The Schools of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) on Thursday organised a stakeholders' meeting to develop curriculum for urban agriculture and farm-land sustainability in the Sunyani Municipality.
The curriculum, "Tools for sustainable Urban Agriculture in the Sunyani Municipality" is being funded by Skills Development Fund (SDF) through Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and the Government of Ghana
The participants included experts from the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Divisions of the Bono, Bono East and Ahafo Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), agro- chemical dealers and selected vegetable farmers and sellers in the Sunyani Municipality.
They were taken through "Land preparation before planting", "Seed certification", "Seed treatment and planting", "Chemical applications - the quantity and type of chemicals to apply at a time", "Cropping system", "Container garden, "Rooftop gardens" and "Cover cropping" to keep the land always fertile.
The curriculum through short term courses would equip farmers with the knowledge to improve on commercial organic farming, whilst practicing soil preservation and water use sustainability.
It would also help to improve the quality and quantity of food and vegetables produced in the Sunyani Municipality whereas the quantity and cost of transporting them from outside into the Municipality would be reduced.
Addressing participants at the meeting, Mrs. Nana Yeboaa Opuni-Frimpong, a lecturer at the Forest Science Department of the School of Natural Resources and also the Project Coordinator explained at least 51 per cent of Ghana's total population lived in the urban areas.
This she said implied that demand for food consumption would increase, hence the need for this project, adding that a year-round farming could be practiced on the same piece of land for years.
Mrs. Opuni-Frimpong observed there was the need for more lands for potential farmers to engage in farming activities but rapid expansion of physical infrastructural development in the urban centres were causing unavailability of farm lands and the objectives of the Project, if realised could be a major solution, she added.
The Project Coordinator noted that the use of chemicals and fertilizers in farming nowadays was raising questions about the safety of raw vegetables, thus organic vegetables guaranteed the safety of consumers, she indicated.
The project Coordinator stressed that chemical farming practices was making foods, particularly vegetables unwholesome for consumption and the need for the project to educate farmers on how to adopt and practice organic farming to boost urban agriculture and ensure health and safety of the produce.
Mr. Agyei Mensah, the Bono, Bono East and Ahafo Regional Agriculture Extension Officer advised consumers to be demand-driven by always asking for organic and quality foods in the markets to ensure food safety standards.
He stated that could only be possible if there were available and dedicated markets for quality produce to help consumers to get the best food items.
According to him some farmers were not using approved chemicals by the Food and Drugs Authority and the MoFA, in addition to not applying the right amount in growing crops.
Professor Emmanuel Opuni-Frimpong, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of UENR earlier in a welcoming address emphasised the need for the project because agriculture was the mainstay of the nation's economy.
In that respect, he reiterated that "urban agriculture practices with guidelines has the potential of minimising the importation of vegetables and thus bring self-employment creation to enhance sustainable livelihood of not only the farmers involved but any unemployed Ghanaian interested in farming".