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, water melon 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 heart attack.
“Watermelon is rich in an amino acid called citrulline that may help move blood through the body and can lower blood pressure. 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.
The publication also observed that consuming watermelon could improve eyes and skin health as well as improve digestion among others.
After conceiving the economic potential of water melon 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.
Compered to gold mining, water melon 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 water melon fruits, to supply consumers in the region and for export to other parts of the country.
Mr Sabogu, the pioneer of the water melon farming in the community, counting the benefits of farming the fruit, said it had become a live changing business for him and farmers at the community.
“I have built a three bedroom self-contained house at the community through the water melon farming. I support farmers who are interested in farming it, and after selling, they give me 50 per cent of the proceeds and also have the 50 per cent.
You can get as much as GHC10, 000.00 from a two to three acres of water melon farm”, he explained.
One could buy an average size watermelon fruit from the market at about GHC 10.00-GHC15.00 at normal times, while at whole sale, one could buy a rhino truck full of watermelon between GHC5000.00 to GHC7000.00, which could be gotten from an acre of watermelon farm.
Some farmers of the fruits at Kyeatanga also alluded to the fact that farming watermelon was a lucrative venture as it had been in oil and gas business, if the teething impediment in the sector were addressed.
Notwithstanding the tremendous benefits of the venture, it is defective with many challenges which smallholder farmers had to surmount to break through.
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 the unreliable rainfall as the farmers need to strategize to beat the glut season of the fruit in order to make 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, poor road network linking Kyeatanga community, one of the major water melon production communities in the Upper West Region, to market centres was a serious challenge to farmers of the produce.
At the peak of the rainy season, vehicular access to those farms was difficult. The situation led to increase in labour demand as farmers had to secure labour to convey the produce to a safe destination where the truck could convey them.
Another challenge that watermelon farmers needed to overcome in order to break through was access to market for the produce.
Large quantities of the watermelon fruits went bad on the field, owning to the non-availability of ready market for the produce, and where one finds a buyer, the price is dictated to the farmer.
Additionally, lack of available market for the produce robbed farmers of the expected income as that affected to price of the produce. For fear of losing the produce to post-harvest loss, the farmers opt to trade them off at low prices.
Cumulatively, the twin situation of bad roads and lack of market for the produce, in the long run, resulted in serious post-harvest loses of the produce as it is perishable and ought to be consumed within a particular period of time.
One other instance that affected water melon farmers is the farmers’ inability to strategise and stagger the production to maximize profit.
Mr Sabogu said their produce sometimes perished on the field because of the bad roads and lack of market.
Partly due to the unreliable rainfall pattern and the lack of irrigation facilities to enable the farmers to appropriately time the production, the farmers rely on the rain-fed agriculture and had to produce at the same time, leading to a glut of the produce.
That drastically affected the price of the produce. An average water melon fruit that ideally would be sold GHC10.00-GHC15.00 would now be sold between GHC5.00 to GHC7.00.
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 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 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 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 water melon 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 market and post-harvest loses that watermelon farmers suffer in the region in general and at Kyeatanga in particular.