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The importance of the Palm tree in the economy of pre-colonial Ghana

Palm Oil Fruit Background Ripe Red Produce
The palm tree is botanically called elaeis guineensis and very common to West Africa. It is commonly called the African oil palm. The fruits, which were well sought after, matures after six months starting from the time of pollination. The fruits are reddish, and have fleshy outer layers called the pericarp and can be used to produce palm oil. Inside the seed could a single, double or sometimes, triple nuts, called kernel and these could also be used to produce kernel oil. The palm nut tree was very important in the pre-colonial economy of Ghana.

A source of food
One of the reasons why the oil palm tree was important to the pre-colonial Ghanaian economy was because it was used to provide food for the people. The matured palm nut was boiled and pounded to produce a paste, which is then used to prepare palm nut soup. The soup could go with banku. Kenkey and fufu. The pre-colonial Ghanaians could also produce palm oil out of the palm fruit and used it for the preparation of stew or gravy. In fact, they could also extract oil from the kennel and used it for other culinary purposes.

Production of alcohol
The tree was used for the production of palm wine and alcohol. These drinks were used in the social interactions of the pre-colonial Ghanaians. It was used as part of the dowry items to obtain a wife. It was used and widely drunk at festivals, funerals, naming-ceremonies and on other special occasions.

Used as a source of energy
The palm oil that was produced from the nuts was used as fuel to provide light at night. Even the oil produced from the hard kernel was also used to fuel lanterns at night. The dry branches were used as fuel wood to prepare dishes. The chaff that was obtained after the production of the palm oil was dried and also used to start fires.

Traditional soap making
The palm tree was a very important economic tree because the oil obtained from the fruit was used as a base in the production of soap. The soap was used in the washing of clothes and also for cleaning the house and for washing dishes.

Used in cleaning the environment
The fronds of the palm nut tree were pruned from the tree and the leaves were stripped off one by one and bound together with a rope. This was used to sweep the house and keep it clean. Some were sold out to other people who needed them. In other words, it served as a source of income for the people.

A product people traded in
It can be seen that the many items that have been mentioned above as products obtained from the palm tree such as the palm nut oil, the kernel oil, brooms, soaps etc., were traded in by the pre-colonial Ghanaians, especially, the women. This also served as a source of income for the pre-colonial people of Ghana.

As a source of medication
The palm tree was also important to pre-colonial Ghana for its medicinal value. Various parts of the plant were used as medication. Some portions were used as laxatives; other parts were used to cure gonorrhea. Some parts were also used to heal fresh wounds.

1. Discuss the importance of any two of the following plants in pre-colonial economy of Ghana:
a. Sheanut tree
b. Kola nut tree

c. Oil-palm tree

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