ARPPIS Hosts Research Dissemination Workshop on Neem-Based Solutions for Vegetable Production in Ghana

The African Regional Postgraduate Programme in Insect Science (ARPPIS) at the University of Ghana recently conducted a research dissemination workshop, shedding light on neem-based solutions for cultivating healthy vegetables.

This event, held under the theme "Promoting Safe Vegetable Production in Ghana," brought together various stakeholders, including academics, farmers, producers, agro-input dealers, consumers, policymakers, retailers, importers, and exporters.

To commence the workshop, Prof. Irene S. Egyir, Dean of the School of Agriculture, extended a warm welcome to participants and outlined the purpose of the workshop. She recognised ARPPIS for its valuable contributions, commending project partners and the Office of Research, Innovation and Development (ORID), for their solid support.

As Chairperson and Provost of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, Prof. Boateng Onwona-Agyeman, in his remarks, expressed his excitement about the success of the project, which culminated in the organisation of the dissemination workshop. He expressed his gratitude to the project team and underscored the significance of insect research in advancing human well-being.

Prof. Onwona-Agyeman spoke passionately about ARPPIS' enduring impact and relevance. He highlighted the importance of developing solutions to combat vegetable pests using neem seed and encouraged the Principal Investigator and the research team to further explore the benefits of different parts of the neem tree such as the leaves.

Speaking at the event, Special Guest of Honour and Pro Vice-Chancellor in charge of Research, Innovation, and Development, Prof. Felix Ankomah Asante, emphasised the timeliness of the workshop. He stressed the significance of regaining consumer confidence in accessing pesticide-free, nutritious vegetables to support good nutrition and overall well-being.

“Consumers have become more aware and conscious about the need to eat safe and healthy vegetables. Home-made water extract of neem seed kernel or commercial neem oil is an effective and environmentally friendly option to manage pests on food crops, especially vegetables we consume raw,” he stated. Prof. Asante also endorsed the use of neem-based organics in vegetable cultivation, highlighting its safety and effectiveness.

Expressing support on behalf of the University Management and the Office of Research, Innovation, and Development, the Pro Vice-Chancellor pledged ongoing assistance for the ARPPIS programme. He underscored the importance of the work of ARPPIS in contributing towards achieving the University's vision of becoming a world-class research-intensive institution.

Principal Investigator and Coordinator at ARPPIS, Professor Ken Okwae Fening, provided an extensive overview of the project in his presentation. He detailed the research journey and presented the research findings together with the challenges faced within the period, while indicating the importance of sharing insights with stakeholders, particularly farmers, amidst pest challenges in vegetable farming in Ghana. He indicated that the current work is a good example of a very fruitful research collaboration between him, Prof. K. O. Fening of the University of Ghana and Prof. J. P. Carr of the University of Cambridge.

Prof. Fening highlighted the identification of two aphid species on cabbage and discussed their impact on vegetables. He said these aphids are associated with the transmission of a novel necrotic disease on cabbage which could result in 100% yield loss in farmers’ fields.

“Our research marked the first report of the false cabbage aphid, Lipaphis erysimi pseudobrassicae in Ghana, which was subsequently published in the Journal of Economic Entomology of the Entomological Society of America. Hitherto, this false cabbage aphid was

confused with the cabbage aphid, Brevicoryne brassicae. So far, the study did not find the B. brassicae on cabbage in Ghana, but mostly found L. e. pseudobrassicae and the green peach aphid, Myzus persicae in low numbers. The green peach aphid found on cabbage in Ghana looks pinkish which indicates a high level of polymorphism in this species,” he recounted.

Prof. Fening also showcased the development of neem-based pesticides, successfully tested on demonstration farms which effectively controls the aphids and other pests on cabbage and prevents the manifestation of the devastating necrotic disease.

He further added that “with the support of the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), about 100 students have been trained from the Leventis Farmers Programme at the School of Agriculture, University of Ghana, in the neem technology. In addition, over 100 farmers belonging to different farmer associations across the country have been trained.”

He urged vegetable farmers to adopt these solutions for improved yields, human and environmental safety. Additionally, he highlighted the significance of reducing the excessive use of synthetic chemicals in vegetable farming for consumer safety.

The P.I. expressed gratitude to all stakeholders and project partners, including CABI and the Leventis Foundation, project team members, and farmer groups for their support during the research period. He hoped the neem-based products would eventually become commercially available to farmers nationwide.

The workshop featured goodwill messages from development partners and stakeholders, including Prof. Augustine Ocloo, Dean of the School of Biological Sciences, and Prof. Macarius Yangyuoru, Head of the Soil and Irrigation Research Centre (SIREC). The West Africa Regional Representative of CABI, Dr. Victor Attuquaye Clottey commended ARPPIS for the successful collaboration and the need to bridge the gap between Academia and Industry by providing tailor-made solutions to farmers and other industry players.

Other speakers included representatives from The Ecological Organic Agriculture Platform of Ghana (EOAP-G), Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) Ghana, the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Municipal and District Directors of Agriculture, Manufacturers of neem products (Kingsworth Farms, Green Grow Ltd. and Jeloise Company Ltd.), Exporters (AB Farms and Trosky Farms), the Peasant Farmers Association, Kuaye Farmers Association, Farmers from Eden Tree, among others. Students from the Leventis Farmer Training Programme also shared their perspectives.

The workshop provided a platform for other project team members and students of ARPPIS to present their study findings, while students from the Leventis programme shared insights on their training related to neem-based solutions for vegetable farming. The workshop was moderated by Mr. Ebenezer Budu-Biney, the Coordinator for the Leventis Farmers Training Programme. The Research team is grateful for the financial support from the Global Challenges Research Fund Networks in Vector Borne Disease Research (GCRF NVBDR), UK and grant administered by CONNECTED, University of Bristol.