Health News of Sunday, 1 June 2014


Watermelon: Not just water and sugar

Historically, Ghanaian women, through their efforts in agriculture, have been the backbone of the rural economy.

Presently, farming has become unattractive to many young women, apparently because they do not think they will find pleasure and fulfillment engaging in agribusiness.

It is refreshing to note, however, that there are still some young women who find farming a worthwhile enterprise and one of them is Victoria Tsikata , a 25-year-old single mother, who describes farming as her passion.

“After desperately looking for a job to raise money to educate my child, I failed to secure one so I decided to go back to my village and help my father with his farm and that was when I developed an interest in horticultural farming,” she says.

As fate would have it, fortune smiled at her when she later visited her grandfather at Korledor near Ada and secured a plot of land and started her own farm.

“My interest in agriculture developed further when Ms. Vida Asase, an Agriculture Extension Officer, came to my village and helped to build the capacities of small-scale farmers, using new agricultural technologies,” she explains.

She says she had lofty dreams like any other educated woman, but agriculture won her heart. “I liked the way my father managed to look after us with the money he got from farming, that made me know that there is a lot of money in farming,” she notes.

Pepper, tomatoes and watermelons are some of the horticultural crops Victoria grows. Though on a small-scale, her farm is the talk of her community in Korledor.

Watermelon remains the major crop that she cultivates. It fetches her higher returns than any other crop.

“Watermelons have high returns compared to other crops and I find it easy to manage. I have also mastered its market trends, which makes it easy for me to grow it during a certain period,” she explains.

Depending on the management of the farm, an acre gives her between Ghc600 and Ghc700, with an investment of Ghc100.

“It is encouraging when you get your money after harvesting because it gives you the morale to grow more and more to raise extra income,” she states.

Victoria says farming is engaging as any other career, adding that commitment is one of the key elements to reaping such high benefits.

She also said a farmer needs some form of training to be successful. She, however, attributes her success to the training she received from her father and some extension officers, saying all farmers should have monthly clinics to keep them abreast of the best farming techniques.

She cites self-discipline as a vital ingredient to success in farming. She says farming is one of the sectors that could provide employment to many jobless youths if well managed.

Her story throws more light on the importance of women’s engagement in watermelon cultivation.

The fruit, which is said to have numerous health benefits, has recently become very popular in the southern part of the country and it is important that its benefits are trumpeted.

Healthy properties of watermelon

Watermelon, scientifically known as Citrullis lanatus, is a fruit with a lot of healthy properties. It is a member of the cucurbitaceae family.

For a long time, watermelon has been taken for granted as a sweet, tasty fruit, made of sugar and water.

In recent years, nutritionists, medical professionals, scientists and researchers have taken an interest to find out more about watermelon's health benefits. As it turns out, watermelon is incredibly healthy.

Health and Nutritional Benefit

According to the National Watermelon Protection Board (internet source), Vitamin A found in watermelon is important for optimal eye health and boosts immunity by enhancing the infection-fighting actions of white blood cells called lymphocytes.

Vitamin B6 found in the fruit helps the immune system to produce antibodies which are needed to fight many diseases. It helps to maintain normal nerve function and form red blood cells.

The body uses it to help break down proteins. The more protein you eat, the more vitamin B6 you need.

The source further disclosed that Vitamin C in watermelon can help to bolster the immune system's defenses against infections and viruses and can protect a body from harmful free radicals that can accelerate ageing and conditions such as cataracts.

Watermelon may be a natural Viagra, says a researcher. That's because the fruit is richer than experts believed in amino acid called citrulline, which relaxes and dilates blood vessels much like Viagra and other drugs meant to treat erectile dysfunction.