|Agricultural Expansion and Pioneer Settlements in the Humid Tropics (UNU, 1988, 305 pages)|
|14. The land Tenure and agrarian system in the new cocoa frontier of Ghana: Wassa Akropong case study|
According to the oral tradition of the people, the ancestors of the paramount chief of Wassa Amenfi conquered the original inhabitants of the area and took possession of their land. This was divided up among the war captains, who later became divisional chiefs (asafohene) under the paramount chief.
Owing to the vastness of the traditional area, it was divided up for administrative purposes into 45 divisions, each of which was controlled by a divisional chief, or safohene, who in turn supervised a number of subchiefs, called adikrofo, who administered some parcels of land. These subchiefs were originally expected to administer the lands allocated to them on behalf of the superior chief. Thus the ultimate authority in land matters was the paramount chief.
As the Wassa were originally mainly hunters with little interest in farming, there was no scramble for land by individual members of the landowning group. Land was communally owned by kin groups and passed down from one generation to another through the matrilineal inheritance system. Small plots were cultivated under the most elementary form of subsistence. This situation changed with the introduction of cocoa into the region upon the arrival of migrant farmers, first from Akwapim in the Eastern Region and later from elsewhere in Ghana.
The native Wassa were slow in taking up cocoa cultivation; they were, however, interested in granting land to strangers in return for cash or other benefits. This made it necessary for rights over land to be established by the Wassa chiefs and heads of kin groups. This was done through encroachment on virgin forest land. Anyone clearing an area of land which had not before been cultivated established his right over that tract of land. This method of land acquisition led to ecologically damaging practices. People cleared large tracts of land, felled the trees, and left the land uncultivated, merely in order to establish their rights over it. The holders of such large tracts now lease portions to land-hungry Wassa and migrant farmers, mainly because of their lack of labour and capital to develop such lands.
Where there is still vacant communal land, members of the landowning group enjoy use rights over the lands that they are the first to bring under cultivation. Another route for gaining access to land is through inheritance. The system of inheritance in the Wassa area is matrilineal.