A vegetable farmer and President of Vegetables Producers and Exporters Association of Ghana (VEPEAG), Mr. Felix Kamassah is calling for the establishment of a National Vegetable Authority (NVA) to regulate and oversee the transformation of the vegetable sub-sector for socio-economic development especially, in this COVID-19 pandemic era.
The authority will be responsible for oversight of vegetable education, research, innovation, and development, as well as modernization of the sector through the development of commodity value chains.
Speaking in an interview, Mr. Kamassah said this is the time to establish such authority; the vegetable market alone is growing at more than 10 percent per annum and the potential value for export is estimated at $250 million especially in this COVID pandemic period where everyone needs to eat vegetables to boost his or her immune system.
“Vegetables make an important contribution to food and nutritional security and can enhance the livelihood of marginal and smallholders due to their high farmgate values per unit land area; besides their economic, nutritional and medicinal importance, traditional African vegetables are considered valuable because of their ability to fit into year-round production systems” he stated.
He noted that nutrition has in recent times been capturing the international spotlight in an unprecedented way in spite of persisting global hunger.
“In Ghana, 7% of farmers obtain their seeds from other sources including gifts from friends which for me it’s not the best”, he added.
Touching on Ghana’s Vegetables Sector, challenges smallholder farmers are facing and how government involvement is crucial. He said there had been discussions in media that the youth could find employment in so many sectors but oftentimes, agriculture is being left out, the very sector that could employ the majority of the youth.
“We have not been able to meet these expectations because people don’t have the skills and knowledge to run with ideas. I am making it clear that unless this is addressed, it will be difficult for us to achieve the Sustainable Development” he said.
Mr. Kamassah cited cases where some African countries are focused on the revenue from oil and abandoned agriculture.
“Remember even if you train all the agriculture scientists in the world, and the animal husbandry experts, or soil scientists, even those who are agriculture economists, and those who know how to do the business, if you don’t have the right set of policies and the environment that is conducive, you are not going to have agriculture move from this smallholder dimension to a real enterprise,” he said.
Suggesting the NVA, he called on the government to establish authority, build the capacity of interested individuals, and invest in agriculture to be able to transform the Ghanaian economy.
He said Ghana should upscale to the standard when it comes to trade in Africa. The government should establish institutions to guard such projects otherwise other countries would overtake the market and our local industries are likely to collapse.
“We must have beneficial local policies that are functional enough to guarantee the benefits of small-scale industries”, he reiterated.
The VEPEAG President underscored the need to educate farmers on the application of pesticides, stating that, food security is not just about having access to food, but the safety of the food.
“Anywhere agriculture has developed in the world, you have an excellent capacity-building policy” he stated.