As the sun slowly glides along the horizon and sets in the West, the main neighbourhood charcoal-grilled tilapia and banku ‘joint’ in Ashaley Botwe, a suburb of Accra, comes alive.
Smoke from the charcoal-filled grilling stands slowly disperse into the atmosphere, bringing with it the welcoming smell of freshly grilled tilapia. Dozens of customers queue to buy the spicy tilapia and banku every evening.
This is just one of the many set-ups that serve the charcoal-grilled tilapia and banku every evening in the capital Accra and other major towns and cities across the country that is helping to keep the business of charcoal production alive.
Charcoal production is a major source of income for small holder farmers in rural Ghana. But its negative impact on the environment has forced successive governments to find ways of getting more households to switch to the use of gas for cooking. Unfortunately, the adoption rate has been rather slow.
Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate that about 80% of Ghanaians still use charcoal for cooking.
A charcoal trader, who prefers to remain anonymous, standing by KIA pick-up truck heavily loaded with charcoal, told the B&FT that the preference for charcoal grilled tilapia and banku in major urban areas is keeping the business of charcoal production alive.
“We are coming from Damongo. A sack of charcoal (standard size) is now selling for GH₵35. Though the price has gone up a bit, there is still demand for it. People buy to grill tilapia for sale or to cook banku at home, something they cannot do in large quantity on their gas cookers,” he said.
Charcoal, which is made but cutting down fully grown tress and burning it for days to obtain the bye product—crispy pieces of burnt wood—largely for cooking and, in some limited instances, for medicinal purposes, has been a major cause of the accelerating rate of deforestation in the country.
Forest degradation rate
The FAO, as part of its State of the World’s Forests 2016 (SOFO) Ghana study noted that the country had a total forest area of 8,627,402 ha in 1990 and 9,195,137 in 2010 has gone through varying rates of degradation over the 25 years between closed and open forest.
From 1990 – 2000 Ghana closed forest degraded by 387,256 ha and 531,364 ha from 2000 – 2010. Between 2000 and 2010, the closed forest reduced from 2,317166 ha to 1,785,802.
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