FEATURE: Tomato farming; a great intervention for job creation and poverty-reduction

Date: Monday April 29, 2019, 11:19 pm

Tomato has the potential of improving the lives of small scale rural farmers in most developing countries of the world.

Besides the health benefits derived from tomatoes and tomato-based foods, the crop can serve as a source of income for farmers because of its numerous uses.

The industry can increase the foreign exports of a many African countries thereby contributing significantly to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In Ghana, the tomato industry has been identified as an area that has the ability for poverty reduction because of its potential for growth and employment creation.

Identifiable Challenges  

Although the crop can improve the livelihoods of rural farmers, studies have shown that the full potential of the tomato has been under exploited because of several challenges.

Tomato farming in Ghana is mostly rain fed because of the lack of effective irrigation systems.

Production therefore takes place in the rainy seasons only, which requires the production of the best seed variety.

Seed variety is one of the biggest challenges tomato farmers face as inability to produce the best variety leads to less patronization of the produce.

Tomato farmers in Ghana are confronted with the problem of lack of preferable seed variety by traders, processors, consumers, consequently national tomato production continue to witness sharp decline in past years.

Statistics show that the nation spends about $100,000 annually in the importation of tomato pastes, because of inavialability of preferable seeds for comercail cultiavtion.

Pests and disease, weed control, inappropriate harvesting periods, lack of appropriate harvesting tools, storage and transport, processing and marketings are also indetifbale challenges facing the growth of the industry.

Pest and Diseases

Pest and diseases such as early blight, powdery mildew, rust, late blight, foot rot, Septoria and leaf curl virus are major tomato infected diseases facing tomato producers in the country.
These diseases cause yield losses to farmers because studies showed that most farmers in the country do not have a thorough understanding of disease types and their control measures. Taka’, a cloudy weather condition with fine dust, damages tomato crop by drying the leaves of the plant and encouraging disease development. American ball worm is also perceived to be the most serious insect pest among many tomato producers. In severe cases, if proper control measures are not taken, an estimated yield loss of 20 percent can be encountered due to this pest. Lack of appropriate harvesting tools Tomatoes are largely harvested by manual picking instead of mechanical picking by tomato producers in Ghana. Consequently, there is high potential for a mechanical damage which can be an entry point for disease causing pathogens. Majority of farmers in Ghana use wooden crates and woven baskets with hard and sharp surfaces which cause mechanical injuries to the harvested fruits. Overloading during harvesting can cause a buildup of excessive compressive forces resulting in crushing of fruits that are found at the base of the containers. The use of smooth surface shallow containers that will prevent overloading will therefore result in reduction in both mechanical injuries and crushing to the harvested fruits as well. Storage and transport Farmers in Ghana have no storage facilities for their produce and they just sell tomatoes directly to the market as soon as possible. Sometimes, farmers prefer to keep the fruits on-the-plant for some time if they feel that the market price is not attractive or if there is no market for their produce. So, harvesting is done normally early in the morning or late in the afternoon, and crates are kept in a shade temporarily. Most farmers transport their produce by using draft animals, vehicles or both, and due to due to unsuitable roads there is high loss of tomatoes during transportation which could reach up to 30 percent of the produce. In fact transportation cost is considered to be the most important cost of production among farmers as some of them make potentially marketable tomatoes to livestock and/or dumped their tomatoes due to high transportation costs. Advocacy Action Lack of improved seeds for tomato production in the country, according to the Federation of Tomato Growers Association of Ghana (FETOGRASG) is collapsing their economic activities. “Our businesses are in turmoil because of the low patronage of our produce. We are not able to meet the demand of these processors and traders because they want to buy tomatoes that have a thick and hard outer layer, less watery and with a longer shelf life”, says Mr Baffour Afrifa, the President of the Association. He expressed worry over absence of variety of tomato seeds that flourish well in the soil and climate of Ghana, thereby making processors and traders to rely for produce from Burkina Faso. It is against this background that the Association has a membership of about 6,000 has sought funding from the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund to implement an advocacy project in the country. Dubbed “rejuvenating the tomato industry through provision of certified and buyer desired variety”, the nine-month project costing GHC200,000 seeks to remove the bottlenecks impeding the growth and development of the tomato sector. Mr Afrifa said the project was making significant impact and commended BUSAC and its partners for the support. Conclusions Though the tomato industry has the potential to improve on the country’s foreign exchange earnings and add up to the GDP, tomato production remain unattractive to farmers. The sector plays vital role in Ghana’s economic growth as also provides employment, serves as food, and raw materials for processors, but it current state is eradicating these benefits. This has led tomato traders/vendors, processors and consumers to fall on imported tomatoes from Burkina Faso. Mechanisms for combating the seed variety challenges, should include plant protection exercise, seed safety mechanism, and seed variety extension service which can offer more practical, convenient and effective way of ensuring that there is availability of the seed varieties for production. But much relies on the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to help come out with a variety that could grow well in Ghana, to meet the qualities of traders. Recommendations According to Dr John Yaw Akparep, a consultant of the Center for Posterity and Interest Organisation, a Non-Governmental Organisation and BUSAC Service Providers for the tomato growers Association, the CSIR should undertake a thorough research to come with seedlings that are capable of growing well in Ghana. He stressed the need for the CSIR to collaborate with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture investigate and identify and devise seed variety growing strategies that would ensure that approved tomato seeds were always available and readily accessible. There should be a seed grower Center in at least each District in the country which would be mandated to specifically look at the critical issues relative to seed growing and to ensure the availability of seeds varieties through the use of modern technology. Dr Akparep said with the growing effects of climate change, government ought to invest and construct irrigation facilities so that farmers would have full control over the seed varieties that will be grown as well as to obtain them for more production purposes


Author: WatchGhana.Com    Verified


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