Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Lush Green Onion Fields of Accra

Story and Photos by Ololade Adewuyi

On the Motorway link between Accra and Tema at a small village called Agyingona lies many hectares of beautiful green fields dedicated to lovely rows of onion plants. A set of brothers from Bawku in the Northern Region have found it an arable piece of land to cultivate lovely onions.

When Abubakar Mohammed discovered the piece of land a year ago, it was a bushy plot that was always giving the local authorities a hectic time to trim. The men from the Metropolitan office were planting tree seedlings at the site when he approached them about helping to clear the bush while also growing some plants for subsistence.

“I asked if I could use the place for farming and they said yes”, says husband and father of three Abubakar.

Since last year, he has cultivated maize and peppers and is about reaping his onions this year. What began on a small plot has been extended to over one hectare of luscious green onion bulbs that would be ready for the market in late August.

Abubakar has brought in more hands to assist him in his growing venture. His younger brother Mumuni and another friend Muhammed Yakubu have all come from Bawku to help cultivate the many rows of onion bulbs on the farm.

As they sit under a small tree to have a lunch of mashed beans and rice in palm oil under the sweltering heat, Abubakar narrates his interesting family history. He and his brother had never been to school because their father never believed in education. They had all been sent to the farm in Bawku at an early age like many northern kids. He had worked hard at his farm and came visiting his brother in Accra where he fell in love with the city. He would then bring his farm produce all the way from Bawku to the markets in Accra, a process that meant he lost a large quantity of the perishable goods on the long journey.

But now he can easily ferry his goods to the market where he is assured of good profit due to his proximity to Accra. He hopes to harvest over a hundred sacks of onions this year and sell them for between c350,000 and c500,000 depending on the forces of demand and supply.

Onion bulbs grow beneath the soil and take three months to mature. They are of the family Alliaceae and are generally used as spices and as vegetables. China is the largest producer of onions as it had 19,793 tonnes in 2005 (FAO figures).

The plant does suffer from a number of plant diseases with leaf variegation one of the major problems farmers in Accra are experiencing. The leaves of the onion plant become yellowish with longitudinal segments. This disease makes the plant’s bulb not to grow big.

“We need government’s help to give us chemicals that we will use in treating our farm”, Abubakar says.

“We also need more land so that we can expand. If they can give us more land we will be happy”.

The onion farmers of Accra have shown dedication to duty and one can be sure they will prove themselves better if given the necessary resources. They really seem to know their onions.

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