Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy in Ghana, with almost half of the population of over 27 million engaged in the economic activity. Each part of the country is characterized by its own assortment of vegetables and methods of cultivation. In the northern region of Ghana, vegetables account for one of the highest proportion of the crops raised, and their production is vital to the national economy, which raises much of its vegetables for domestic consumption and export. The principal vegetable plant, in terms of planted area and gross harvest, is the cabbage, followed by the lettuce, etc. Just as Bulgaria ranks first in the world for the seed-raising of heterotic vegetable crops, we can make Ghana rank first in the production of green leafy vegetables in the world by intensifying our cultivation mechanisms.
With a rapidly developing vegetable in Northern Ghana, Gumbihini in central Tamale has a vegetable farm with a cooperative set up not found anywhere else in the country. This Gumbihini vegetable cooperative cultivates mainly crops such cabbage, ayoyo and lettuce which are sold in Tamale and beyond. Vegetable plants may be grown in the open ground or under cover. They are raised in the open ground on nursery beds and then transplanted during the Monsoon or Harmattan Seasons in readiness for harvest. Seedlings that will subsequently be planted in the open ground are often raised from seed under cover. Both types of vegetable cultivation complement each other, making vegetables available year-round, which Gumbihini Vegetable Cooperative does.
Vegetable growing involves much transplantation. The raising of vegetables under cover entails forcing, that is, obtaining vegetables from reserve nutrients previously deposited in the plant. Often, two or more crops are grown on the same plot in the course of a growing season. Repeated sowings and plantings of seedlings are also common to Gumbihini Vegetable Cooperative.
In recent times, the amount of inorganic fertilizer used on vegetable plantings was one (1) tonne or greater per hectare. The square and square-nest methods are used for sowing the seed, as well as for planting cabbage and tomato seedlings. The tending of vegetable plants involves inter-row tilling, weeding, hilling, thinning out, top-dressing, pinching off runners, and removing lateral shoots. But there’s no irrigation to that effect, the use of water from the water company is the backbone of the successful high yield over the years. However, inefficient water management leading to higher water bills has been a cause for concern for farmers. It is therefore an issue that a Magsongsim project being undertaken will address with innovation in water management to reduce production cost.
Vegetable growing is one of the old farming activity which involves land cultivation, usually large open spaces. Livelihood in Gumbihini depends largely on the cultivation of vegetables all year round, creating income for households. With an increasing infrastructure investment, green zones for cultivation in regional capitals are shrinking. Gumbihini being in the centre for Tamale seem to have largely escaped this scourge with over 10 acres of green zone left for vegetable cultivation. It is appropriate to notify Traditional and Governmental Stakeholders to protect the green zone in Gumbihini to grow more vegetables to feed the entire region and also contribute significantly reducing floods and increasing household incomes.
Just as notable European countries such as Italy and Netherlands are noted for certain vegetable crops and have built value chains in support of their production, processing and marketing, the same can be done in support of the unique comparative advantage Gumbihini and farmers in the northern region of Ghana. Creating specialized enclaves like Gumbihini for the cultivation of a number of vegetables and other crops has the capability of turning these such areas into economic zones in support of livelihood empowerment and wealth creation for households.
The assortment of vegetable crops under cultivation is extensive, with the basic being; peas, cabbage, beans, lettuce, and asparagus. There is much specialization in vegetable production such as; seed developing, cropping, storage, processing, and marketing which needs attention and investment. In Japan, vegetable raising is characterized by a high level of mechanization and by the use of high-yielding heterotic hybrids and organic growth stimulants which Ghana can approach by targeting Gumbihini Vegetable Cooperative.
In addressing some of the challenges faced and also empower farmers, a Magsongsim project has been developed. The project came about as a result of Centre for Social Innovations- CSI work which empowered students and young entrepreneurs to work on innovating around community challenges in Gumbihini. The Magsongsim project seeks to Empower Gumbihini Agricultural Cooperative for Enhanced Community Livelihood. This involves; integrated soil fertility management, efficient water management, effective production techniques, marketing, savings and loans linked to inputs and access to household toilets. By doing these, the Magsongsim project team (includes young community innovators and vegetable farmers) is aiming to reduce production challenges, enhance the value chain for effective marketing and address sanitation challenge prevalent in the central Tamale community.
Magsongsim is about empowerment from within, Collaboration by young community innovators and farmers to harness lived experiences and local assets to address challenges. More on the project from this video
Stay tuned for more updates.
By: Yussif Mahama Sakan
Magsongsim Project Lead