Monday, March 15, 2010

Supporting farmers to grow their vegetables!

It’s dry season, and although the rains this year are threatening to arrive the main excitement around agriculture is dry season vegetable farming.

A woman weeds her onion farm.

This weekend I met Mr. Salia, a hard-working vegetable farmer in the town called Buipe. Mr. Salia is one of those guys that after meeting I have to write about. He’s a young guy who was hired by the government to teach. He’s only employed part-time (government youth employment program) and so he supplements his income by farming. In the dry season, he sets himself up next to the Volta River and grows vegetables. He’s making a ton of money, enough to send himself to university and to support his new wife and young son.

Mr. Salia and I chat about his farm.

Growing vegetables to me is one of those businesses that I think everybody should get into! It’s good for you! Like eating your veges! But very few people have copied Mr. Salia and set up shop.


It requires a few things that can be tricky to access #1. the right type of start-up capital #2. a lot of technical knowledge #3. great market access. This post focuses on the first.

This year Mr. Salia is struggling. Cattle came and ate his entire crop. About $500 worth of investment. He’s out this money and wondering if he should continue.

The only evidence left behind...

He built a fence but it was not very effective because it was basically thorny bushes piled in a line. Not enough to stop hungry cattle in the dry season!

Make shift fence

It occurred to me that most development projects aren’t interested in providing support to help farmers put up fences. They most commonly provide water pumping machines. Mr. Salia was offered one but he turned it down. Figured it wasn’t worth the cost of fuel and maintenance. He’d rather have a fence. They weren’t offering fences.

I think the development sector has got it wrong when it’s supporting vegetable farmers. All I ever hear about is pumping machines. Nothing about fences.

Two years ago I worked with vegetable farmers along the Volta River in a place called Daboya. They were just starting out and the business was doing well. They had saved up enough money to buy a water pumping machine. They lacked the capital to buy the pipes so I provided them a small loan out of my own pocket ($200) for the pipes. The group was able to pay their first installment of the loan. But by the time the second installment came along a donor had given MoFA some free water pumping machines to distribute. The farmers I was working with in Daboya received 2 free water pumping machines! Two! Two too many! Since then the farmers have not paid back the other half of their loan and have been quite elusive.

Farmers setting up their pumping machine that they bough with their own money.

By the way, two years ago these farmers also had their crops eaten by cattle. They also lacked a fence. They were lucky enough to know the farmers who own the cattle and were reimbursed for their eaten vegetables.

Convinced yet?

Two weeks ago I visited a community in Binaba. Their fence was impressive! It is 4 feet tall. Hand build. From mud. These farmers are doing well. And no pumping machines required.

Impressive wall. Impressive Onion farm.

Mr. Salia doesn’t have time to build a wall like this.

Why does the development sector insist on pumping machines into the agriculture sector instead of building walls?

I’m not really sure. It could be because machines are perceived as more modern and therefore more desired by development works and farmers alike.

Maybe this doesn’t matter. What matters more is that the development sector listens to Mr. Salia and provides him what he needs.


caitlinlgrant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
caitlinlgrant said...

Awesome post!

Think this ii something the MoFA can help Mr. Salia with? Or perhaps a new project for EWB? Designing an easy to set up, cheap to make, and guarenteed to last fence; sounds like the right kind of engineering to me!

Note to self: Proofread comments before posting!

Jonathan Stockdale said...

Sarah! I have a table full of seedlings I'm planning to plant a short distance out of the city. My primary concern, of course, is that my plot has no fence!

Great post. I'm missing Ghana. Hope you are doing well. Take care.

Jenny Woolf said...

I am puzzled. Surely it is relatively easy to tell what people need on the ground - why can't aid charities do this? Sorry if this is a naive question, but it would seem like a pretty fundamental thing for me, looking in from the outside. .

javieth said...

I think the obesity is very danger for everybody, is like a pump that can explot any time. So is necesary to take care exercising and taking good and healthy food and stop eating junk food.If you eat more vegetables or fruits will see a big difference in our life. The life is too short, so we need to take care of us every single day for enjoy the things that the life gave to us. I bought my house through costa rica homes for sale and i enjoy it every day.

Mohammed Nuhu said...

This is a great post, truly people are struggling hard to make a living. I hope you can tell the efforts they put into that fence making. it isn't an easy task at all.

Frank Mike said...

Great post......the article is right on post, as farmers need help to grow vegetable in large scale for human consumption thanks. Women in Farming