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The making and unmaking of gendered crops in northern Ghana


  • Martina A. Padmanabhan

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Resource Economics, Institute of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Horticulture, Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
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Martina A. Padmanabhan (email:


In rural West Africa, the gendered division of labour extends to labelling certain crops as ‘male’ or ‘female’. With the introduction of new varieties of crops and technologies, these constructions of gendered plants undergo a process of renegotiation at social intrafaces. This process of attaching meaning to new features in cultivation results in the remaking of gendered crops. These negotiations, in turn, have an effect on the construction of gender in specific ethnic and environmental settings, unlinking labour from its gendered connotations and, thus, unmaking the social meaning and creating room for manoeuvre. Based on fieldwork among the Dagomba and Kusasi people in northern Ghana, this study examines how gendered responsibilities and access to the cultivation of crops are linked and expressed in obligations related to the cultural ideal of a proper meal, in this case consisting of the food categories (male) staple and (female) soup, which serve as the blueprint for assigning crops to a specific gender.