The Nyamebekyere Co-operatives Vegetable Farming and Marketing Society Limited, a farmers-based organisation, has appealed to government to promote organic agriculture to guarantee quality public health and safety.
This will also facilitate rapid socio-economic development of the people.
“Both organic and conventional agriculture could play a pivotal role in Ghana’s public health and local economic development,” a field research conducted report by the society indicated.
The society is made up of about 100,000 vegetable farmers in the Techiman Municipality of the Bono East Region, Sunyani Municipality of the Bono region, as well as Tano North and South Municipalities of the Ahafo Region.
According to the society, vegetable production was very important for socio-economic development, and health benefits of Ghanaians, significantly on job creation, income generation, tourism opportunities, as well as food and nutrition security.
But, the report regretted what it described as the influx of fake and adulterated agro-chemicals on the market, which in the end were bought and applied by ignorant farmers.
“Inability of state institutions such as the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to regulate the agro-chemical industry in the targeted farming districts has led to adulteration and proliferation of harmful agro chemical in the market”.
“The effects are enormous; low yields, poor market access, high level of chemical residue on vegetables and this is adversely affecting over 100,000 vegetable producers within the study area,” Dr. Gabriel Gbiel Benarku, lead researcher and service provider of the society told the Ghana News Agency (GNA).
Revealing the finding of the research, titled “Public health concerns in vegetable value chain production: A case study in three regions of Ghana”, Dr. Benarkuu said the vegetable industry was the main source of livelihood for many actors in the sub-sector value chain.
Ghana’s vegetable sub-sector offers great opportunities for growth given the steady increase of high value domestic markets and export opportunities.
The domestic market alone is growing at more than 10 per cent per annum and the potential value for export of vegetables is estimated at US$250 million.
This increasing demand could be attributed to the perceived health benefits associated with vegetable consumption.
According to World Health Organization (WHO, 2003), high vegetable or fruit intake could reduce ischemic heart disease and stroke by 31 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.
Dr. Benarkuu however indicated that vegetable farmers faced “critical regime where there are many sub-standard and unregulated agro-chemicals in the market”.
“The vegetable farmers are confronted with the challenge of human resources expertise and poor management of farms due to the inability of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to deploy adequate extension officers. This affects them greatly leading to their inability to manage disease outbreaks annually”.
As a result the farmers experienced poor access to market, due to poor quality of produce, a situation he said was a serious concern to public health and safety.
“Chemical pesticides are commonly used in the management of pests and diseases in vegetable production in Ghana. However, there is increasing concern about the adverse effects this use has on public health and the environment”.
Dr. Benarkuu called on the government to adequately resource the EPA, Extension Division of MoFA and the Ghana Standard Authority (GSA) to enable them to deliver their mandate effectively, and rid the vegetable industry of fake agro-chemicals.
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