Unsubstantiated information circulating in some local communities attributes the incidence to frustrations and despair among tomato farmers, who allegedly incurred huge debts as a result of poor marketing of their produce during the current tomato season.
However, investigations conducted into the phenomenon by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in the area revealed that this speculation was not entirely true as most of the persons involved in those suicide attempts were not in anyway connected to tomato farming.
Records at the Male Ward of the Navrongo War Memorial Hospital indicated that between January 11 and April 4 2007, at least nine cases of poisoning were handled there. The victims were aged between 18 years and 45 years, had taken substances including kerosene, insecticide powder and DDT.
Two of those cases were declared as accidental because both victims aged 37 years and 18 years were members of the same family, who had developed severe stomach pains after an evening meal. Medical authorities at the Hospital attributed it to unintentional food poisoning.
Madam Victoria Kachana, Midwifery Superintendent at the Male Ward and Mr Samuel Akologo, Anaesthetist at the Navrongo Hospital, told the GNA that there was no indication on record that any of those patients attempted to take their own lives due to indebtedness in the tomato farming business.
They did not, however, rule out the possibility of such occurrences in the communities. They said in cases where people actually committed suicide through either self-poisoning or hanging, they were buried quietly by relatives, who would normally keep such incidents away from hospital authorities and the Police for the fear of prosecution.
Sources at the Bolgatanga Hospital told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that about seven patients, who had been brought there at different times within the past four months as a result of taking DDT, were admitted at the Emergency Ward, treated and discharged.
Some of the opinion leaders the GNA spoke to at Nyariga, Sumburugu, Zorko and Serigu, all satellite villages of Bolgatanga, who are into tomato farming, maintained, however, that the committing of suicide by tomato farmers in the area was not a strange thing, as it happened almost every year.
'Most of the farmers contract bank loans to embark on the venture and cannot repay the loans due to the lack of market for their produce,' said a resident farmer at Nyariga.
In an interaction with the GNA, Madam Margaret Weyori, a 48 year-old farmer at Navrongo, rubbished the logic of those who attempted suicide in such circumstances. 'If it is really true, then I do not know how those men who kill themselves reason. If they claim they are doing the farming to take care of their families, how do they think their families would survive without them if they commit suicide?' She asked.
Tomato farming is a major dry season economic activity at the Tono and Vea Irrigation Projects. This year Market Women from Accra, who normally travelled up North to go and buy the produce decided to continue to Burkina Faso to buy tomato instead.
This led to confrontations between the boys, who used to assist the Market Women to go to buy tomato from Burkina Faso and some local tomato farmers. The Police had to intervene and the Government subsequently reactivated the Pwalugu Tomato Factory to absorb the excess tomato in the system.