Apart from being a source of money for artisans in Ghana, electronic waste – discarded electronic devices – have become an important source of culinary fuel for softening cowhide (wele) – a delicacy in Ghana, Nigeria and other West African countries.
‘Wele’ is best eaten with ‘waakye’ – a local beans and rice meal – which is enjoyed by many Ghanaians. It is the same tough cowhide that is used for making shoes.
Very high temperature is needed to soften the tough cowhide to make it edible enough for mastication, thus the resort to the use of computer housings, as well as other electrical hardware, as fuel for preparing ‘wele’.
Some butchers also rely on car tyres as fuel for heating the hide.
But Environmentalist, Dr Kwesi Owusu, who is also the Managing Director of Creative Storm Network, and Director of the Environmental Film Festival of Accra, told MORNING STARR host Kafui Dey on Friday that such sources of fuel for heating cowhide pose serious health threats to consumers of ‘wele’.
Beside the ‘wele’, Dr Owusu also warned that a rock-like substance used for softening the beans used in preparing the ‘waakye’ – ‘kanwe’, is equally dangerous for consumers’ health.
“Do you know that waakye is quite a dangerous meal? How does the beans get soft? They use what we call ‘kanwe’. ‘Kanwe’ is a cancer inducing element,” he said.
“And how many Ghanaians don’t like ‘wele’? How does the ‘wele’ get prepared to the market? We burn it with car tyres and electronic waste… we burn it with wires. You go to any butcher’s shop or any place where they kind of prepare ‘wele’ and you’ll never touch ‘wele’ in your life,” Dr Owusu said.