Accepted paper:

Experiencing the distant state from the margins: councillors, smallholders and neo-endogenous transformation in rural Ghana


Matthew Sabbi (University of Bayreuth)

Paper short abstract:

Representing rural constituency comes at personal and material cost to councillors. Despite the strains, rural councillors skillfully enhance their political capital while mobilizing rural voters to diversify their livelihood and participate in public action.

Paper long abstract:

Urban political elites remain the focus of attention and research on municipal and local authorities. This trend neglects strategies of councillors who represent rural folks. At the same time specific case studies on processes of rural representation are generally missing. This study from rural Ghana shows that smallholder farmers vote not only for local services. They also vote in expectation that councillors support their farming needs. Apart from costs incurred from debts for unpaid loans to smallholders, rural councillors must negotiate, on behalf of smallholders, with municipal agricultural boards and officials for farm implements, seedlings and extension services. Negotiations involve committing personal resources (e.g. money and farm produce) into 'getting the ears' of powerful municipal executives in the capitals. These extra roles strain councillors and limit interest in the position of rural councillor. Nonetheless, such interventions and linkages do not only enhance the political capital of councillors, they also change economic capabilities of smallholders significantly. Councillor-farmers who mobilize smallholders, register them into farmers associations, coordinate loans and payment schemes greatly enhance smallholders' negotiation position with state and external actors. Smallholders diversify their livelihoods against precarity while being empowered to participate in local public action.

panel Pol11
Relocating the state in rural Africa