The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), have urged farmers within the Ada East District of the Greater Accra Region to embrace improved varieties of tomato.
Despite harvesting around 78,000 hectares of vegetables, the country relies on imports to meet its demand of key vegetables as domestic production has proven inadequate.
Under the Ghana Agricultural Technology Evaluation (GATE) Project, the farmers are exposed to good agronomic practices and the performance of different improved varieties of tomato to ensure they have access to these varieties to improve yields and as well improve their livelihoods.
GATE, which is being spearheaded by AATF in partnership with WACCI is engaging farmers to cultivate on trial basis, improved varieties of the three essential vegetable crops; tomato, pepper and onion, in Ghana.
Dr Leander Melomey, Project Officer of GATE and Research Fellow at WACCI, during a field day event to discuss the outcomes of field trials in Ada, stated that the goal was to ensure farmers had the knowledge that the varieties existed and could access it from the seed companies.
Dr Melomey made these remarks in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on the sidelines of an evaluation exercise, in line with the GATE project hosted by WACCI and funded by the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and AATF.
She said the event also served as a learning platform where the farmers see good agronomic practices including planting distances, staking, and the appropriate fertilizers and chemicals they needed to know to achieve the expected yields.
The Project Officer told GNA that “we provide seeds that have been supplied by seed companies and breeders, we then give it to farmers and guide them on good agronomic practices and at harvest we have a field day with Business to Business events where all tomato value chain actors meet to interact”.
Mrs Sheila Asibey-Yeboah, Programme Manager at Hortifresh West Africa, also told GNA that their objective was to develop the commercial food and vegetable sector in West Africa, and as part of what they do, they considered innovative ideas from seed companies to promote the commercialization of the sector.
She said one of the fundamentals to this goal had to do with getting the right seed, and its partnership with WACCI aimed at promoting hybrid, high yielding disease resistant breeds and then engage farmers and ensure they adopt.
Mr William Amlalo, a farmer at Ada, who commended AATF and WACCI for spearheading the project, said the varieties of tomato seeds introduced were good for the weather and could withstand diseases.
He said however, after harvest one major challenge they faced was how to market the crops and its processing, and therefore called on government to establish tomato factories in the area, saying, canning tomatoes would create more jobs.
Mr Masoud Ahmed, Agronomist at Miqdadi Limited, cautioned farmers to consider the pre-harvest interval of the chemicals used, saying “this is what can keep us safe from cancers and the disease that comes after the wrong application of pesticides”.
Mr Evans Agortey Sackey, Technical and Sales Representative of Syngenta Seed Limited, underscored the need for farmers to select seeds that have been improved to withstand challenges including; climate change, describing seeds as the main inputs for their production.
Mr Bright Aidoo-Jackson, Technical Marketing Officer at Agriseed, said farmers were happy with their varieties particularly tomato cobra 24 and 26 as they could harvest 40-60 fruits per plant, “however I observed some have issues with the planting distance, if the spacing is too wide they will not get the exact yield”.
Mr Theodore Eyram, Southern Regional Sale Lead at Louis Dreyfus Company Limited, reiterated the need for farmers to adopt the right practices for instance the use of chemicals, adding that “they do a lot of concoctions and misuse the products”.