Systematic review of the effects of agricultural interventions on food security in northern Ghana

PLoS One. 2018 Sep 7;13(9):e0203605. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203605. eCollection 2018.


Background: Food insecurity and poverty rates in Ghana are highest in the districts from latitude 8° N upwards. These have motivated several interventions aimed at addressing the food insecurity via promoting agricultural growth. An assessment of the overall impact of these interventions on food security is necessary to guide policy design and future interventions.

Methods and findings: A systematic review was used to assess the cumulative evidence of the effect of development interventions, implemented from 2006 to 2016 on food security, especially in Northern Ghana. Information were retrieved from over 20 Government and non-Governmental organisations through online search and actual visits. The number of studies included in systematic review was 22. The study showed that a large number of interventions have been implemented in Northern Ghana over the study period. Access to quality extension services, training and capacity building was a major intervention strategy. About 82% of studies considered increasing production but only 14% of the studies reported on changes in yield. About 42% of the included studies used market access as a strategy but about 44% reported increase in incomes of beneficiaries (with only seven studies providing numerical evidence for this claim). The ranking of frequency of intervention strategies was in the order extension and capacity building > production > postharvest value addition > water and irrigation facilities > storage facilities > input supply. A substantial number of the studies had no counterfactuals, weakening confidence in attributing impacts on food security for even the beneficiaries.

Conclusions: It is concluded that evidence for impacts of the interventions on food security was weak, or largely assumed. A logical recommendation is the need for development partners to synchronise their measurement and indicators of food security outcomes. It is also recommended that some food security indicators are explicitly incorporated into intervention design while bearing in mind the potential need for counterfactuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Crops, Agricultural / growth & development
  • Family Characteristics
  • Food Supply*
  • Ghana
  • Humans
  • Poverty

Grant support

This research was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under Feed the Future (FtF), the US government’s global hunger and food security initiative. The work was undertaken as part of the USAID/Ghana, FtF Agricultural Policy Support Project (APSP), through its partnership with the Ghana Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA); USAID Grant Agreement Number APSP-FAA-024.