Growing up in Ghana in the early 90’s I can clearly remember my mum leaving tomatoes, pepper and vegetables in the open on the kitchen cabinet. It kept the items fresh and saved space in the fridge for perishables like meat, fresh fish etc. Foodstuff like yam, plantain and cassava could also be kept in the open without any fear of rot or decay.
Fast forward to 2020 and foodstuff can go bad even in the fridge. Vegetables, tubers etc. for some reason have lost their immunity and just can’t stay fresh for days in the open. From tomatoes getting mouldy and foamy while tearing up to vegetables becoming watery and developing dark rotten spots after a few days even in the fridge. Pepper which could last weeks in the open goes bad and gets rotten while refrigerated. Banana which used to be a favourite fruit is one I despise now due to the burning sensation I sometimes experience in my throat and on my tongue when I eat banana. My question has always been what has changed? Why the sudden “weakness” in foodstuffs and fruits? What causes the rapid decay of foodstuffs? The only conclusion I can draw is the use of chemicals in crop production.
Due to the introduction of new farming methods to improve yields and crop resistance several chemicals have made their way onto the Ghanaian market through agro-industries, these companies are expanding and increasing their reach in the country. Farmers and individuals prefer to spray plants and weeds with weedicides instead of using a hoe or cutlass in getting rid of weeds. As the same soil is used to plant crops fertiliser is added to improve crop growth and yield increasing the chemical composition of the soil. The situation worsens when certain farmers in a bid to speed up the ripening or maturity process, apply chemicals to the crops.
There are several rumours of how market women sprinkle Carbide and other chemicals on banana and pineapple to speed up the ripening process increasing the rate at which the plants are exposed to chemicals directly and indirectly. In 2015 the FDA found some market women used Sudan IV dye to “improve” the colour of red oil, these and many other practices contaminate the food that should nourish and strengthen individuals into agents of bad health. Tumours, cancer and various growth deficiencies are on the rise according to several studies and might go up. In one study on cancer cases in Kumasi using data from 2015, there was a growth in cancer cases. Most cases recorded were found to have affected the breast, stomach and liver of citizens aged between 15 to 60.
In the long run the land will be barren or contaminated due to the high chemical content, there will be the need to add more fertiliser or “other chemicals” to improve the soil but that will also increase the chemical composition in the soil. Ghanaians will then have to rely on food supplements which to a large extent is imported but for a few that are produced in the country. So as we import agrochemicals we will soon import more food and food supplements reducing the reliance on locally produced crops. The health sector will struggle with the rise in cases caused by the crops in the long term as cases relating to chemically contaminated foods are not detected quickly. Government, state agencies and NGOS need to monitor the use of chemicals by farmers to and ensure quality and healthy crops are produced.
Organic options should be introduced on the market and the farmers should be trained on how to make them. Food crops being moved to markets in the country should be tagged at each barrier the trucks cross and samples tested for chemical content by the FDA and EPA so a history of the source or origin is recorded in order to easily detect crops that have been contaminated by farmers, market men or women. Farmland can be made fertile through organic means but not by using chemicals that will affect our health in the long run. Health is wealth and since prevention is better than cure we should try to find safe farming practices that protect the people and business owners as a whole because once we get sick through the food we eat then our strength as a nation is gone.