Title

FOOD AND DRINK: PALM OIL VERSUS PALM WINE IN COLONIAL GHANA

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-2016

Department

Department of Social Sciences

Abstract

The oil palm tree has provided West African communities with useful products for millenia. For the last two centuries, it has alos given the rest of the world vast quantities of fatty material, first used for soap and grease and later for food. For most of the nineteenth century, these two scales of production and consumption – one local, one global – were complementary. This paper focuses on a controversy which developed in the colonial Gold Coast (modern Ghana) over the future of the palm oil industry. In the first half of the twentieth century, new technologies made exports of edible palm oil feasible, offering West African producers access to a rapidly-growing world market for fat. Most Gold Coast farmers ignored the palm oil industry, however, focusing on cocoa and other crops. Instead of intensifying the cultivation and harvesting of oil palm trees, many tree owners opted to convert them into palm wine, meeting a vibrant local demand for drink.

Publication Title

Commodities of Empire

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