News - November 27, 2009

No pineapples in Ghana

VHL Fair Trade Management student Nomie Butt was in Ghana for three months. She was supposed to study the processes involved in breeding pineapples organically. But there was not much to be done because the pineapples themselves were absent.

'The absence of pineapples meant very little work for me. I helped to mow grass on the farm, to milk cows, to make cheese and to extract palm oil. I also made ethylene gas, which was sprayed on mango plants to speed up blossoming and in so doing, determined the blossoming period itself. I talked a lot with farmers and discovered that Fairtrade isn't as favourable for them as it sometimes appears to us. The farmers have to use their harvest earnings to obtain a Fairtrade certificate over and over again.
You would see babies and children everywhere in Ghana. Children would run after you on the streets and call out Obruni (white). If you retorted with Bibini (black), they would begin to giggle loudly. In the village school - which was nothing more than four walls, a writing board and benches - I taught the children to sing a song which they always sang out loudly and merrily whenever they saw me coming. When the rains came, children would quickly run outside to enjoy a shower.
Taking a shower in Ghana was quite a ritual for me. The farmer with whom I stayed did not want me to use normal water. So he brought out bottles of outdated mineral water. A shower needed four to six bottles of water, at the most. I would fill a cup with water and pour that over me, to the accompaniment of salamanders rustling over the ground. The WC was a faeces box in the backyard. Sanitary facilities were sometimes very primitive; yet, they were bearable. As long as you always had your own toilet paper wherever you went.
Roundish mush
When the men were at the office or working in the countryside, the women in Ghana would occupy themselves with housekeeping throughout the day. This was heavy work. The wash was done by hand and took a lot of time. Women walked about with heavy baskets on their heads. I tried to do this myself but the load was already too heavy even before I could cover any distance across hilly areas. Cooking was an important part of housekeeping. It could take an entire day to prepare a meal, and every meal had something special. The result was almost always a delicious but mushy roundish mash, which didn't need much chewing. My teeth became sensitive after some time, which made me want to exercise my jaw muscles very badly.'