A Partner West Africa News Story
Story 27 of 217
Volunteer in Ghana, West Africa

#volunteertakeover Foodie Thoughts

Date Posted: 07/07/2018

For some time now the efficiency and health hazards attached to cooking methodologies using charcoal and firewood smoking have been a concern of the global north. Undoubtedly, Ghanaian women constantly exposed to the fumes released and the community eating the products may suffer long term health effects.

For some time now the efficiency and health hazards attached to cooking methodologies using charcoal and firewood smoking have been a concern of the global north. Undoubtedly, Ghanaian women constantly exposed to the fumes released and the community eating the products may suffer long term health effects. Here in Kokrobite where fishing is the main industry, many women smoke and sell the catch brought in by their husbands. To aid the industry’s efficiency the Development Action Association (DAA), a local non-governmental organisation and one of Partner West Africa’s (PWA) partners, has launched the Ahotor stove to reduce the number of chemicals contaminating fish during the smoking process, as it causes an increased cancer risk, and to use less firewood to increase safe energy combustion.

 

Fish forms a large part of Ghanaians diet, especially in the coastal areas in which PWA work, and can be bought from local sellers along the road of many a village along the south coast of Ghana. The nature of this quick street side sale economy requires the fish to be pre-smoked and in constant supply, available for purchase at request to ensure a high rate of return before the fish is spoiled. The Ahotor stoves have brought huge benefits to fishing communities as they act as an industrial piece of machinery speeding up the smoking procedure in a healthier and more environmentally friendly way as well as allowing larger quantities to be cooked at any one time. The Sustainable Fisheries Project which encourages use of the stoves has its attention in the right area but there are additional factors to consider. For example, the competitive nature of this industry may make some merchants unwilling to share, after all the quality and ability of each stall to flavour their cooked fish is what keeps customers loyal and prevents them from buying from a rival a few meters away. However, sharing a stove is the only profitable option due to space requirements, their expense and the fact that it is a commercial piece of equipment unsuitable for domestic use. In spite of, this families within the community are beginning to see the benefits of time saving and increased profitability with the stoves already being introduced in the Volta region after their pilot in Winneba.

 

The rich Ghanaian culture has had the largest impression on me throughout my stay so far, and I believe that the Ahotor stove works well to blend the traditional smoking practices with modern technology to reduce health risks and provide long term stability.  An interesting article by Pulse.com shows how food production differs entirely at the domestic level to the industrial methods used in the fishing industry. Although 21st Centaury technological advancement can improve speed and efficiently, this is perhaps only desired when there is an economic goal in mind. Within daily consumption only traditional kitchen methods are able to add a ‘special, taste, touch and aroma to meals’. Having been out conducting research in local schools this week and invited into family homes I fully appreciate the truth of this statement.  At one school I visited, a female member of the family who owns the school will spend the morning batch cooking for over 80 children, the teachers and relatives living in the compound. The foods omo tuo, banku and fufu are staples in many Ghanaian households using local ingredients and their method requires the use of traditional utensils. To give you a small insight; the Asanka helps to ground up stock before the stew is boiled, the motor and pestle is crucial for Fufu and the Dadesan, a large pot, is needed to continuously stir omo tuo (rice used to make into rice balls) and banku to give them their fluffy and creamy texture.  

 

My personal experience has shown me that introducing new cooking appliances has sustained momentum within the fishing industry, while the slower but more traditional methods work best for food preparation in the household. The process involved in getting food on the table to feed families here is far more complex than the list of short-cuts for quick meal prep many developed countries have adapted and commercialised, while here in Ghana the food’s journey forms part of a daily lifestyle.

Author: Izzy - PWA volunteer

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