Story: Esi Arhin Turkson, ACCRA
MAJOR markets in the country stock filth as a common commodity for trade. A casual walk through many of – – the country’s local markets would witness vomit inducing stench, hordes of buzzing flies and mounds of filth both small and large in walkways in between stalls and shops.
One’s instinct may be either to flee or hurry out of the often over-congested market places. One has little or no desire left to take time and leisurely or otherwise peruse what foodstuffs or products are available on display for sale.
Shopping in our local market is a grab-and-go affair. One simply hurries out of there.
Insanitary conditions prevailing at Ghana’s local markets may also be robbing traders of income because most shoppers just don’t feel comfortable in the kind of environment market places provide, causing more and more shoppers to shop wayside stalls and table top operators.
In a recent interview with EcoWatch with some shoppers in five of the capital’s markets — Makola, Madina, Dome, Lapaz and Ashaiman, the customers said they patronise the market only when they must, although commodities are relatively cheaper in the markets. The reasons being that shopping in the market is hectic and unpleasant, as there the stench is too much to bear.
One shopper at Makola, drenched in sweat from walking under the scorching sun, struggling with her extra shopping bags that wouldn’t ft on the hired ‘kayayoo’s’ load, lamented that navigating the market alone was a huge struggle.
“Yes it is true that I make some savings, however little when I shop directly from the market. But depending on what my needs are, I avoid shopping from the market like the plague, as much as I can. It is too stressful. The filth and awful smell make matters worse. Shopping here is far too much of an enduring experience. So as often as possible I just buy from my area. Prices of some commodities are higher but I prefer it to avoid all this ‘wahala’ (trouble),” she said.
Traders from diverse markets complained to EcoWatch that fewer and fewer people are entering markets to shops, citing congestion and filth as part of the reasons markets are becoming increasingly unappealing to customers.
A trader who has sold at the Madina market for more than two decades had this to say when asked why fewer people may be making less use of the market currently.
“Stench from blocked manholes and over-clogged gutters with all manner of filth and generally dirty surroundings is keeping shoppers and potential customers away. It is becoming increasingly difficult even for us. We leave our homes and come and sit in filth. It is not our fault. Waste generated can sometimes sit here for so long. The Assembly needs to do better. This is affecting our business in the worst way. Just look around.” She pointed to a pile of rubbish sitting not far from her stall.
Poor sanitation as identified by both traders and customers alike may well be hurting Ghana’s economy as it affects collection of taxes.
Most petty traders who set up shop in front of their homes or shipping container shops fast expand their business in their neighbourhoods as demand for their services rapidly increases.
Although a lot of these businesses thrive to become main income earners for families they are unregistered, untracked, unmonitored and therefore no taxes are paid by them.
Some home-operated businesses make more than traders at the market yet traders are levied whiles they are not, getting away from their tax responsibilities as citizens.
But are they to blame?
Traders at other markets including Dome, Ashaiman and Madina also complained of poor sanitation. The government has said many times about its commitment to improving sanitation, yet the challenge seems to be huge in the markets.
“ I am not seeing anything. A lot of places are still dirty. Nana Addo , please let’s see your show. I know you can,” One fishmonger at Madina market commented.
Elsewhere, investing in well planned markets with ultra-modern facilities is considered one of government’s key projects not just for revenue generation but most importantly as a booster of revenue collection for the state.
In recent years, Ghana has spent millions of cedis to renovate and revamp some local market infrastructure across the country yet the environment in which this new infrastructures sits is drowned in filth.
But Ecowatch found out that the Dome market looked relatively cleaner as compared to the others. A trader gave a glimpse of the reason “ Each trader is responsible for sweeping their area of operation. We sweep before we set up shop. In the cause of the day if the rubbish we have generated is too much we sweep up and pay for the ‘bola’ carts to come take it away. I have been here for five years and this is how we’ve been getting it done.”
Yet, in spite of their efforts, a walk through the market showed that it is far from acceptable standards of cleanliness as one sights piles of rubbish here and there.
It is thus very critical that local assemblies although challenged in many ways should find solutions to the challenge in order that we can buy from clean environments to forestall carrying diseases home while we feed ourselves.