In pursuit of success and to escape from abject poverty, everybody chooses a path to achieve the objective of financial freedom so desired and to impact society. While others believe they can make a mark through the oil and gas industry, gold mining and politics, others also have faith in the prospects of agriculture as an answer to their financial freedom.
To Mr Adams Sabogu, a teacher from Kyeatanga in the Wa West District of the Upper West Region said farming, and for that matter, watermelon cultivation was the ‘green gold’ that could transform his life and those of his people.
“One does not need a rocket scientist to believe that agriculture could be more lucrative than gold mining if one played the agricultural card well and followed the tradition of the profession.”
Research indicates that consuming healthy watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) has exceptional health benefits to the human system.
Professor Hayk S. Arakelyan, a Professor in Medicine, in a publication titled “The Health Benefits of Watermelon” on www.researchgates.com, watermelon contained high lycopene that could mitigate the risk of diabetes and cancer.
She added that watermelon also contained citrulline that could reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of a heart attack.
“Watermelon is rich in an amino acid called citrulline that may help move blood through the body and can lower blood pressure. The heart also enjoys the perks of all the lycopene watermelon contains. Studies show that it may lower your risk of heart attacks”, excerpts of the paper read.
After conceiving the economic potential of watermelon farming, Mr Adams introduced the “green gold mine” to farmers at Kyeatanga and its surrounding communities.
The cultivation of the fruit had become a major business for some farmers in the Upper West Region, transforming their lives and economy, and that of their families.
Compared to gold mining, watermelon has, in the past, served as a source of livelihood for farmers at Kyeatanga communities and its enclave in the Wa West District, Upper west region.
Last year, for instance, the Kyeatanga community-produced about 600 to 800 tons of watermelon fruits, to supply consumers in the region and for export to other parts of the country.
You can get as much as GH₵10, 000.00 from two to three acres of watermelon farm”, he explained.
One could buy an average size watermelon fruit from the market at about GH₵10.00 – GH₵15.00 at normal times, while at wholesale, one could buy a rhino truck full of watermelon between GH₵5000.00 to GH₵7000.00, which could be gotten from an acre of watermelon farm.
Notwithstanding the tremendous benefits of the venture, it is defective with many challenges which smallholder farmers had to surmount to breakthrough.
Naturally, erratic rainfall pattern had been a serious setback to farmers, not only in the watermelon cultivation but other crop production.
Nonetheless, watermelon farmers suffered a great deal of unreliable rainfall as the farmers need to strategize to beat the glut season of the fruit in order to make a profit.
Thankfully, the government’s planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme had made access to inputs for watermelon farmers, just like any other farmer, relatively easier at reduced prices.
However, the poor road network linking the Kyeatanga community, one of the major watermelon production communities in the Upper West Region, to market centres was a serious challenge to farmers of the produce.
Another challenge that watermelon farmers needed to overcome in order to break through was access to the market for the produce.
Large quantities of the watermelon fruits went bad on the field, owing to the non-availability of a ready market for the produce, and where one finds a buyer, the price is dictated to the farmer.
Additionally, the lack of an available market for the produce robbed farmers of the expected income as that affected the price of the produce. For fear of losing the produce to post-harvest loss, the farmers opt to trade them off at low prices.
As a Chinese proverb says, “If you want to prosper, consider building roads”, it is prudent for the government of Ghana to focus attention on building roads to achieve the needed prosperity for the citizenry.
Therefore, as part of efforts to reduce the challenges of farmers in the country, and to chart a path for the country’s prosperity, the government had resorted to the construction of roads, with a project christened; “cocoa roads project”.
That is laudable, but attention should also be directed towards the smallholder farmer that is unable to access the market with the little drop of rain.
Road network should be a major intervention that the government should focus on if it is to achieve the needed economic growth.
The need for an improved road network system for framers was grounded on the fact that the farmer needs to transport farm inputs such as fertilizer and improved seeds from the market and distribution centres to the farm and in turn cart, the farm produce from the farm to the market.
Further, the government’s One-Village-One-Dam (1V1D) initiative should be well implemented to give watermelon farmers, particularly, at Kyeatanga, the leverage to maximise the economic opportunity of festive seasons such as Ramadan, a period when fruits like watermelon are highly patronised.
Availability of irrigation facilities for watermelon farmers at Kyeatanga would also ensure all-year-round production in the region, a pre-condition for the effective operation of the Wa Fruit Juice Factory, which had been idling for some time now.
That would also go a long way to give credence to the government’s One-District-One-Factory (1D1F) initiative.
That would help solve the issue of non-availability of the market and post-harvest losses that watermelon farmers suffer in the region in general and at Kyeatanga in particular.
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