Linking Agriculture With Manufacturing
By Otor Plahar
A blacksmith makes many kinds of tools and other objects out of metal. He heats the metal in a forge to make it soft, and then hammers it on an anvil to shape it. The role of the black smith was very diverse; he was the local toolmaker and also the “engineer”.
He was at the heart of every village due mostly to his mastery of iron working and the ability to understand the metallurgy of the iron that he uses.
Forged tools used by specialized crafts people have evolved over the centuries, borne of necessity and conceived at the hands of skilled artisans called the blacksmith, who often worked from a small shed with a close knit village community. These workshops were the hub of the village and very often were the forerunners of large modern day engineering businesses.
ORIGIN OF BLACKSMITHING
It was unclear when blacksmithing started but the skills probably began in what we call the “Iron age” when Iron making spread across Europe and eventually reached Britain by about 450 BC. When the Romans conquered Britain, Iron production was already well-established and by the time they left in 410 AD, blacksmithing was already lucrative business.
The art of blacksmithing perhaps, might have been introduced into Ghana as part of the British colonial legacy for the manufacture and making of simple tools and implements for small and medium scale industries. These facilities provide one-stop shops for various items raging from nails, keys, bolts and nuts to bigger machine parts and farming implements. In recent times however, modern technology has to a large extent, diminished the impact of these age- old foundries on the larger society.
Nevertheless, the trade still persists in parts of the major cities and towns across the country operated as small and medium scale family business holdings handed down from one generation to the next.
One of such blacksmith shops is at Sege; the district capital of the Ada West District located about fifty metres from the main lorry station from where, Mr. David Tetteh Sappor has been religiously plying his trade for the past thirty years.
There are two shops under pavilions on the same compound. The second shop is run by Mr.Isaac Narteh Tetteh who is assisted by Sampson Addo, his apprentice of two years. The first shop is where Tetteh Sappor ekes his living by shaping metals.
THE BLACKSMITH’S INTERVIEW
This writer caught up with David Narteh Sappor, one afternoon in his shop. It has an anvil, a mall hammer, and other cutting and shaping tools. There is a clay-molded fire place fitted with bellows to control airflow into the firepot on which dried palm kennel shells are placed for use as fuel.
He was exerting a lot of energy on a hoe he was making by summoning all the strength he could gather to repeatedly hit the red hot metal in order to turn it into a finished product. With his two biceps heaving simultaneously in tandem with the motion of his twitching breast muscles, he beckoned me to a seat under the pavilion and later, joined me for a chat. He was soaked to the skin in sweat.
According to him, the blacksmithing profession is an heir-loom.” I inherited this work from my father the late John Kpormegbey Sappor, who also inherited it from his father, Mr. Osakonor Sappor, of blessed memory”, he said.
He said working metals is a very difficult and tiring process. The metal is first fired in a furnace at a temperature of over 100 degrees Celsius until bright red then it is taken out and mall- hammered into shape on an anvil. This process is repeated until the tool that evolves, meets the acceptable standard. The finished product is finally immersed in water for durability and to develop a dark colour.
He has produced many farming implements – hoes, cutlasses, axes, rakes, pick-axes, sickles as well as mechanical parts like engine seats and bolts and nuts for vehicles and other domestic odds and ends.
According to him, his job has also benefited a lot of fishermen. “I have produced on request several anchors and a special metal clips used in sealing cracks in sea-going vessels. I produced all these from angle bar bought from the Timber Markets of Accra and Ashaiman” he said.
“Blacksmithing is a very difficult job but nonetheless also lucrative. The youth of today are not willing to learn the job because it is difficult .
For the past ten years, not a single person came to learn the job after the last person had passed out”, he said.
For the entire thirty years that David had been on the job, he trained just six people because according to him, the youth are not showing interest in blacksmithing as a vocation. Moreover, only two of the people he trained were able to set up their own shops; a situation which he thinks is seriously affecting the growth of the industry.
Blacksmithing like any other work has its own hazards. These include injuries from the mall hammer, burns and flying metallic debris. In the course of shaping implements, minute metal particles could fly up into the eye and lead to partial or permanent damage to the eye. It is therefore very important to use protective gear in other to reduce or eliminate completely the various dangers associated with the job. Besides, some people think only of the dangers of the work but are oblivious of the craftsmanship inherent in the profession. It is a perfect gift of art and creativity!
EFFECTS ON DISTRICT ECONOMY
Currently, the economy of the Ada West District is still highly dependent on agriculture by small holder farmers using manual implements for cultivation. With over sixty percent farmer population in the district, majority who are women, the tools of the vocation that has helped them to constantly feed their families were the handiwork of the blacksmith.
Most of the farmers from the inland communities in the district namely, Matsekope, Afiadenyigba, Caesar-kope, Madavunu, Addokope, Huakpo, Koluedor and Sege might have at one time or the other, been grateful benefiaries of Mr. David Narteh Sappor’s ingenious craftsmanship.
He provides most of the farming tools to support agriculture and also produces parts for the small industrial machines like the cassava grater, pepper grinder, the corn mill as well as parts for the push-trucks that cart the produce from the farms to the road side and eventually to the community markets in some cases.
The role of the blacksmith as a major link between agriculture and manufacturing with the resultant effect on the socio- economic development of the district cannot be underestimated. This role no matter how small has to a large extent, inured to a mutually beneficial relationship between farmers, traders and consumers in the district.
It is therefore expected that the assembly would support the industry through one of its social intervention programmes by way of funding or by providing the appropriate modern technology to boost expansion and help create jobs in that sector. The Writer is the Ada West District Information Officer
His email: firstname.lastname@example.org