may seem much more distinguishable. For example Ghana faces pressing challenges, in the power sector; furthermore exceptionally high losses in the water distribution leaves the unprivileged and lower-end of the society without the necessity. Also a poor infrastructure makes it harder to set up industries, which thus hinder the economy to reach its full potential. The economy is very important for any country, whether a MEDC or a LEDC, as it is substantial for the country’s development. It is impossible for a country to become a more advanced country (MEDC) without a stable economy. For example If the money has no value then there is no way to buy things, there are no jobs because people have nothing to pay with,or get paid with for that matter. A country like Ghana must rely on its economy to achieve anything or everything (to become a MEDC), as the economy determines the worth of the country itself.

A country’s location, and climate , and natural resources, can play a huge part in helping it to develop, as a good environment can help the country to flourish. Many MEDC countries across the globe have had good sources like coal, oil, gas, and good farmland to help them develop (a classical example is the U.A.E, it provides its people with oil, which have help the country to become one of the most advanced MEDCs in history, without theses sources U.A.E would not have secured its place as a MEDC, instead it would have shared a status of being a high LEDC). Unfortunately Ghana has hot dry conditions and is isolated by mountains, with poor soil and few other resources, which hinder development by making it difficult. Another factor which hinders Ghana to become a more advanced MEDC is the fact that most farmers or producers in Ghana is subsistence farming for cash crops. Subsistence farming is when plants that dwell on land turn into commercial agricultural land for cash crops, although this can have positive impacts like producing more jobs in a country, however there are more negative impacts like: Less land is available to grow food to feed the local population,Fertiliser may enter the local water supply,Rates of soil erosion increase, and Local ecosystems may be damaged. This is a further impact on the country, which stops it becoming an LEDC. Deforestation is another major threat that is faced by many LEDC countries across the globe, for example clearing large forests will causes several problems like the loss of biodiversity and several ecosystems, as well as soil erosion - which is hence not sustainable. Some rural areas in the country attract tourist. As a result this brings money into the local area which is then invested on things like the infrastructure. However money spent by tourists doesn’t always go back to the local people, due to corruption. If this factor is put into consideration it can make rural areas more vulnerable and trigger a cycle of decline. Future Ghana can make themselves more sustainable by increasing rural food production, as it must be done in an environmentally friendly way, so the way the land is farmed more sustainable and environmentally friendly. MEDC countries can further help Ghana to develop by teaching the illiterate natural (organic) farming methods to boost crops and increase yields. Overall the environment has a rather significance in today’s and the future Ghana, as a good environment good potentially show the relationship with the country’s economy.
Social indicators of how Ghana is developed, again statistics show us that Ghana is socially more deprived than an average LEDC country, this could possibly be due to a corrupt and deprave government and it could follow by the past (i.e. history). For example the British rule in the coast colony, may have a positive impact on the economy of Ghana itself, as there was a significant development in the social, economic and educational development. As the british provided good agricultural sources for the country and attracted a large number of migrants across the world, which provided a country with a stable and good economical structure. Also the British rule provided Ghana a fair justice system - for example corruption might have been less compared to now - hence law and order. As Law raises important and intricate issues concerning equality and country conflicts, so having good law as well as a political structure for the government for one’s country, can prove to be most vital, as it deals with problems like social instability and war. Also making the country more sustainable as there may be a rise in tourism, as tourist might be scared of the country’s political and social conflicts, which help to grow the country's economy (link with economical factors).

Summing up, the official goal is to make Ghana a More Economical Developed Country, though there are rapid development, for example there is an increasing developing tourism industry, which thus helps the economy of one’s country. the geographical location of the country itself, provides its people with challenging agricultural conditions to grow crops and feed their families. Poverty is one of the many challenges that are being faced by the high growing population of Ghana, for example every day thousands of children are dying due to malnutrition and many other influential factors, like global warming also plays a major part in the economy and the social inputs as Ghana suffers from yearly droughts, like many other unprivileged African countries. ALthough the country itself is slowly emerging into a MEDC, as one must not judge a country by a few factors as Ghana may be found as a MEDC, if compared in different sectors.

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