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Harnessing vegetable sector: Greenhouse villages key

BY: Severious Kale-Dery
Prince Kwame Boakye, an agronomist with AGRITOP Ltd, admiring some of the vegetables
Prince Kwame Boakye, an agronomist with AGRITOP Ltd, admiring some of the vegetables

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture in partnership with AGRITOP Ltd, an Israeli agricultural company with expertise in greenhouse village technology, has successfully trained 540 young agricultural graduates in the technology in the country.

Apart from training the graduates, 350 of them have undertaken an 11-month internship training with seasoned Israeli farmers where the graduates had hands-on experience in the technology in Israel.

Most of them are back home and are either in the process of setting up their own greenhouses or are currently making their expertise available for others to tap.

Currently, the ministry has taken possession of about 100 greenhouses developed by the Israeli company in Dawhenya in the Greater Accra Region to be given out to private individuals, particularly those graduates who returned from the 11-month training session to serve as trainer of trainers such that the Israeli knowledge they acquired can be localised for the benefit of us all.

Knowledge transfer

It is heart-warming that the ministry is working on documentation to start giving out these greenhouses to enable the beneficiaries to roll out mass production to increase vegetable production in the country in order to meet not only the local demand but internationally.

With the transfer of knowledge, the ministry must take possession of the centres, which have been idling since the company rounded up its programme in 2021.

It is a fact that the villages have equipped not only the graduates but also those Ghanaians who worked side by side with the Israelis and it is expected that those staff and some of the graduates can take over the running of the centres and training of more youth at the various centres.

These villages have been designed to equip the youth with knowledge, skills and the expertise in crop production through the use of modern systems and technology and also create jobs for the unemployed graduates.

Vegetable sector

The vegetable sector is huge and a high earning one, but unfortunately, the country is yet to explore it to the fullest.

The East Africans are really benefiting from the vegetable sector and we have no excuse to relax because we have everything at our disposal, including the technological know-how, which AGRITOP generously shared with us.

Apart from meeting our local market demand, the European market is huge and our proximity is an added advantage over the East African countries, who are currently one of the major suppliers of vegetables to those markets.

It is in this context that the 540 young agricultural graduates who were privileged to undergo the greenhouse technology training with AGRITOP have to train much more interested youth in the country to increase the production in the vegetable industry.

Greenhouse centres
From 2017 to May 2021, AGRITOP Ltd did a lot to arouse interest in the vegetable sector and it is expected that the government, through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, will sustain and improve upon it such that within the shortest possible time, the technology can be replicated nationwide.

During its five year-stay, the company was able to establish three Greenhouse Capacity Building Centres and Commercial Units at Dawhenya and Bawjiase in the Greater Accra and Central regions respectively and one at Akumadan in the Ashanti Region.

Greenhouses are crucial in boosting the vegetable industry in the country

Each of the greenhouses has a centre, which is one of three modules covering a total of 13,500 square metres of which 4,500 square metres is put under the cultivation of tomato, sweet pepper and cucumber. Each of the three centres ran a three-month training programme for 30 agricultural graduates at a go, until the last batch graduated last year.

The centres are also established to facilitate the development of the complete value chain of vegetable producers, aggregators, seed suppliers, input dealers, transporters and produce distributors as well as to produce quality and fresh vegetables for urban dwellers in Kumasi, Accra and Tema and also for export throughout the year.

Indeed, the greenhouse village programme is one of the five modules under the Planting for Food and Jobs which focuses on ensuring sufficient vegetable production for both the local and foreign markets.

Benefits

At the inaugural ceremony of the Akumadan Greenhouse Village in February 2020, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, projected that the country could rake in about $1 billion from vegetable exports in seven years.

He was quoted to have said that estimates indicated that cultivating three selected vegetables, namely tomatoes, sweet pepper and cucumber in the greenhouses could generate over GH¢2.49 million a year. By implication, if the greenhouses are replicated all over the country, then we are in good business.

Low hanging fruits

Surely, the vegetable industry is a low-hanging fruit for our local vegetable producers to not only take over supplies to the hotels, restaurants and supermarkets, but also to boost the food tourism by encouraging the patronage of our local food products to enhance businesses and incomes.

This will definitely be good news for the local economy because it would shift the attention of the nation from importing vegetables to relying on the local vegetable producers.

Currently, there are tonnes of vegetables imported into the country in order to meet the demands from the tourism sector and also the local market.

It is good that the government’s willingness to continue to collaborate with development partners to ensure hands-on training to expand vegetable production in the country is on course.

That is why the relationship between the governments of Ghana and Israel towards the 11-month knowledge transfer needs to continue so that the numbers recruited yearly can increase to enable more Ghanaian youth to benefit from the programme.