Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Project To Boost Vegetable Farming Under Review In Ghana

Abdou Tenkouano, PhD

Nowhere in Ghana are leafy vegetables from plants and trees consumed more than Northern Ghana comprising – the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions. Arguably, about 80 percent to 90 percent of soups eaten by citizens of these regions are prepared with dry or fresh leafy vegetables produced locally.

Leafy vegetable soups are highly regarded by the people of these regions, both at home and wherever they travel to live. If there is any cultural practice that is hardly thrown away by a northerner (a person from any part of Northern Ghana), then it is leafy vegetable soup.

Leafy vegetable soups, the commonest one being bira, aleefu, moringa and pumpkin leaves cooked with groundnuts powder/paste, dry herrings, meat of any kind, dawadawa, fresh tomatoes and pepper, are mostly served with the revered tuo-zaafi food prepared with corn, millet, rice or guinea corn flour. However, one can also choose to eat bira, aleefu or any of the soups alone or with rice, gari (eba) and akple.

Notwithstanding the fact that, Traditional African Vegetables (TAVs) are the most affordable and sustainable dietary sources of vitamins and micronutrients that are supplied through the diet among the rural poor, their potential for increased household income and nutrition is insufficiently exploited.

It is no wonder that CORAF-WECARD is funding Ghana’s Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research of the Savanna Agriculture Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) and AVRDC-The World Vegetable Centre to boost improved ways of growing more indigenous leafy vegetables in Northern Ghana and parts of the country for increased household income and nutritional benefits.

Under a three-year project dubbed: “Enhancing Productivity, Competitiveness and Marketing of Traditional African (Leafy) Vegetables for Improved Income and Nutrition in West and Central Africa”, beneficiary countries including Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Ghana, would have majority of their citizens incomes and livelihoods as well as poverty and food security improved.

The project seeks to increase production and consumption of TAVs by overcoming constraints such as low productivity of farmers, lack of good quality seeds, limited knowledge of postharvest and processing options and opportunities, poorly developed value chains and a lack of awareness of nutritional benefits. 

At a four-day review workshop organised at Nyankpala in the Northern Region by CSIR-SARI in collaboration with AVRDC-The World Vegetable Centre, Project Coordinator Dr. Abdou Tenkouano expressed serious concern over increasing non-availability of land and water that are thwarting efforts of many household farmers in their quest to grow more vegetables.

He called on governments to ameliorate the challenges confronting farmers especially women farmers, decisively with adequate funding for new research work, provision of water sources, land and incentives for farmers to enable them cultivate more TAVs to feed the increasing number of food insecure people.

The review workshop, which brought together project implementers from all beneficiary countries, focused on a number of issues including discussion of progress reports of project implementation of the first year (December 2013 – November 2014) and 2015 work plan.

Furthermore, there were discussions regarding project monitoring plan, review of challenges facing implementation in each country and lessons learned from the implementation of activities by way of knowledge sharing and learning experiences with a view to creating more visibility to the project in each country.

A Director at the CSIR Dr. Naamwinnon Karbo, who read a speech on behalf of the Director-General of CSIR Dr. Abdulai Baba Salifu, commended CORAF-WECARD for their increasing and sustained support for research in Ghana. According to him, CSIR-SARI alone has been a beneficiary of four major projects since 2011 with a total funding amount of US$577,000, citing the TAVs project as the fourth project. 

A.B. Salifu, PhD
Dr. Salifu lauded the TAVs project particularly for the crucial importance it attaches to smallholder farmers and households because of the huge food, nutritional and income security impact outcomes it has on most vulnerable populations.

On his part, the Deputy Northern Regional Minister Alhaji A.B.A. Fuseini noted that, food security is one of the major banes of Africa. Adding, he said “we can’t continue to go cup in hand begging for food from foreigners when we as Africans have the capacity to produce more than enough to feed our people”.

But he indicated that, one of the factors militating against agriculture and food production is the farmers’ lack of improved variety of seeds to sow in order to recoup their investments and also enable them to feed their families.  

Alhaji Fuseini, however, urged farmers in Northern Ghana to take advantage of the expansion and upgrading of the Tamale Airport and produce more vegetables for export to Europe and other parts of the world when work is completed, since there is a high demand for such produce.

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