I am an ardent supporter of ‘domestication’. We have to produce what we need as a nation and reduce our reliance on importation. That is the way to our success as a nation. ‘Grow what you eat and eat what you grow.’ This is one aspect of it. The late politician, Dan Lartey, preached domestication. He could not convince Ghanaians to vote for him to become president to implement this.
It is for this reason that I support the ‘One District One Factory’ initiative of the Nana Akufo-Addo government. As I wrote in another piece (even before he took office), this initiative is structurally possible. Functionally, it requires a change in attitude of Ghanaians who generally prefer foreign products to local ones. Ghanaians must develop a taste for local products over foreign ones.
But can you begrudge Ghanaians? How do I convince Ghanaians to stop patronising foreign products and go for local ones when some of these local ones can kill them? I will give a few examples.
Driving along the roads in Ghana, I have seen all kinds of foodstuffs being dried at the shoulders of our roads – pepper, maize, beans, rice etc. In the evening, or when it starts to rain, the owners (usually subsistence farmers who sell these to make a living) sweep them with brooms into sacks and take them out of the rain.
Is it any wonder that rice, beans and others that end up in our food on our tables have stones in them? Why would I, out of ‘patriotism or solidarity’ buy these at all cost when I can have cracked teeth and end up seeing a dentist, which will be more expensive than if I had bought the foodstuffs from others, even if they are foreign?
Our preservation of maize, cassava, groundnuts and others is terrible. These end up growing moulds (with Aflatoxin). Aflatoxin is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer. So one could end up with liver cancer because of ‘solidarity’ by buying from a local farmer the person intends ‘helping’.
I have been a vegetarian for almost 11 years. The reason for my choice is not for this piece. In as much as I would like to take cabbage, lettuce etc, I am very cautious eating these because I have seen some farmers use ‘waste water’ to grow/water their farms where these are grown. As these are eaten after little heating (if any at all), I could end up with typhoid fever or other diseases.
Our river bodies are polluted due to the illegal mining activities we call Galamsey. Many of our rivers no longer have fishes. For those with fishes they may be contaminated with mercury or other chemicals. Depending on where the fish you eat comes from, you could be poisoning yourself with mercury anytime you eat fish or other seafood.
I could go on and on.
Granted that we may not know what foreign products may also contain (in spite of the efforts by the Ghana FDA to clamp down on illegal imports), the presence of stones in a packaged bag of rice is likely to be lower in an imported brand than in one bought along the road where you see rice being dried on the shoulders of the road with gravels.
When we ask Ghanaians to patronise local products, we must also ask locals to improve standards and make our local products safe. Without this, it will be difficult to convince people because ‘blind patriotism and solidarity’ can lead to serious illness or even death.