What to buy: Many markets in Togo had a section for fetishes. These are the items used in potions and for healing the sick, by the witchdoctors and witches in the area. I don’t pretend to understand, I just accept that this is the way it is here.
What to buy: It never ceased to amaze me how ingenuititive (I think I might just have made that word up) the local people are. I have said it several times: waste not want not. These oil lamps are fashioned from discarded food cans. Much cheaper than making them from ‘new’ metal and much more sustainable. We have a lot to learn from the African in the west!
What to buy: This is probably a lot healthier than the western counterpart, as these natural toothbrushes are disposable and biodegradable. I didn’t actually try them, but did try some similar ones in Mali some years ago and they worked a treat! It just shows that you can still have impeccable personal hygiene without the modern trappings.
This was one of the stranger items we came across in the market: stones rich in calcium which pregnant women buy and eat! Each to their own I suppose, and I have heard some women have strange cravings during pregnancy!
What to buy: I saw these little conical things for sale in several stalls in the market. They are made from peanuts which are ground, shaped and then fried. I bought a bag-full to try and they were very nice indeed. Quite hard to bite into, and really quite spicy!
What to buy: When making millet or sorghum beer, a pulp is remaining after the beer has been filtered through a fine mesh. This pulp is dried and made into patties and sold in the market for fuel. It is known as pelebe.
What to buy: Shea butter has a sizeable quantity of unsaponifiable fats, several vitamins and other active elements, as well as soothing, moisturising and protecting properties. Shea butter also helps cell regeneration and capillary circulation which in turn speeds up the healing of small wounds, skin cracks and crevices, and skin ulcers. It is also believed to aid in the fight against ageing. Shea butter is produced by extracting fat from the fruit of the shea tree by crushing and boiling. As well as being used as a body moisturiser, shea butter is also used for cooking and sometimes in the production of chocolate in place of cocoa butter.
What to buy: Also known as the manioc, cassava is grown for its large, starch-filled root. It is extensively cultivated as an annual crop throughout Africa, and in every village you can see the ladies pounding the cassava to make fufu – the staple carbohydrate of West Africa. There are many other ways of eating cassava too, including boiled and fried, but the root cannot be eaten raw as it contains substances which convert to cyanide. Flour is made from cassava root too, known as tapioca flour. The white sticks you see here are dried cassava, a very good way of preserving it as cassava is best eaten very fresh and does not travel well.
What to buy: Firewood is scarce in this arid region and comparatively expensive. Many people of course cook over charcoal, as this tends to be cheaper than wood. I reckon this wood had travelled some distance to get here, as we saw no forests anywhere near Niamtougou. I wonder how sustainable it is?
What to buy: This little bundle of roots is added to hot water to make a drink which doesn’t taste unlike mint tea. It has lots of curative properties so it’s said to be very good for you.
What to buy: As I have explained on another one of my Togo pages, the baobab tree is a useful shrub. Here you can see a loofah made from the fibres of the trunk of the baobab tree.