Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Ghana: take 70,900 metric tons of frozen chicken, add politics

A billboard advertising chicken in Accra, Ghana. By alew on Flickr
By Jim Sumberg and John Thompson
Convenors, STEPS Centre Livestock project

The well known expression – that [something] is ‘as likely as turkeys voting for Christmas’ – makes an intriguing and to date poorly understood link between poultry and electoral politics. But in some parts of the world, poultry has a wider significance for how both voters and politicians behave.

During some recent field work in Accra, Ghana, while researching pathways to sustainability in the poultry sector, we took the opportunity to conduct a series of rapid, opportunistic ‘interviews’ with taxi drivers. Our focus was on chicken consumption: the last time they ate chicken; the way it was prepared; the origin of the chicken; how often they eat chicken etc.

The ‘sample’ was 24 male taxi drivers aged between approximately 25 and 50 working in the nation’s capital. We obviously make no claim that these respondents are in any way representative of consumers at large. Nevertheless, a number of interesting points emerged:
  1. While nearly all the taxi drivers reported eating chicken, and some several times a week, nearly two thirds of our informants expressed a preference for fish. They also noted that fish had become more expensive in recent years.
  2. Most had fairly well developed views and preferences in regard to the different qualities (price, flavour, texture, ‘hardness’ or ‘softness’) of different kinds of chicken (e.g. frozen imported, ‘fresh local’ or ‘village’). While many expressed a preference for ‘fresh local’ or ‘village’ chicken, the relatively low price of imported frozen chicken (which can be less than half the price of local chicken) weighs heavily in its favour.
  3. Most expressed a preference for a particular chicken ‘part’, with thighs being the most commonly identified. One young man explained this choice by saying: ‘that piece is a heavy meat’. (Thighs seem to account for a large proportion of the estimated 70,900 metric tons of frozen chicken imported into Ghana annually). Only one said he had no preference and could not tell which part he was eating.
  4. A number of taxi drivers highlighted the fact that when they were children they consumed chicken only very occasionally: one told us that in those days in the village his family ate chicken and jollof rice only once in a year – at Christmas. This shift in consumption appears to be specific to chicken as opposed to all forms of meat. Few of the taxi drivers mentioned either recently eating or having a preference for other kinds of meat (beef, goat, pork, etc).
  5. The ‘turn to chicken’ may have an important generational element, with young people giving chicken a central place on their plates. In the words of our research assistant, a recent university graduate, ‘I cannot even remember the last time I ate beef’’. He frequents ‘chicken and chips’ shops and other fast food eateries, as do his friends.
  6. Health and safety concerns were very apparent. The fact that you could never be sure where the frozen chicken came from or how long it has been frozen arose several times. A number of our informants linked their preference for local or imported chicken, and particular chicken parts, to fat content. They also mentioned radio, newspaper and internet stories about foreign operators having purchased sick and dead birds and dressed them for sale in Ghana, or chicken parts being injected with preservatives or water before being imported.
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Thursday, 15 November 2012

"Pastoralism" book launch, 29 November, London

On 29 November, we're launching the book Pastoralism and Development in Africa with a panel debate and drinks reception in Central London, held in association with the Royal African Society.

Book launch
Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins

edited by Andy Catley, Jeremy Lind and Ian Scoones
29 November 2012
London House Large Common Room
Goodenough College
Mecklenburgh Square
London WC1N 2AB
6.00 pm, followed by refreshments

To register, email Harriet Dudley:

Chaired by Dr Camilla Toulmin
Director, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

Dr Jeremy Lind (Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex) and Prof Hussein Mahmoud (Pwani University College, Kenya) will present some key themes from the book. Prof Katherine Homewood (University College London) and Dr Zeremariam Fre (Executive Director, Pastoral and Environmental Network for the Horn of Africa – PENHA) will respond.  Followed by open discussion. 

For more information, see the event page on the STEPS Centre website.

This book is part of the STEPS Centre's Pathways to Sustainability book series. Read more