Background of the study

Vegetables are important crops produced that contain vital nutrients for health maintenance and the prevention of diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart diseases (Chowdhury et al. 2011). Vegetables are easily perishable due to their fresh nature hence there is the need to constantly handle them with care when it comes to production and marketing. They can be further processed and treated carefully to avoid contamination.

According to Cofie et al. (2003) in most African countries, 50-90% of the vegetables produced are by farmers in the peri-urban and the urban cities. This assertion is consistent with what pertains in Ghana. The vegetables grown in Ghana include the following: cabbage, onion, okra, chilli pepper, hot pepper, tomato, eggplant and shallot. A considerable number of the actors involved in the production and marketing of vegetables are known to have both commercial and domestic gardening as well as transport facilities to transport the vegetables from the rural farms to the point of sale. Of importance here is the key role being played by middlemen in the transportation and marketing of vegetables in Ghana (Kuwornu et al., 2010). The ready market for the vegetable production serves as a means of revenue to these farmers as well as creating a source of employment for these farmers.

Obuobie et al. (2006) indicated that the production and the marketing of vegetables have provided a means of employment for lots of people especially living in urban and peri-

urban areas. Thus, since the farmers know what their consumers want, they are able to produce and market their products with ease. Furthermore, Cofie et al. (2003) and Ravallion et al. (2007) also showed that most of the agricultural activities such as vegetable production undertaken in the urban and peri-urban areas create employment for the people especially the poor.

Vegetable production plays an important role in the standard of living of farmers and its‟ production and consumption is known to lessen the problem food insecurity. Cornish et al. (2001) and Danso et al. (2002) revealed that the livelihoods of 90% of smallholder farmers producing vegetables in the city of Accra have improved.

Though vegetable production has become one of the profitable enterprises for both small and large scale farmers, they are easily attacked by insect pests causing diseases to these crops. This incidence is very dominant during their production stage as well as storage. This also affects the quality of the produce in such a way that farmers receive low income due to poor quality. In order for the vegetable farmers to meet the demand at hand and to increase their revenue, they end up applying pesticides during production to control these pests from destroying their crops. One of the studies undertaken by Amoah et al. (2006) revealed that the demand for vegetable has increased and due to this farmers spray high quantity of chemicals to minimize diseases caused by pest in order to meet the increasing demand.

A study carried out in Ghana illustrated that most of the vegetables consumed had deposits of the pesticides which is very unhealthy to consumer (Obuobie et al., 2006).

Applications of pesticides have become very common to most farmers because from their point of view it does not require much labor and most of them do not know the negative effect on the environment (Matthews, 2008). Due to these inappropriate practices by these farmers, most consumers have now become health conscious of the vegetables they consume. In recent years, issues have been raised concerning the amount of pesticides used by these vegetable farmers. It is also revealed that most consumers are much interested in taking vegetables free from chemicals because these vegetables are known to be tasty, safer and healthier to these consumers. Lambert (2001) revealed that there had been some kind of awareness on the consumption of these vegetables and its health benefits associated with it thereby increasing the consumption.

The conventional method of production of vegetables has to do with the use of agrochemicals including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides to the crops for reduce pest infestation. Though farmers have the intention of controlling the pest and diseases associated with the vegetables, they spray too much of the chemical to the crops which end up causing more harm than what is expected (Obuobie et al., 2006). Most of these chemicals are made up of active ingredients that are harmful to the health of consumers‟. Due to this, consumers are very careful of insecticide, herbicide and fungicide residues in the vegetables on the market.

Though vegetables can be produced by using the conventional method, another agronomic practice known as the Integrated Crop Management (ICM) technology can be practiced by these farmers, which will not only increase productivity but also sustain the

environment (Kletnikoski et al., 2013; Parra- Lopez et al., 2007). The Integrated Crop Management technology if practiced by farmers will enable them produce quality products which would even increase their income.

Integrated Crop Management is a whole farm approach introduced to discourage the use of inorganic inputs such as pesticides. This technology involves, amongst others intercropping of the vegetables on the same piece of land, less tillage, crop rotation, application of manure, weeding and irrigation (Kletnikoski et al., 2013). For instance, intercropping two vegetables such as cabbage and onion helps in the management of diseases caused by the diamond moth that easily attacks the cabbage crop. This happens as a result of the strong unpleasant scent emanating from the onion hence preventing the insect pests from destroying the cabbage. This is a very good agronomic practice because instead of applying pesticides which will in turn leave residues on the vegetable crop, these crops are rather intercropped with other crops which prevents the insect pests from attacking the vegetable crop. Furthermore, intercropping some non-leguminous (cabbage) crops with leguminous crops (beans) helps sustain the soil fertility. In general, this agronomic practice combines various traditional methods with the aim of controlling pests as well providing a friendly environment thereby maintaining the fertility of the soil. This method preserves the environment from being polluted since chemicals are not applied to the vegetables during production.

A study conducted by Parra- Lopez et al. (2007) indicated that the next best agronomic practice that can be used instead of the traditional method of pesticide application is the

Integrated Crop Management technology. This new technology is receiving much attention in order to address the issue of deposits of pesticides in vegetables.

It is one of the best technologies used in the cultivation of crops, especially vegetables because it does not involve the use of other artificial means. Hence this method is most suitable and recommended to most farmers since some of these vegetables are eaten in their raw forms without cooking. Farmers must also be market oriented in their operations and farming practices.

                        Problem Statement

According to Dinham (2003), diseases caused by pests have destroyed most of the crops grown in Ghana and this has become one of the key challenges to farmers. As a result, farmers end up applying high quantity of synthetic chemicals in order to control these pests. Unfortunately, most often, these chemicals are not applied in their right quantities resulting in deposits of pesticides in the vegetables produced. Some farmers apply these chemicals at the production stage and others do apply just some few weeks before harvesting and this has resulted in pesticide residue in the vegetable crop. In this respect, consumers perceive vegetables on the markets as unsafe, unhealthy and harmful for human consumption (Obuobie et al., 2006).

Numerous studies have been conducted on the application of pesticides using the conventional method of crop production in Ghana (e.g. Obuobie et al., 2006; Ntow et al., 2006). However, there are alternative recommended agronomic practices such Integrated

Crop Management (ICM) technology but farmers continue to use the conventional method of crop production because to a large extent, the farmers‟ awareness of the new technology is uncertain (farmers do not know much about the ICM technology). Further, most farmers find it difficult in practicing any new technology because they consider whether or not the new technology (ICM technology) will be beneficial to them.

Although, the traditional (conventional) method involves the use of pesticides and other chemicals, farmers are still using this method despite the fact that it involves more cost than the new technology (i.e. Integrated Crop Management) which is less costly and beneficial as indicated by previous studies (e.g. Kletnikoski et al., 2013). To the best of my knowledge studies on the costs and benefits of the above-mentioned systems of production are scanty or non-existence, more particularly on the vegetable industry in Ghana. This current research will provide a comparative cost-benefit analysis of vegetable production under the conventional method and the Integrated Crop Management technology.

In this respect, the following research questions are raised:

  1. What is the level of awareness of the Integrated Crop Management (ICM) technology among vegetable farmers in the Lower Manya Krobo District of Ghana?
  2. What is the extent to which vegetable farmers in the Lower Manya Krobo District of Ghana understand the importance of using Integrated Crop Management (ICM) technology?
  • How do the costs and benefits of using the ICM technology differ as compared with the conventional method (CM) among vegetable farmers in the Lower Manya Krobo District of Ghana?
  • What factors influence the practice of ICM technology among vegetable farmers in the Lower Manya Krobo District of Ghana?

                        Objective of the study

The main objective of the study is to perform a comparative costs and benefits analysis of integrated crop management (ICM) technology and conventional method among vegetable farmers in the Lower Manya Krobo District of Ghana.

The specific objectives are:

  1. To determine the level of awareness of the ICM technology among vegetable farmers in the Lower Manya Krobo District of Ghana.
  2. To measure the extent to which vegetable farmers in in the Lower Manya Krobo District of Ghana understand the importance of using ICM technology.
  3. To conduct a comparative costs and benefits of using the ICM technology and conventional method among vegetable farmers in the Lower Manya Krobo District of Ghana.
  4. To identify and analyze the factors influencing the practice of the ICM technology among vegetable farmers in the Lower Manya Krobo District of Ghana.

                        Relevance of the Study

The justifications of the study are the following. First, this study would inform and assist farmers through practical trainings in identifying a more suitable practice for vegetable production to enable them increase their productivity. Second, this study will help inform policy makers on the need for highlighting and dissemination of information on Integrated Crop Management in vegetable production. Third, this study will contribute to existing literature on the practice of Integrated Crop Management technology in developing countries.