AFRICAN INDIGENOUS FOOD CROPS THEIR ROLES IN COMBATTING CHRONIC DISEASES IN GHANA
Price: 2000 Naira (BSC, MSC)
African Indigenous Food Crops (AIFCs) face eminent extinction due to negative perceptions about them (Voster et al., 2007a). The decline in consumption of AIFCs has been implicated in the emergence and spread of chronic diseases in Africa (Rasche et al., 2007). In view of this, the objectives of this thesis are to establish the links among food, culture and politics, to determine the consequences of changing food habits in indigenous communities in Ghana, and also to examine the potential of AIFCs to address chronic diseases in Ghana. Using the theoretical prism of Indigenous knowledge, this thesis employs the methodology of document analysis. The findings of this thesis include the presence of numerous AIFCs and food habits that could be harnessed to address chronic diseases in Ghana. The study recommends education and promotion of AIFCs in Ghana, and further studies to investigate toxic metabolites that may be hidden in uncommon AIFCs to ensure safe consumption.
1.1 Background to the Study
Food is anything that is eaten or taken to satisfy hunger, obtain nourishment, cure sickness or ensure good health. Food provides comfort and relief from boredom, anxiety and depression; in addition, food is used to perform various rites and rituals (Oniang, Mutuku, & Malaba, 2003). The concept of food can be extended to include various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The inclusion of alcoholic beverages is a result of a revelation by ethnographic studies, which indicate that in some societies people receive a substantial amount of nutrition and as much as one-third of their calorie intake from beer (Platt, 1964; Steinkraus, 1995). However, this study did not consider alcoholic beverages as food due to their health implications when consumed in excess, and also due to age restrictions on the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Food and dietary habits form an essential part of African culture. The broader African culture includes: language, belief systems, traditions, music and dance, religion, values, food preferences, eating habits and others. The significance of food to humans has been highlighted by scholars (e.g., Probyn, 2000; Whatmore, 2002). Food, in whatever form, actively shapes life spatiality and temporally, bringing humans together, separating them, and imbricating them fully and irreversibly in a profusion of nonhuman worlds (Probyn, 2000; Whatmore, 2002).
Historical accounts have shown that long experimentation with what was in human beings‟ immediate surroundings, as well as intuition and revelations from God,gods and ancestors, determined what could be regarded as food (Logan, 2012). Therefore, the categorization of plants into food and medicine came with great sacrifices; human ancestors experimented with their lives to isolate crops into food and medicine. Historically, human ancestors consumed various leaves, roots, stems and fruits of plants, starting with one person. If she/he survived, then the plant was considered as food. Through these historical encounters came the food cultures that are unique to particular groups of people, depending on their geographical location. In Africa, food is connected to every aspect of African culture and local spirituality. Hence, any attempt to divorce food and culture from the people would result in the loss of identity and sense of ownership to ancestral land. Blair (1966) established the link between food and the culture of African people, when he asserted that:
Food habits are a basic part of every African culture. They have developed over a long period in response to a number of primary factors. The foods eaten are determined by environment, culture contact and migration, barter, and trade. (p. 53)
The process of acquiring food in Africa is enshrouded in spiritual and physical considerations that ensured the continuous existence of peace, harmony and sanctity in nature. Wangoola (2000) explained the spiritual aspect of African food acquisition when he wrote:
At the center of African spirituality was the unshakable belief that humans were but a weak link in the vast chain of nature, which encompassed the many animals, plants, birds, insects and worms and indeed inanimate thing such as stone and rocks… killing of animals was prohibited except in self-defense or to provide food for immediate sustenance or as sacrifice. Even then, rituals had to be performed to appease the animal family and the gods‟ permission was sought for their blessings. (p. 265)
Further, sustainability of the environment was one of the critical issues in food production and consumption. This is associated with the African belief that humans are linked to the earth, hence their continued existence depends on the amount of respect accorded the earth. Such a belief also admonished locals to make peace with plants, animals (both domesticated and wild), and stones and other inanimate objects. Good neighborliness was therefore extended to the earth. The soil, which is the medium for food production, was believed to be a deposit account from which the account holders (people) drew only part of the accrued interest without ever touching the principal (Wangoola, 2000).
The relevance of food to human survival has necessitated global efforts to ensure adequate food in all parts of the world to address the problem of malnutrition. Ironically, as the human population keeps increasing, the genetic diversities of crops and animal species that constitute food for humans keeps decreasing (FAO, 2008). The conscious efforts of selection and promotion of particular crops and animal species as the authentic human food has contributed to the marginalization of indigenous crops and the resultant food insecurity in the developing countries where these crops were a means of sustenance. African Indigenous food crops are crops that have their origin in Africa and are well adapted to the climatic conditions1. These include: cereals such as millet, sorghum, African rice; tubers such as a wide variety of yams; oil plants such as oil palm, shea-butter; and an array of African Indigenous Leafy Vegetables (AILVs) such as amaranths, African night shade, spider plant, jute mallow, pumpkin, etc. With the advent of modern agriculture, most of the AILVs were considered to be weeds, hence their elimination and depletion (Abukutsa-Onyango, 2003). The marginalization of African indigenous food crops has eroded most of what I consider as first generational foods of Africans. The subsequent globalization of the world food system has seen the
1 See a further explanation of African Indigenous food crops and chronic diseases in Sections 1.8.1 and 1.8.2, respectively. disintegration, adoption and assimilation of second generational foods. The decline in consumption of African indigenous food crops has been implicated in the rising cases of chronic diseases which are alien to Africans, and of which they have limited knowledge with respect to treatments in traditional settings.
Chronic diseases are prolonged illnesses that are usually managed, rather than completely cured. Chronic diseases last or are expected to last for a year, causing functional limitations or the need to continually seek medical care, and could be extended to include disability (Shi et al., 2010). Chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancers, obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus, are the leading cause of death among people worldwide, raising serious concerns across the public health sectors (Kankeu et al., 2013; WHO, 2012). Four factors have been identified as being responsible for this phenomenon: poor diet, lack of exercise, and tobacco and alcohol use (WHO, 2005). Key among them is poor diet. The prevalence of diet-related diseases among the Indigenous people of Africa have been associated with the Westernization of eating habits (Barnard, Nicholson & Howard; 1995; Hu et al., 2000), including the replacement of traditional foods that are rich in fruit and vegetables with high calorie foods that are high in fat and sugar and low in complex carbohydrates (Lock et al., 2005). The thesis seeks to contribute to global efforts in finding solutions to the spread of chronic diseases, particularly in Africa.
1.2 Problem Statement
African Indigenous food crops, particularly indigenous leafy vegetables and staples, face eminent extinction due to negative perceptions associated with them that are not linked to nutrition (Darkoh, 2003; Voster et al., 2007a). Some of these negative perceptions include being considered as poor people‟s food or famine food, and being subject to backward knowledge (Darkwa & Darkwa, 2013; Voster et al., 2007a). However, African Indigenous food crops have cultural significance. In addition to these cultural values, African Indigenous foods are also medicinal in nature, which requires Africans to preserve them for posterity. The marginalization and subsequent decline in consumption of African indigenous food crops have been implicated in the emergence and spread of chronic diseases in Africa, posing serious health and economic burdens to people and governments (Kankeu et al., 2013; Rasche et al., 2007).
Globally, moving away from traditional foods to more refined Western diets has been linked to increases in the prevalence of chronic non-communicable diseases (Lock et al., 2005). Global statistics on chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancers, cardiovascular diseases and obesity raise serious concerns (Airhenbuwa & Iwelunmor, 2012). The global estimate for people living with diabetes in 2011 was 366 million, and this figure is expected to increase by 42% (to 522 million people) by 2030 (Whiting et al., 2011). The incidence of hypertension exceeds 600 million people (Sacco et al., 2011) and is projected to increase to a total of 1.56 billion people by 2025 (Lago, Singh, & Nesto, 2007). According to the WHO, human deaths attributed to chronic diseases and their risk factors in 2008 alone was 36 million, and the majority of these deaths (80%) occurred in low and middle income countries (WHO, 2011b).
In Africa, cases of chronic diseases are increasing rapidly at a time when the fight against communicable disease is still ongoing. It is projected that chronic diseases will outpace the reduction in infectious diseases, culminating in the rise of a “double-burden” of disease. A study conducted by WHO (1999) discovered that cardiovascular diseases were the second major cause of death in Africa, accounting for almost 11% of total deaths. In 2005, the WHO estimated that approximately 361,000 people died of ischaemic heart disease in Africa, and this figure is expected to double by 2030 (Mensah, 2008; WHO, 2008). According to Pisa, Vorster and Nishida (2011), the burden of cardiovascular diseases faced by African countries is most likely to double by 2020 due to the accelerated pace of nutritional transition. Stroke was estimated to cause 3% of all deaths and 52% of vascular deaths in Africa in 2004 (Connor et al., 2007). The prevalence of diabetes mellitus in Africa is predicted to increase by 80% in 20 years (International Diabetes Foundation, 2009). One in five deaths from chronic diseases in adults over 45 years in Africa was estimated to be caused by cancer (Parkin et al., 2008). Available statistics also indicate that about 715,000 new cancer cases and 542,000 cancer deaths occurred in Africa in 2008 (Ferlay, 2008).
Ghana is battling with the chronic disease burden in Africa. Despite the increasing cases of chronic diseases in Ghana, little attention is given to chronic non-communicable diseases compared to the communicable or infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (de-Graft Aikins, 2007; Dua et al., 2013). The diseases which hitherto were considered the diseases of affluence are now common among the poor, who suffer the most severe consequences due to their inability to afford the cost of managing chronic illness. Diseases such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes and cancer, which are all partly diet-related, have become major health concerns in Ghana (Bosu, 2007; Ministry of Health Ghana, 2001). Various studies conducted in Ghana have revealed annual increases in new cases of chronic diseases (Addo et al., 2012; de-Graft Aikins, 2007; Dua et al., 2013). A survey conducted by the Diabetes Association of Ghana in the 1990s revealed a prevalence rate of 2-3% in urban centers and by the late 1990s the figure had almost tripled to 6.4% (Amoah, 2003). In 1998, a national survey of non-communicable diseases revealed a 27.8% prevalence rate of hypertension (Bosu, 2007). Subsequent surveys have revealed higher figures across different regions in Ghana: 28.7% in Kumasi, Asante Region, 32% in Bawku/Zebilla, Upper East Region; 36.9% in Keta Dzelukope , Volta Region and 47% among a cohort of women in Accra (Cappuccio et al., 2004; Hill et al., 2005; Pobee, 2006). Hence, the nationwide cases of hypertension from 1989 to 1998 rose by 67%, and from 1998 to 2005 the outpatient reported cases increased by 155% (Bosu, 2007).
In addition, the rate of obesity among children in Ghana has almost quadrupled, from 0.5% in 1988 to 1.9% in 1993/94 (Ebbeling, 2002). Ghana Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) revealed that the prevalence of overweight or obesity among non-pregnant women nationwide increased 2.5-fold from 10% in 1993 to 25.3% in 2003 (Ghana Statistical Service, 2004). The inquisitorial aspect of these statistics is that both the WHO-sponsored national obesity survey and the Ghana Demographic Health Survey showed higher obesity rates in Southern Ghana, which is more urbanized than the Northern Regions (Biritwum, Gyapong & Mensah, 2005). The results of the two surveys thus confirmed the claims that diet-related diseases were prevalent in the urban population, which had changed its dietary patterns from traditional foods to Western processed foods (Barnard et al., 1995; Hu, 2011; Hu et al., 2000).
In Ghana, Westernization of eating habits due to urbanization, increased income, and an increase in the numbers of salaried workers, among other factors, was implicated in the rise of chronic diseases (de Graft Aikins, 2007). Studies (e.g., Simipoulos, 2002; Simopolous et al., 1999) have revealed that the presence of omega-6/omega-3 ratio > 4/1, commonly found in most Western diets, was linked to the increased risk of chronic diseases such as CVDs, breast cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. What makes the situation in Africa more complex is the fact that changing food habits are associated with urbanization, modernization and affluence (Agyemang et al., 2012; de-Graft Aikins, 2007). These influences are too seductive, drawing many people, especially the Indigenous groups and the poor, into this nutritional quagmire. It is therefore not surprising when Fall (2001) revealed that epidemics of obesity were higher among the higher income population in urban areas in developing countries, while the opposite was observed in developed countries where the poor were the most affected.
With growing urbanization in most parts of Africa, the tendency for diet-related illnesses to become epidemic is high. With Ghana‟s rapid urban population growth from 23.3% in 1960 to 51.5% in 2010 (Ghana Statistical Service [GSS], 2012), the consequences of chronic illnesses will be devastating without adequate measures to control the situation. Numerous studies (e.g., Addo et al., 2012; Agyemang et al., 2012; Amoah, 2003; Bosu, 2007, 2010) conducted on chronic diseases in Ghana have focused on biomedicine and not much has been done to explore the potential of African Indigenous food crops in addressing the chronic disease burden. Due to the above stated problems, this thesis sought to address the following major research questions:
1.2.1. Major Research Questions
- Why is culture relevant in understanding food habits, food politics and the consequences of changing food habits in Indigenous communities?
- What role can African Indigenous food crops play in addressing the chronic disease burden in Ghana?
- What are the prospects and constraints in promoting African Indigenous food crops in Ghana?
1.3 Aims and Objectives
To understand the Indigenous food habits, the following specific objectives guided the conduct of this study:
- To establish the link between food, culture and politics and determine the consequences of changing food habits in indigenous communities in Ghana.
- To examine the potentials of Indigenous African food crops in addressing chronic disease in Ghana.
- To determine the prospects and constraints facing the promotion of African indigenous food crops in Ghana.
The continent of Africa is bedeviled with many challenges, most of which are human induced. From economic hardship to climate change, Africa has always been viewed as the Dark Continent by the Western world, though most of the problems facing Africa today can be partly traced to colonization and failed policies of global capitalism spearheaded by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Trade Organization (WTO). Despite the fact that most international policies and agreements (enacted at higher governmental levels) exclude the local people, the ordinary people could help to mitigate the hardships by patronizing Indigenous African food, local goods and resources for day to day life activities. Patriotism is a crucial tool that can be used to ensure accelerated development in Africa, since most foreign policies are inimical to the ordinary citizens. For instance, the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) being implemented by the WTO has turned Africa into a dumping ground for most Western frozen and processed foods, which are high in energy, fat and sugar.
The AOA allows global Northern farmers to enjoy subsidies but denies the same rights to the global Southern farmers, resulting in farmers in the global South being less competitive and making imported food cheaper compared to that produced locally (Bernstein, 2013). Appiah (2006) cited an observation made by former World Bank president, James Wolffensohn, in his book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in the world of strangers, which suggests that on average, a European cow lives on a $2.50 a-day subsidy when three billion people in developing countries live on less than $2 a day. The overall effects of these WTO policies are manifested in the way most African countries, and for the purpose of this thesis, Ghana, have become net importers of food (see Ashiety & Rondon, 2012). Ghana spent one billion US dollars to import food products (rice, cooking oil, wheat, canned foods, processed meats, etc.) and exported only 100 million dollars‟ worth of food in 2011 (Ashiety & Rondon, 2012).
The desire of many Africans to consume imported foods, commensurate with their „modern‟ status, has also resulted in the loss of identity or dilution of most African culinary cultures. There is high demand for imported foods in Ghana, and this demand continues to increase annually (Ashiety & Rondon, 2012). There is also a rapid change of eating habits among Africans, especially youth, to Western processed food, as they consider Indigenous foods to be outdated (Pisa, Vorster & Nishida, 2011; Vorster et al,
2007). Africa, and for that matter Ghana, cannot afford the devastation of diet-related diseases, especially when the cost of managing these diseases is beyond the salaries of average workers. de-Graft Aikins (2007) demonstrated that the monthly cost of managing diabetes in Ghana is three times the minimum wage. The economic implications of chronic diseases could be worsened, since a majority of the Ghanaian working population operates in the informal sector; hence, an attack of chronic diseases would mean no business and consequently, no income.
This study‟s goal was to create awareness in Ghanaians of the need to reconsider their relationship with Indigenous African foods, and to explore the potential they hold to address health challenges and reduce poverty. It also aimed to provide insights to policy makers on how to incorporate African Indigenous foods in their health programmes and policies. It is offered as a contribution to the ongoing debate on the chronic disease burden in Ghana in particular, and in Africa in general.
1.5 Personal Location
In writing a critical work such as this, glorifying objectivity and rejecting subjectivity is a misplaced priority. I am a male Ghanaian and an international student in Canada. As a young person I lived with my grandmother, who was a traditional birth attendant in our community in Ghana. As one of her favourite grandsons, I had the privilege to assist in the preparation of food in our home and I was introduced to a variety of African Indigenous vegetables and herbs that were not available in the local markets. I also learnt that sometimes foods are prepared to meet the physiological needs of people. Hence, if someone is sick he/she is not supposed to eat certain foods. Again, the food for expectant mothers or nursing mothers was made differently to meet their physiological needs, such as the production of breast milk for the newborn baby, and also for faster healing of wounds sustained during childbirth. There were specific African Indigenous leafy vegetables such as nettle weed (local name in Akan: bhonho and scientific name Fleurya aestuans)2 (see also Dokosi, 1998) and Indigenous spices such as grain of paradise (Aframomum melegueta), Negro pepper (Xylopia aethiopica), and calabash nutmeg (Monodora myristica) among others used for that purpose.
Typical examples were the occasions when my aunties came to our home to give birth instead going to the hospitals in the cities. My grandmother would prepare special food using a mixture of local leaves with “nuunum” by the Akan being the most popular one I can remember. Though the food was meant for the new mother, as children we had the opportunity to taste it, and on countless occasions we were glad we did for it was very good and spicy. Again, on occasions when a woman had complications in delivering a baby, my grandmother would give the woman in labour some local herbs to eat and within a few minutes the baby would be delivered without any further complications. My grandmother used these plants to deliver several babies and on not a single occasion was a baby lost in delivery.
I grew up with the understanding that food is eaten to satisfy hunger or heal people from sickness. However, my experience in the Eurocentric boarding (residential) school structured by the British was different. Food was eaten by the clock of time, following established routines and protocols, and it did not matter whether one was hungry or not. The foods we were exposed to or fed were the ones sanctioned by the board of directors of the school as a balanced diet; Indigenous grains, including peal
2 All names in italics are scientific names. Pictures of all the Indigenous foods are in Appendices I and II millet, finger millet and sorghum were considered of less value and were therefore eliminated from our menu. The decisions as to what we ate were entirely in the hands of the school authorities and our input was not sought. Although some religious practices prohibited individuals from eating certain foods, for instance Muslims do not eat pork and some traditionalists do not eat animals or plants that symbolize their totem, school authorities considered some of the beliefs and practices as primitive and unacceptable.
Eating with the hands was considered archaic, hence the need for authorities to orientate us by taking us through lessons to mimic the Western way of eating: how to hold, and place, a fork, knife and spoon whilst dining and how to sit at the dining table, among others things, were the pre-occupation of our matron and kitchen staff who themselves had become “a commodity of western ideology” (Wane, 2008, p. 187). Those who were inclined to their Indigenous upbringing and had difficulties in catching up quickly with the westernization were laughed at and labeled village folk, as if it was a crime to live in a village. Our communal way of eating was broken and individualism and self-centeredness were encouraged. Each student had his/her unique cup, plate, spoon, fork, etc., which were not transferable in most instances.
At the end of my boarding school experience, the authorities succeeded in westernizing me and other students. My eating habits and food preferences completely changed. Food is like music: the more you are exposed to it, the more you become accustomed to it. My desire for Western foods over traditional foods increased. To compliment my new-found diets, I began listening to country music, blues and foreign gospels. Local foods and music became outdated for me and I began questioning the Indigenous way of life. I had no desire to eat in a group, as was the norm before going to secondary school. I began asking for my separate bowl of food, which was detested by my grandparents, aunties, siblings and uncles as it was seen as a sign of division, breaking the bond that existed in the family.
Reflecting back on the values and practices that governed eating in groups, I could now understand why my grandparents insisted on the communal way of eating in the family. Eating in groups provided an avenue for inculcating in us (children in my family) the sense of responsibility and respect. I can remember that the children of my age group (boys and girls ate in separate groups) were usually served at the center of the family house to enable adults monitor us while eating. Eating followed certain routines to ensure that every member of the group assumed a key role and responsibility. The routine started with the eldest child among us ensuring that everybody washed his hands with soap before dinner commenced. When I was the youngest in the group, the next younger child and I held the bowl containing the food firmly with our left hand to keep the food stable at dinner. As a sign of respect, the eldest child was supposed to take the first bite, followed by the next according to age until it was my turn, the youngest of the children. My responsibility as the youngest child was to respect my elders during and after dinner and in return I got gifts and protection from being bullied.
To ensure equity, the youngest in the group shared the fish but the eldest was the first to pick, and this followed according to age down to the youngest. The responsibility of sharing fish/meat rested on my shoulders as the youngest child and oftentimes I made a conscious effort to ensure meat/fish were shared equitably to avoid being disadvantaged. This was because I was the last to pick meat/fish. Talking while eating was prohibited to prevent choking or spilling saliva into the food; the onus lay on the
eldest child among us to enforce this value. When the eating was about to finish, the eldest child of the group was the first to rise up, followed by the next in age until the youngest child. I was always the last to rise up, even when I was full before the rest, as a sign of respect and also to ensure the bowls were washed. For instance, if an older child consistently competed with a younger child for the last piece of food or fish, this was considered bad behaviour and the older child could not be trusted with the responsibility of taking care of younger siblings or family members. Hence eating in a group not only fostered family ties, but also provided the opportunity for adults to identify children who could be assigned responsibilities and leadership roles in the future. Children were also reminded on a daily basis to respect their elders and to take responsibility for others. My experience at boarding school was completely different from eating practices at home. As a child, I found individualism and my right to a separate bowl of food more attractive than my duties of responsibility and respect of others. This created internal conflict within me and for a whole year at home, waiting to enter university, I had to adjust in order to fit into the family.
Finally I gained my “freedom” when I entered university. Now I decided what I would eat and became attached to more refined Western foods. I only became aware of the dangers of my eating habits when I felt sick and was advised by a physician to avoid certain foods that I considered healthy and modern. Then I began to appreciate what my grandmother used to prepare for us. I vividly remember my grandmother preparing a meal consisting of a leaf, called “Zoogala gandi” in the Hausa language, mixed with “gari” and oil which, according to her, she inherited from her great-grandparents. After boiling the leaf, she sieved the leaf to separate the solid part from the liquid. As children, we sipped the leftover liquid, an action that received no reprimands from my grandmother because she knew its medicinal value. About ten years later, after I had graduated from university and was teaching in the city, I heard of a wonder plant called “moringa”, which according to scientists cures several diseases. The leaves are dried and ground and the powdered form sold to schools, corporate organizations and individuals in Ghana to incorporate into their food. Our school decided to purchase the seedlings to plant on our school compound. To my utmost surprise, the wonder plant was none other than “Zoogala gandi”, which we were exposed to years earlier. I wondered how my great- grandparents had such knowledge even before scientists could attest to the potency of that plant.
The connection between people and food was demonstrated by Prof Wane during one of her classes for the „Cultural Knowledges, Representation and Colonial Education‟ course offered at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto in the fall of 2013. As part of a presentation, my group decided to do an exhibition to conceptualize our topic “Museumization and showcasing of cultures”. A colleague brought specie of pepper from Chile which is also common in most parts of Africa and Caribbean. At the end of our presentation, we asked people to comment or ask questions regarding our presentation. Surprisingly, among the entire exhibits, the one that caught the attention of most students who originated from Caribbean and Africa was the pepper. Most of the “after presentation” discussions centered on the pepper. Many students showed how the pepper had re-connected them to their ancestral home and brought back some memories which go to show the relevance of food to our culture. Finally, my last connection to this topic was the experience I had in my high school days. I sat in agricultural class where I was taught the origin of almost all the major food crops that we consume today in Ghana. According to the textbooks, these food crops either originated from Europe or the Americas. As young students our point of interest was how to memorize the botanical (scientific) names of these crops to prove to our colleagues doing non-science courses that we were of a different breed. The dexterity with which we mentioned the scientific names in a European accent was admired by our non-science colleagues. But what never occurred to us was to ask the question, if all these food crops originated from Europe or the Americas, what did our forefathers eat before coming into contact with Europeans in 1400?
The argument that perhaps they were eating from the wild does not hold, because indigenous groups like the Akans, prior to their encounter with Europeans, had the names of the months depicting the various cropping seasons. Again many Ghanaian festivals, which existed prior to the coming of the Europeans, are observed to commemorate food harvesting; for instance the “Akumaase” and “Damba” festivals usher in the harvest of yam. “Homowo” (meaning hooting at hunger) of the Ga tribe was another that established the value of Indigenous crops (millet). These examples are ample evidence that they were cultivating food crops before coming into contact with the Europeans. Thus the question is: What were they cultivating? How reliable were those foods? The silencing and non-promotion of indigenous crops is the legacy of the colonizer/colonized relationship established by the British, in which the colonial masters saw everything Indigenous as inferior and needing to be replaced. By our African tradition and culture, a
foreigner or a visitor is supposed to eat what he/she is given by the local people and not to impose his/her food and culture on the locals.
1.6 Limitations of the Study
The study drew largely on secondary source data from peer reviewed documents and studies. Secondly, in tracing the origin of major foods in Africa, the study focused on crops rather than animals for two main reasons: first, crops are more widely consumed in Africa than animal products, and secondly, there is a more substantial availability of credible documents on the introduction of crops into Africa compared to the scanty documentation available on animals. The food crops considered in the study are mainly cereal grains, legumes, roots and tubers and vegetables. Fruits are not considered in order to have a specific focus on staples and vegetables, which are the major food items in Ghana. Secondly, consumption of fruits is very low in Ghana and many policies aimed at increasing fruit consumption have yielded no positive results due to exorbitant prices of fruit in Ghana (de-Graft Aikins, Boynton, & Atanga, 2010).
1.7 Organization of the Study
This thesis is organized into five main chapters. Chapter one is sub-divided into eight sections, with the first section giving the background of the study. Section two highlights the problems under investigation; section three provides the aims and objectives that guide the conduct of this study and section four justifies the relevance of this study to policy makers and individuals. Section five, which looks at personal location, explains what motivated or brought the author to the topic. Section six looks at the limitations of the study by defining scope of the study – what is covered and what is not covered. Section seven highlights the structure of the study, and finally section eight, which concludes Chapter One, explains the key phrases or terminologies used in the study. Chapter Two of this thesis reviews relevant literature linked to the specific objectives of the study, including the historical origin of major staples in Africa, ethical considerations in tradition food production, changing food habits in Africa and Ghana, and others. Chapter Three provides the theoretical framework of the study and discusses the methodology used to accomplish this research. Chapter Four draws on the documents reviewed to discuss the findings of this study and lastly, Chapter Five draws conclusions and recommendations based on the findings of this study.
1.8 Definitions and operationalization of key phrases
The key phrases or terminologies in this study are: “African Indigenous food crop”, “chronic diseases” and “westernization of eating habits”. Their meanings as used in the context of this thesis are discussed below.
1.8.1 African Indigenous Food Crops
The phrase Indigenous food crops is used to refer to food crops that are indigenous to a particular region or introduced to the region from another geographical area, but have been used over a long period of time (Engle, Shanmugasundaran, & Hanson, 2003). African Indigenous food crops are sometimes referred to as traditional food crops or vegetables. Smith and Eyzaguirre (2007) distinguished Indigenous food crops from Traditional food crops of Africa. They explained that Indigenous food crops are those that have their natural habitat in Sub-Saharan Africa, while traditional food crops were introduced over centuries ago and due to long use, have become part of the food culture in the sub-continent (Smith and & Eyzaquire, 2007). Some of the characteristics of Indigenous or tradition food crops include: grown locally on small scale, often resistant to local diseases and pests, withstand environmental stress and well adapted to the local climate.
Based on the definitions of Indigenous and traditional food crops of Africa, as borrowed from Smith and Eyzaquire (2007), we can classify African crops such as millet, sorghum, African rice, yam (several species), black eyed beans, sesame, okra, Bambara groundnut, oil palm, as well as several species of African green leafy vegetables (both wild and cultivated) as Indigenous crops. Other crops that were introduced over centuries and adapted to the local climate such as cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onion, pepper and others can be classified as traditional crops. Crops such as carrot, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, and radish, are among those called exotic crop; they were introduced recently and are not well adapted to the African climate. For example, crops that cannot produce seeds in a tropical climate can be classified as exotic crops. However, in this thesis the term “Indigenous food crop” is used to refer to crops of African origin that are undergoing extinction. Nevertheless, the phrase “Indigenous foods” or “Indigenous food crop” and “traditional foods” or “traditional food crops” will be used interchangeably to mean endangered crops of Africa.
1.8.2 Chronic Diseases
According to the Government of Australia (2012), chronic diseases are ailments with a prolonged duration, do not occur spontaneously, and are rarely cured completely. Chronic diseases are complex and varied in terms of their nature, causes and impacts on individuals and communities. The common examples of chronic diseases are non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Globally, the phrase non-communicable diseases is“used in opposition to „infectious‟ or communicable diseases (CDs)” (Whyte, 2012, p. 65). The prototypes of NCDs are cardiovascular conditions (heart disease, hypertension, and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory conditions and type 2 diabetes (Daar et al., 2007). Other chronic diseases include epilepsy and sickle cell anemia. The health implications of chronic diseases are twofold: while some chronic diseases are responsible for premature death, others result in permanent disability (Whyte, 2012). However, in this thesis, chronic diseases refer to diet-related non-communicable diseases that are known as ‘life diseases’ and associated with eating habits and a sedentary life style, including CVDs, cancers, osteoporosis and diabetes.
1.8.3 Westernization of Eating Habits
Throughout history and in contemporary times people adopt different food items, modes of food preparation, and ways of serving and eating particular foods, which were previously not part of their food culture. The change in tastes and food preferences is influenced by cultural contacts through migration, urbanization, trade, change in religious membership or beliefs – a pork eater converts to Islam or Judaism, and/or a person becomes a vegetarian – and others. Adoption and diffusion of food has occurred in every part of the world. For example, food items such as coffee from Africa and tea from Asia contributed significantly to the development of the Western world through making the West and the North the industrial hub of the world (Claxon, n.d.). For instance, beer, the chief beverage in pre-industrial Europe, created a tradition of heavy drinking resulting in very low productivity.
However, when the industrial revolution began in Europe in the 19th century, they needed an alternative beverage to replace beer and keep the labour force active and
productive. Coffee from Ethiopia and tea from China, which became available in Europe in the 17th century, were promoted by a social movement dubbed “temperance campaigners” who support abstinence from alcoholic beverages (Grigg, 2003, p. 283). Both coffee and tea contain caffeine, which stimulates the central nervous system, reduces sleepiness and increases vigilance; this is the opposite of the effects of beer. Coffee and tea therefore provide an important focus for European social life. Potato from America (specifically Peru) was introduced into Europe and became the chief food in Europe. In the 19th century (between 1845 and 1852), the potato crop failure in Ireland resulted in the death of about one million Irish people and the mass migration of another million Irish people to various part of the world (Rose, 2002).
Colonization of African saw the introduction of crops such as maize and cassava, which later became the chief foods in Africa. Colonization and occupation of the Americas also brought farm animals such as cattle, sheep and goats into a continent where these animals were extinct after the retreat of the glaciers (Brands et al., 2011). Adoption and diffusion of food have therefore been part of human history; however, they become problematic when characterized in terms of coercion, exploitation and health complications.
All in all, the Westernization of eating habits is essentially refers to a high intake of food additives such as salt and sugar, high consumption of meat and meat products, and a low consumption of plant based foods, with an excess consumption of canned and fast foods (processed foods). It also includes a high intake of alcoholic beverages such as beer, whisky and wine, which became part of the food culture of Europe during the second agricultural revolution in the late 18th century (Trowell, 1981). Therefore in this thesis, Westernization of eating habits is used to mean excessive intake of food that contains high amounts of salt, sugar and fat, along with alcoholic beverages associated with modernization and civilization and a low intake of the plant based food that formed traditional eating habits
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