Netting, Robert M.; Cleveland, David A. (The University of Arizona., 1980)
      The West African savanna is characterized by limited and erratic rainfall in one rainy season, increasing degradation of plant and soil resources, a rapidly growing population, and annual food shortages. Zorse is a Kusasi village in Bawku District, Upper Region, northeast Ghana. The Kusasis are intensive farmers of millet and sorghum who live in villages of houses dispersed over the savanna. Surrounding each house is the continuously cultivated field called the saman whose fertility is maintained by annual applications of manure and compost. Field work in Zorse from October, 1978, to March, 1978, included an intensive study of a 50% sample of all houses in the village (n = 126) containing 900 people. In the traditional farming system each household grows and consumes its food as a unit. During the wet season there is a high demand for labor, especially for weeding, but food supplies are at an annual low. In the dry season farming activity is limited to those with dry season gardens. Agricultural development began in earnest in the 1930's but annual food shortages continue to worsen and famine, such as the one in 1976-77 has not been uncommon. Population growth and structure is determined by fertility, mortality, and migration, and reflects the population's relationship to its environment. Population pyramids for Zorse are like those for other areas of the savanna. Their broad bases reflect high mortality and fertility and their skewed sex ratios are the result of excessive outmigration by males 15-45 years old. Migration has been increasing since the beginning of the century and presently about 50% of males 15-45 years old are absent from Zorse and the Upper Region for extended periods of time. Fertility has also been increasing, primarily as a result of decreasing birth intervals, but also as a result of decreasing age at marriage. Birth intervals are controlled by postpartum sexual abstinence. Kusasi couples make the decision to resume intercourse based on the health and development of the youngest child. The shortening of birth intervals reflects the decreased mortality and increased personal security. The pace of social change has increased greatly since the establishment of the British in 1900. The endemic warfare and feuding were stopped and personal security was greatly increased. Public health programs and Western medical treatment were introduced and links with the rest of Ghana and the world were established and began to grow. The savanna environment is fragile and agriculture in Bawku depends on highly variable rainfall of about 1000 mm per year, and on maintaining fertility on the thin, erosion-prone soils. In areas of high population density like Bawku, there is much evidence of soil erosion, loss of soil structure and fertility, and degraded vegetation. The rapid population growth and high emigration rate in Bawku and similar areas of the savanna jeopardize the possibility of improving the food supply. People's decisions about migrating and birth spacing are adaptations to an intensive agricultural system in an environment where productive potential is decreasing under the present system. For the situation to improve it will be necessary for community resources management systems to develop so that demographic and farming behavior by individuals and households will be linked to community well being.