Business News of 2014-09-03

Livelihoods on the edge over Ebola

"Store up water in preparedness when you see a neighbour’s house on fire” is a common proverb in Ghana that has been triggered with the outbreak of the Ebola Viral Disease in some West African countries.
Although Ghana is fortunate not to have recorded a single case of any type of viral haemorrhagic fevers, commonly referred to as the Ebola so far, the mere news of the disease being so close has ruined the livelihoods of some Ghanaians who earn their living by selling game, popularly known in Ghana as ‘bush meat’.
Warnings from health authorities that dead animals are not to be consumed have run down the business of traders in ‘bush meat’ across the value chain. These include hunters, wholesalers, retailers, bar operators and bush meat kebab retailers along some major trunk roads across the country.
Winneba Junction in the Central Region, a major commercial centre for ‘bush meat,' has seen very little activity since the recent outbreak of the disease. It used to bustle with the hawking of grass cutter kebab, while some wholesalers of the local delicacy also plied their trade, but the Ebola viral disease scare has left the people in the vicinity struggling to make meaningful sales each day.
Checks by the GRAPHIC BUSINESS indicated that from about 14 persons who hawked the delicious fresh grass cutter kebab, only two women are still in the business and each of them struggles to make as little as Ghc30 sales each day.
Madam Abena Anyefi said she had been selling the kebab for over 30 years at Winneba Junction. She makes about Ghc100 sales a day from the grasscutter business which helped her look after her nine children and with the help of her husband, she had also put up their own residential apartment.
Owing to the Ebola scare, she now struggles to make Ghc10 sales a day. Her colleagues retailing octopus, groundnuts, bread and abolo – a maize meal – are having a field’s day by making more sales.
“I have been doing this work for over 30 years and looked after all my children in school. One of them is a university graduate and is working in a reputable company. The last born is now in a senior high school,” Madam Anyefi told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS.
She said when people stop to buy khebab and they realise it is grasscutter meat, they drive off.
Madam Adwoa Amoakowaa, who has also been in the ‘bush meat’ business for over 35 years, had four customers who bought bulky stock from her to retail in Accra.
“Some clients used to buy between Ghc100 and Ghc150 daily, but now they have stopped coming so I also didn’t have any option than to quit the business. I am now forced to sell fried fish which is not lucrative at all,” she lamented.
Another trader, Madam Adwoa Ankomah has actually done well for herself and family with what she called “my lifetime business.” Her 10 to 15-room compound house has the inscription “Kae me bre”; to wit “remember my suffering," suggesting the hard work and enduring in the ‘bush meat’ business for a long time.
Madam Ankomah usually prepares the grass cutter khebab in bulk for retailers both in the local market and other big cities such as Accra, Cape Coast and Takoradi but the time of the visit, her deep freezer was still stocked with fresh and processed grasscutter for want of buyers.
“As I talk to you now, all the meat I bought and prepared is still in the refrigerator as the buyers don’t come any longer. I had six customers who used to buy from me in bulk and sell, but they have all stopped coming,” she said.
The story is not different in Ekumfiman which is dotted with villages such as Ekumfi Dunkwa, Ekumfi Eyisam and Mankessim, as the GRAPHIC BUSINESS team saw that several spots that were previously awash with bush meat were now completely empty.
At Mankessim, the team met an 18-year-old senior high school student, Master Saed Dauda, who during vacations assists his elder brother to sell bushmeat along the Mankessim-Accra Highway. This helps him to raise funds for his upkeep in school.
Dauda told the team that he used to sell between seven and eight carcasses a day but now struggles to sell three in the whole week now.
“The cars stop and passengers make fun of us, calling us ‘Ebola people’. Now that the business has collapsed, I will have to depend on my relatives for my fees. Since the issue of Ebola was raised three months ago, we have not sold even 10 grasscutters,” he revealed.
Previously, hunters sold each carcass for Ghc50, but Dauda said though they now bought them for Ghc25, that slash in price was yet to influence their sales.
The Ebola scare has affected sales at ‘chop bars’ as well.
Madam Akosua Gyamfi, an operator of a chop bar at Abossey Okai, popular for its delicious bush meat dishes, said she used to sell all kinds of bush meat including grasscutter, deer, monkey and antelope.
She said the bush meat was very expensive because she sourced them from villages that were far from Accra and therefore attracted additional cost.
“The prices ranged from Ghc5 to Ghc10 but If you visited my bar around 12 noon, it will be difficult for you to get some of the bush meat to buy. However, since the announcement that bush meat causes Ebola, not even a single customer has been here to ask of bush meat," she said.
“Customers’ preferences have changed from bush meat to goat meat and dried fish so we did not have any choice than to stop selling it,” she added.
Another chop bar operator, Mrs Deborah Appiah, also said she used to sell bushmeat in her bar on Thursdays only and people usually placed orders even before then to avoid missing out but she had to stop selling for lack of patronage.
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has explained that the fact bats were carriers of the Ebola virus did not mean every bat had the virus.
The Focal Person for International Health Regulations and Co-ordinator of Port Health, Mr Michael Jeroen Adjabeng, explained that it was only through the movement of bats and contact with them that the virus could be passed on to either animals or human beings.
“Beyond that, humans also got into contact with animals through handling and chopping them into pieces to prepare our meals, and that is where the risk is; not the boiled animal as we have them in our soups. So instead of fearing the cooked meat, we should even fear the one who handles the uncooked meat.
“If handled safely, then we as humans will be protected. But if you are not sure and you think avoidance is what you want to do for now, then this option is also good,” he explained.
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