Anyone who knows me very well can easily trace my roots to the old Palm Wine Pot adjacent Dzodze Roman Catholic School.
Behind that pot is an 86 year old woman, Victoria Womewonya Akpablie, who has been there dispersing the coconut- milk- like drink into the empty calabashes of her constituents, who always lick their lips in satisfaction.
She has been in this business long before I was conceived.
Folks who had their education in the town had to admit they have at least once in their student's life skipped lessons just to have a feast around my granny's pot.
Palm wine was once the town's main social drink, an almost mandatory offer at events like weddings and concerts.
When fermented and distilled, palm sap produces a drink that stands out in the family of liquors; Akpeteshie. A glass of that sprite leaves its patrons drumming their chest and frowning their faces after consuming it.
Growing up, my grandmother told me how actively they were involved in the oil palm business and how lucrative the business was. She said anyone who owned a palm plantation owned canoes, clothing, food, drink and habitation for himself, and a heritage for his children.
I grew up witnessing the profound contributions of the humble and versatile oil palm to the betterment of many lives. Indeed, the oil palm industry was unique to the people of Dzodze.
In the early days, Dzodze was among the few towns in Ghana that had considerable oil palm plantation and actively featured as a producer of most palm products.
The Palm oil, Palm kernel oil, Palm wine, Local Dry Gin (Akpeteshie), Palm fronds for baskets and roofs were all produced in Dzodze to feed the nation and for exports. Dzodze is one of the few towns in Ghana where you can see multiple palm trees growing out of a single palm trunk.
The palm oil market was based on naturally regenerated groves of oil palms. The town in its formative years was surrounded by thick forest of oil palm which shielded them from regional warfare and slave trade activities.
An increase in population growth created more demands for land for subsistence farming, which limited the space available for oil palm cultivation. Collection of palm wine necessitates felling of the tree.
Both of these factors led to a decrease in the number of harvestable palm trees. Unfortunately, little or no efforts were made by successive governments to revive the palm industry in the area.
Those who have been involved in the business were kicked out. Some resorted to smuggling of goods from nearby Togo into the country while majority of their youth have resort to illegal commercial motorbike business.
Research has shown that, once planted, the oil palm can produce fruit for more than 30 years, providing much-needed employment for poor rural communities. The oil palm fruit produces two distinct oils, which are palm oil and palm kernel oil, which is used for cooking, and also used for the production of food products, detergents, cosmetics and in some cases biofuel.
With an increasing global demand for the crop, leading producers like Indonesia and Malaysia are benefiting immensely. Interestingly, Malaysia, which is currently dominating the world palm oil market, started the establishment of oil palm plantations with planting materials from Ghana.
Sadly enough, Ghana, a country like Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Cote D'Ivoire, which are among the few nations in the world with lands suitable for palm cultivation, now lives in past glory.
The economic relevance of the palm industry cannot be underestimated. In Indonesia, oil palm industry generates over $12.4 billion in foreign exchange, and employs about 2 million Indonesians. Oil palm in Malaysia adds 5-6 % contribution to their GDP.
Ghana produces 243,852mt of Crude Palm Oil, and with a local demand of over 295,000 mt annually; a lot more deficit to battle with to think of even exporting.
The existence of local market indicates that, Dzodze, and the other Oil Palm cultivation areas including some areas in Krobo, and the Western and Central Regions, still has the potential which needs pragmatic efforts to revive it.
Unfortunately, not much is being done to rejuvenate the palm industry in Ghana.
The Chiefs and people of Dzodze through proceeds from their annual Deza (Palm) Festival, have acquired over 56 acres farmland for cultivation of palm trees. The challenge however is the inadequate capital and unavailability of seedlings to plant.
They are just as many other viable towns need help. It could be a government sponsored project or a public private partnership; what is important is that, nothing can be too small for anyone who really needs help.
The sites where multiple palm trees grew on a single truck, must be developed to become tourist attraction sites for revenue generation.
The old lady's pot contains a liquid high in amino acids, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron and some vitamin B1, B2, B3, and B6, which are all beneficial to the body. It must not be left empty.
Let's find a place for the Palm trees to grow!!
On this note, I specially invite you to this year's Deza( Palm Festival) of the people of Dzodze which starts from Friday 23rd September to Saturday 1st October.
By: King Nobert Akpablie/citifmonline.com/Ghana
Email: [email protected]