Needs Assessment for Organic Vegetable & Fruit Farmers
On 17th November 2015, the Institute of Applied Science conducted a needs assessment for Organic Vegetable and Fruit Farmers at the School of Biological Sciences Conference Room, University of Ghana. This programme which was chaired by Professor K.G. Ofosu-Budu brought together organic vegetable and fruit farmers as well as processors and exporters of organic vegetable and fruits and a multidisciplinary team of researchers to identify key needs of the organic vegetable and fruits farmers and a matching multidisciplinary teams of researchers to address these needs.
The crops of interest included oranges, pineapple, mango, passion fruit, herbs yam and vegetables.
The leader of the organic farmers, Mr Sam Quarcoo gave the problem statement. He indicated that, the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is posing a health hazard and is increasingly becoming a global challenge. These health hazards are caused by pesticide residue present in harvested fruits and vegetables, farmers not adhering to rules of pesticide application in conventional farming and lack of adherence to time limits set for insecticide application and harvesting. Most advanced countries are using organic farming as a safer option and are aggressively promoting organic foods. He added that the situation is different in Ghana where farmers shy away from organic farming due to lack of knowledge and their perceptions of risks inherent in organic farming.
Picture 1: The Participants
Picture 2: Mr. Sam Quarcoo
He added that opportunities abound in the export of organic fruit and vegetables. Ghana can generate an estimated fifty billion US dollars ($50,000,000,000) from export of organic fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs and the sector is expected to grow by five billion dollars ($5,000,000,000) annually. Ghanaian organic farmers usually export their products to foreign countries but they are planning to market their produce locally as well. He also stated that Ghanaian organic farmers are audited based on EU, US and Japanese standards which Ghanaian farmers are striving to adhere to, therefore the focus of the group is to confront the challenges confronting the sector. The key challenges he highlighted include:
- 1. Unavailability of organic certified planting material.
- 2. Inappropriate soil fertility management systems
- 3. Inadequate disease and pest control
The UG faculty showed keen interest in the issues raised by the farmers and assured them of their ability to assist them to solve the challenges identified. Dr Maxwell Billah Stated that, there are existing strategies to tackle some of the challenges faced by the farmers and it does not necessarily require reinventing the wheel. Dr Peck W. Dorleku, Rev. Dr. W.S.K. Gbewongo, Dr. Cornelius and Dr Quaye showed interest in assisting farmers tackle phytophthora of pineapple which is a major disease that destroys their pineapple plants. Dr. Billah and his team also gave their assurance to assist farmers tackle stone weevils, bacteria black spots and anthrax nose on fruits and leaves.