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Vegetable farmers use polluted water for irrigation

2010-02-09 19:51:58
This article has been read 1422 times.

Some vegetable farmers in Tamale are using polluted water that runs through gutters and big drains in some parts of the the metropolis to irrigate their vegetable crops.

Investigations conducted by the Daily Graphic have revealled that the situation was prevalent in some suburbs of the metropolis, notably Kalpohin, Ward K., Sagnani and Gumani.

Vegetable farmers in these areas use smelly dark-coloured water from drains that are replete with all forms of noxious waste, such as human and animal faecal matter, liquid waste and refuse.

They have their farms on pieces of land located along the edges of the drains, and this makes it easier for them to source the polluted water that flows through the drains.

Vegetables on these farms include cabbage, lettuce, pepper and okra. While some of them use water cans, others use water pumping machines to enable them to transport huge amounts of the waste water onto their farms.

Some of the farmers also involve children who are made to go into the drains to fetch the waste water. When questioned, the farmers confessed to using polluted water, but explained that they had no option because during the dry

season there ’ was no clean water to irrigate their crops.

They said even though they were aware of’the health risks associated with their practice, it was the only way they could make income to cater for their families.

Asked if they also consumed the vegetables, thc farmers responded in the affirmative and said they had never developed any medical condition:

Residents who spoke to the Daily Graphic expressed grave concern about the activities of the farmers, and noted that their health was jeopardised because they consumed vegetables, some of which may , be coming from those farms.

They said they were surprised that the farmers were allowed to engage in such activitics, in spite of the dangers they pose to human health.

In an interview, the Director of Public Health in the Northern Region, Dr Jacob Yakubu Mahama, noted, that people who consumed such vegetabies could develop some diarrhoeal diseases such cholera and typhoid.

"Such vegetables," he explained," are likely to be coontaminated by
faecalmatter contained in the waste water and this puts the consumer of the vegetable at risk of developing a diarrhoeal diseases.

He said an outbreak of cholera through such a process could be difficult to control, "unless the consumption of the contaminated vegetables ceases."

Dr Mahama therefore advised consumers of vegetables to wash them
thouroughly so as to disinfect them.

When contacted, the Tamale Metropolitan Agric Director, Mr Kwaminu
Arkorful, said his outfit was aware of this menace but admitted that it was just a handful of vegetable farmers out of the lot who were engaged in this practice.

He said the problem arose mainly because Tamale had no perennial running water, such as streams and rivers, and therefore many vegetable farmers depended on dams, whiles a few used the waste water.

Mr Arkoful mentioned that even though the use of waste water was not widespread, his outfit had adopted a multi-pronged approach towards nipping this phenomenon in the bud.

The first approach, he noted, was to improve irrigation systems in the
metropolis and its peri-urban communities.

He cited the rehabilitation of some major dams that had been bridged during the 2007 floods in three farming communities in Tamale as an example.

The communities are Duunyin, Mangoli and Foshegu.

The second approach, he noted, was to teach the farmers safer irrigation practices to reducing vegetable contamination.

"These include the use of water cans with in-built filters, avoiding contact with the water and the technique, of stopping irrigation; days ahead of harvestingi. which helps to destroy natural bacteria and reduces fresh bacterial contamination in the vegetable" he mentioned.

The third approach, according to Mr Arkoful, involved the training of
vegetabie dealers and food vendors on how to treat vegetables before selling or using them, such as the use of chlorine tablets or high concentrated solutions of salt or vinegar.

The agric officer noted, however, that his outfit was constrained by the lack of funds in implementing those initiatives.

He said if there were, enough funds; his outfit could embark on a major campaign to sensitise residents of Tamale to how to treat vegetables before using ,them.

In the absence of funds, however, we would continue with our own small ways so as to improve agricultural practices in the metropolis and also protect the health of consumers," he added.


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