Walter Wilson Nana
Researchers in the area of agriculture, with focus on vegetable farming are spinning off new ideas on how to better manage vegetable farms and increase productivity. This is the motive of a one-day workshop organised by the Institute of Research and Agricultural Development, IRAD, Ekona, Cameroon and the World Vegetable Centre through the AVRDC Regional Centre for Africa.
Placed on the theme; Dissemination of Improved Management Techniques on the Production of Traditional Vegetable Lines, Dr. Justin Okolle, Project Coordinator of the AVRDC Traditional African Vegetable Project in Cameroon told the farmers invited that there is need to improve the quantity of vegetable produced, augment the finances they make and diversify the nutrients found in vegetables.
According to Okolle there are new and improved Traditional African Vegetables, TAV, which must be disseminated to farmers. “The TAVs were already there like; the garden eggs, okra, huckleberry and more, but they were not improved. Research has improved on some of them, which means that some of them can be resistant to certain pests and diseases, some can adapt to various agro-ecological zones and some of them are richer in nutrients after that improvement. So, our goal is to ensure that we disseminate these improved varieties to the farmers
and for them to subsequently produce and multiply for consumers,” he explained.
Okolle indicated that it is necessary for Researchers and farmers to improve quantity and quality, saying in the peri-urban and urban areas, the demand for vegetable is on the increase. “More people have become aware of the medicinal and nutritive values of vegetables. So, we must train on good agricultural practices, which will bolster yield. And for quality, we must reinforce
awareness on the population so that they can eat more vegetables; eat things that are rich in minerals, especially vegetables that are rich in zinc, calcium, carotinoid, which is essential for vitamin A and iron, which are important component for increase in blood in the human body. These will fight micronutrient deficiencies,” he explained.
The Researcher said there is no stopping for the project as they will pursue on-station experiments with farmers on certain techniques like planting density, using amendments that will boost soil fertility, put in place demonstration farms to encourage participation from the researcher, the famers, the community, the planting and subsequently harvesting. “The farmers must see the strategies put in place and adopt them,” he said.
Okolle frowned at the misuse of pesticides, noting that it is the biggest problem with the management of vegetable farms in Cameroon. “We must know the safety measures put in place. We have to develop pesticide management plans in our councils, our communities and the farms, so as to avoid ailments like cancer and vomiting. These plans must go into our phyto-sanitary laws and government policies,” he said.
Southwest Regional Director of IRAD, Ekona, Dr. Kingsley Agbor Etchu was confident that they have the necessary technical and capacity knowhow to train farmers on the trendy developments with vegetable farming and production, while inviting them to be welcoming to the new technology. “They should make their farm lands available to us. We (researchers) are at the giving end and they(farmers) are at the receiving end.”
Dr. Etchu will be corroborated by the General Manager of IRAD, Cameroon, Dr. Noé Woin, who mentioned that IRAD is out to increase the yields of TAV across Cameroon and beyond. “We want to make available good quality seeds to stakeholders so that they can be competitive in the national and international markets. We have the bio-technology laboratory to carry us along as well as our cooperation links with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development,” he added.
Mary Ayah Tanya, farmer from Bekora-Barombi in Ndian Division, Southwest Region and David Namange Kinge from Ekona, all raised the importance of storage and sustainability of the TAV, while reiterating the necessity to sensitise vegetable farmers on the shortcomings of pesticides. They enjoined fellow farmers to be educated on what is to be done and what ought not to be done, calling on all the stakeholders involved in the project implementation to understand how relevant the marketing aspect is and the need for farmers to group themselves as cooperatives.
Valery Colong, Managing Director of Agro-hub cooperative said his institution answers the marketing question raised by the farmers. “We operate direct-to-consumer retail outlets that promote fair-trade and help farmers reach markets abroad, which otherwise would be difficult to reach for a single farmer, acting alone,” he noted.