Climate and Weather
Climate is a word that means the type of weather a place gets most of the time. In Connecticut, we have a climate with four seasons and temperatures that change quite a bit from very cold, to very warm in summer. We get equal amounts of precipitation in every season. We expect cold weather in winter and hot weather in summer. We also know that the weather could change very quickly from day to day and of course, from season to season.
Ghana’s location close to the equator is one of the most important factors that determines the weather and creates a very warm climate. Temperatures are usually high at all times throughout the entire country. The average temperatures are between 26 degrees Celsius and 29 degrees Celsius. This is equivalent to 79 degrees to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Especially in the northern part of the country, it tends to be very hot for most of the year. (Library of Congress)
There are two main air masses that also significantly affect the weather in Ghana. The continental air mass and the maritime tropical air mass each move toward the equator with the trade winds and bring seasonal changes. The area where these two air masses approach the equator is called a convergence zone, which moves north and south seasonally. (Encyclopedia Brittanica, 2008) As the sun’s rays move across the equator toward the north (which brings our spring and summer seasons) the humid maritime air mass, called the intertropical front, moves air from the south to the north into Ghana. This brings moisture and warmth from the Atlantic Ocean near the equator, which makes the air hot and humid. As the earth’s tilt causes the sun’s rays to hit the southern hemisphere again, (during our fall and winter) the harmattan winds come from the northeast across the Sahara desert, south into Ghana. (Library of Congress) The harmattan is the name of the continental air mass as it is known in Africa. The harmattan winds bring the dry, dusty air from the desert and create drier weather, especially in the northern part of Ghana. (Encyclopedia Brittanica, 2008) The causes of these seasonal changes will be discussed in section 2.
The northern part of Ghana has somewhat different climate than the southern part. The two regions are separated by the Kwahu Plateau, which is at the northern edge of the forest. In the entire country, the seasons do not create vast differences in temperature, as do our summer and winter, but bring different amounts of rain and humidity. (Levy 1999, 10-11)
To the north of the plateau, there are two main seasons: the drier harmattan season, which lasts from about November to April, and the wet season, which lasts from April to October. To the south of the plateau, there are four seasons. Heavy rains fall from April to late June, followed by a short period of drier weather in August. Another rainy season begins in September and lasts until November. In November the harmattan season brings the driest weather until March or early April. The weather in Ghana is usually humid all year in the southern part of the country and during the rainy season in the north. This is especially true at night. (Library of Congress)
The Food Resources of Ghana
Food staples are what people use for the majority of their diet. In the western part of Ghana, food staples are wheat, potatoes, and rice. In the northern part, millet, yams, and corn are the most important staples. In the south and west, plantains, cassava and cocoyams are grown. In the southeast, corn and cassava are the staple foods. In the center of the country, wet rice and hill rice are staples as well, which are important because they last a long time in containers. (Levy 1999, 115-117)
The cocoyam grows wild in the moist forest areas, and is grown on purpose as well. It is harvested for the roots and the shoots are eaten also. Cassava is a very important plant, because it can grow in the dry climate of the north as well as the wet forest land. It is also convenient because the tubers (the part that is eaten like the part of potatoes and yams that are eaten) can stay fresh in the ground until they are needed. The tubers are eaten and it can also be turned into flour, but a lot of care must be taken to make the flour properly. Corn and millet are grains that are grown in the sun and can be planted in dry climate. These are both cooked to provide a filling part of a meal or they can be made into flour. One common base for meals is called kenkey (“ken-keh”). To make it, corn is ground up, soaked in water for two days and then formed into balls. The balls of kenkey are cooked in boiling water and wrapped in plantain leaves. This is eaten with fish or stew and sometimes for dinner. Kenkey can be made with other ingredients as well in different parts of the country. (Levy 1999, 116-118)
Three meals are eaten each day, and in the villages, a lot of work goes on during the day, so breakfast is a big meal and the midday meal might be more of a light snack. There are traditional rules about who eats the meat or fish first, and how it should be shared. Meat is considered a very special meal for most Ghanaians. Animals are mostly eaten by people who have more money and belongings, since they are seen as a symbol of wealth. Sometimes, animals are traded just like money and exchanged for needed items or given as gifts. Fish is much more common. Both fish and meat, when served, are often made into a stew. Since meat is a luxury item, most foods are made with starches and often contain nuts for protein. Groundnuts, which grow mostly in the north, and palm nuts are used in soups and stews. Vegetables include a form of spinach, okra, eggplants, onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and many beans. The leaves of the cocoyam plant are another green vegetable people enjoy. They are called kontomire (“kon toh meer eh”). (Levy 1999, 117-119)
The most common evening meal is fufu, which is dough made of cassava and plantain or cocoyam. It is usually served with soup that contains a mixture of foods and cooked for one hour. The ingredients that might go into the soup are groundnuts, palm fruit, fish, beans, and vegetables. Soups made with nuts are grainy and thick, and the ones made with palm fruit have a yellow, oily broth. Other common soups are forowe, which is made with fish and tomatoes, nkita, which is made with eggs, fish, and beef. Another soup made in many parts of Ghana is pepper soup, made with hot chili peppers. For breakfast, one popular food is ampesi (“am-peh-si”), which is made with cassava, cocoyam, yam, and plantain. Surprisingly, not very many sweet foods are made from chocolate, even though chocolate is grown cheaply in the region and is very good quality. It is used mainly as a crop for income and starchy foods are made into sweets for snacking. (Levy 1999, 118-120)