Market queens

The heat, the colours, the smells - people sell their fruits on the sides of every road. The warm air of tropical days brings around a varied combination of scents; from fruits, bits of food grilled over charcoal and dust, and urine and sweat. Kids cut coconuts in no time, fresh and juicy, and the mangos lying on the ground are sticky and ripe. 

Fruits & veggies at Madina Market

Market queens
I've spent quite time recently at the crowded main markets to get a general idea of the traditional trading and distribution system here, then also to speak with market sellers and to collect data for our consumer surveys.  But first, we had to speak with the market queens. Those ladies are very powerful and not to be messed around with. They constitute a strong cartel of market traders that controls the distribution network of products in the country,  and are the direct link between rural farmer producers and urban consumption. Often they are chosen by personal qualities, as well as age, emotional reliability, familiarity with market affairs, and skills in negotiation and dispute settlement. 

They didn't seem to be bothered by our presence (to say the least!) so we were able to sit down with some food and drinks to approach consumers.

Dada collection in Agbogbloshie Market 

The Madina experience

The first couple of weeks have been a rich immersion in Ghanaian customs and lifestyle; starting with learning some twi, cooking local dishes (!) and of course, taking tro-tros to local markets in the city. This was also an important part of the research, familiarizing with the environment meeting market sellers and chatting about their routine.

Mr Gunku, playing Bakita at the Craft Center

I remember meeting a merchant in Madina who was the first to teach me that people's name here correspond to the day they were born (with small variations according to their ethnic group). Because he was Akan and born on a friday, his name is Kofi. Our conversation gathered quite a curious crowd, but my attention was caught by a seemingly heated argument two ladies were having not too far from us about Dumsor - the persistent, irregular and unpredictable electric power outages that silence the city every so often. Both were outraged at this situation and its implication on Ghanaian economy, but one seemed rather hopeful that Mahamma's big new-year promise might bring a change to this country. As an Obruni foreigner, it's not always easy being integrated in the 'real-stuff' discussions, so I laid quiet to watch the scene. Then Kofi leaned over and spoke of the NDC and the NPP opposition. "Here - he says - it's always good knowing who supports what.."

Learning the strings & meeting the team

Brief introduction of the invaluable team here without whom we'd have no mini-livestock to start with!

This is Emmanuel Kwakye (corner right), he's been working at ARI for the past 13 years and has a strong background in Insect Production Systems. He knows the city&fields like the back of his hand is a passionate communicator. We'll be working together on the survey and interview part of this research.

To his left, Pierre-Olivier Maquart, our entomologist and phd student at the University of Stirling. He is in charge to scale up the project and identifies new substrates to feed the flies, tests their nutrient composition and then the maggots’ nutrient after being fed with them. Notice here in the picture the coffee coloured BSF grubs? These are the pre-pupae; and they're getting ready to turn into grown adults. At this final stage, BSF naturally crawl up the cement ramp to find a good site for pupation and ultimately drop to the other side where we can collect them. But more on that later.

Meanwhile (bottom right), I'm just playing around with dried fruits from the market. Once all of it has been broken down to pieces, we can send the samples to Stirling where they can compare the results of our field and lab trials.

Down in the middle here is Deborah Ampomah, our trained technician from ProteInsect. Her past experience was in Ashaiman on the previous experimental site and now she is our is our eyes and ears on the BSF rearing site.

And last but not least Gabriel Adu-Aboagye. He is our research scientist at CSIR-ARI and is the supervisor in charge of the Poultry feeding trials with the Black Soldier Fly.

I cannot be grateful enough for the warm welcome everyone has given me since my arrival. It wasn't long before we'd done a grand-tour of the whole neighbourhood. Now, time to get hands on the field..

Introduction of the project

Here at the Animal Research Institute (ARI), there are quite a few projects going on. Ours' focuses on two major livelihood challenges facing fast growing, urbanising Africa: enhancing food security and sanitary waste disposal. With a key research question in mind, we're trying to evaluate whether an approach to agricultural waste transformation through Black Soldier Fly (BSF) and bio-fertiliser production can promote pro-poor and particularly female employment opportunities. In this area, there's already been some research directed at the use of insect-derived feed materials in fish feeds, but we still have to develop commercial-scale insect production systems under local on-farm conditions.


Welcome to Ghana,

We're a long way from home and the journey is just beginning. This blog is meant to provide a small window onto the work we are conducting here. If you are interested in food security and insect farming, market research or perhaps even West-African culture; then I hope those brief updates will transmit the charm of this experience. But first, I must say that I am only stepping into a much larger pool here and cannot understate the efforts that have already gone into making this possible. I'm grateful that I can be here, and will look forward to bringing a small contribution to a very complex global challenge.