Dr. (Mrs) Wilhelmina Quaye obtained her PhD in Rural Sociology from Wageningen University in the Netherlands in 2012. She had her MPil (2002) and BSc (1993) in Agricultural Economics from the University of Ghana, Legon. She also has a certificate in Gender Mainstreaming from Institute of Capacity Development in South Africa and a certificate in Monitoring and Evaluation of Development Projects from Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA). Her areas of specialization include Socio-economic related research, Monitoring & Evaluation, Policy and Gender Issues. She has close to 20years working experience both in research and practice.
This paper investigates how cowpea variety development has been organized over the past 20 years in Ghana using the concept of “Relevant Social Groups” and suggests possibilities of reconstructing cowpea variety designs to meet market demand dynamics. To a large extent, small-scale farmers’ interpretative meanings of what an improved cowpea should be, which are tied to their needs, are addressed in the varietal development process but the same cannot be said for traders, processors and consumers. Technology utilization is an integral part of the social construction of technology not only that it informs new design, but also, plays a part in constructing demand. Cowpea breeding interventions in Ghana tend to concentrate heavily on technical issues like yield, time of maturity, stress tolerance, disease resistance and acceptable seed characteristics. However, technology development and more specifically varietal development is not just limited to technical issues but also social contextualities and therefore requires the active participation of all relevant stakeholders to bring their interests and priorities to bear in varietal development. Where certain critical RSGs are not engaged in the process, the technology development may not be completely successful (Winner, 1985 and Winner 1993). What is missing in the cowpea breeding system in Ghana is the focus on structural and power issues among actors that limits the level of involvement of others in the cowpea value chain. We conclude that technology utilization informs new design and plays an integral part in constructing demand. Therefore cowpea breeding activities in Ghana should be organized not only around production but also around the dynamics in market demand. Structural constraints to participation among “Relevant Social Groups” with respect to resources, funding and power issues need to be addressed to ensure effective participatory varietal development.