UNSpecial N° 630 — Juin – June 2004

Palm tree in Ghana: Source of civilization

Gertrude Nimako-Boateng 
Photos: Pierre Virot, WHO

The palm tree is one of the sources of civilization in Ghana. Grown in the rain- forest regions, it can be put to several uses.

The palm fruit when ripe, is red in colour, soft and juicy. Inside the fruit is a big hard substance which in turn contains the palm kernel. The palm tree is so tall and spiky that to harvest the ripe fruits, one has to climb a ladder to reach the top. The bunch of fruits is then cut down with cutlass and each fruit is painstakingly removed from the spiky bunch. The flesh of the palm fruit is soft and yellow and is used for making the following: Palm soup – very delicious ; Palm oil – for cooking ; The palm kernel is used also for making oil which is different from palm oil. In addition to using them for cooking, palm oil and palm kernel oils can be used for making soap either for washing or bathing. Palm kernel oil is used for treating skin sores especially in the villages. Even the rubbish obtained from processing the palm fruit is useful. The husk and palm kernel shells are used for lighting fire in the villages.

The branches of the palm tree are used for weaving baskets for carrying goods and the leaves are used for making brooms and weaving mats. In large quantities, the palm branches can be used to cover the top of mud houses in the villages. After harvesting the fruits, the palm tree can be used for brewing palm wine. The tree is cut down and holes are made in the trunk through which the wine drips into a big earthen pot. The first collection of palm wine is very sweet and women like it a lot. However, since drinking is normally considered a male rather than female tradition, palm wine is brewed mostly for men. As a result, to attract male customers, brewers make fire under the pot to heat the wine to a certain temperature to make it alcoholic. Like any alcoholic beverage, drinking too much of palm wine makes ones “head turn”, that is, drunk.