Farmers in the Ada East District of the Greater Accra Region have been urged to embrace the new improved varieties of tomato to increase their production.
Dr Leander Melomey, Project Officer of the Ghana Agricultural Technology Evaluation (GATE) and Research Fellow at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), who made the call 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 them from the seed companies.
Despite harvesting around 78,000 hectares of vegetables, the country relied on imports to meet its demand of key vegetables as domestic production has proven inadequate, the GATE Project Officer said.
Dr Melomey said under the Ghana Agricultural Technology Evaluation (GATE) Project, the farmers were exposed to good agronomic practices and the performance of different improved varieties of tomatoes and encouraged to have access to these varieties to improve yield and as well improve their livelihoods.
She said GATE, which is being spearheaded by AATF in partnership with WACCI, was engaging farmers to cultivate on trial basis improved varieties of the three essential vegetable crops – tomato, pepper and onion – in Ghana.
Dr Melomey said the evaluation exercise, in line with the GATE project hosted by WACCI, was funded by the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and AATF.
She said the event also served as a learning platform where the farmers learnt good agronomic practices, including planting distances, staking, and the appropriate fertilisers 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 them 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, told GNA that the objective of her outfit was to develop the commercial food and vegetable sector in West Africa.
She explained that as part of what they did, they considered innovative ideas from seed companies to promote the commercialisation of the sector.
She said one of the fundamentals to this goal had to do with getting the right seed, and that its partnership with WACCI was aimed at promoting hybrid, high-yielding disease-resistant breeds and then engage farmers and ensure they adopted them.
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, however, said after harvest, one major challenge they faced was how to market the crops and its processing, and therefore called on the 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 chemical use, stressing “this is what can keep us safe from cancers and the diseases that come 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 had 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,” he said.
Mr Theodore Eyram, Southern Regional Sale Lead at Louis Dreyfus Company Limited, reiterated the need for farmers to adopt the right practices like the use of chemicals, adding that “they do a lot of concoctions and misuse the products”. GNA
Ada farmers urged to plant improved tomato varieties