This morning we visited the fish market. As someone who likes to cook, markets are always fascinating. This one didn’t fail to impress, with a cassava fish (a long, narrow, white fish which I hadn’t heard of before) that weighed more than 9 lbs! The stall we went to was run by an astute business woman who employed four other women. You can also order delivery, in which case your fish will arrive in a taxi. We watched with admiration as the women, one of whom had a baby wrapped to her back, expertly scaled and filleted the 35 lbs of fish that our host family ordered.
Outside we took in the market as a whole; about four customers with large cars buying loads of fish amongst about 20 stalls. Men and women presented to us pans of shiny mackerel, shrimp that looked about 9 inches long, and lemons to accompany the seafood. A couple of curious boys scoped us out and returned our waves with shy smiles.
We turned to the back of the market and caught a glimpse beyond it. Sewage. A big, black swamp of sewage and trash. And then, alongside it, one-room houses pieced together with different materials. Now that we are in the rainy season, it wouldn’t be surprising for the swamp to overflow into the houses, just a few feet away. These were the residences of the fishing community, the women filleting our fish, the baby strapped the mother’s back, the children waving at us, and their fathers and husbands who took small boats out into high waves to catch the fish. It’s not surprising, given that we’re a country where 30% of the population lives below $1.25 a day and 54% lives below $2.00 a day. But I find it overwhelmingly sad. How much opportunity is there for any of those little boys, bellies already swollen with parasites, to ever live in a place that is not alongside a river of sludge? These are not conditions of basic human rights and decency. Can you imagine how many hundreds of lives would be improved by cleaning up that swamp? Or any of those found throughout Africa and developing countries around the world? It makes me have a profound appreciation for my friend who is embarking on a life’s work of researching trash, beginning with a Fulbright in India this fall.
The fishermen face political challenges apart from their living conditions. Chinese fishing boats trawl the coast of Accra, scooping up many more fish than the small fishing boats can, and depleting the stocks on which Ghanaian fisherman depend.