Le Forgeron


Most villages in the Bassar region of Togo, West Africa, still had a blacksmith when Ene and I lived there briefly about 20 years ago. Our friend, Innocent (above) was Le Forgeron de Guerrin-Kouka, the market town where we lived. Although iron smelting had been in steady decline since Colonial times, it was still practiced in remote areas that had not already been devastated by deforestation. Contemporary blacksmiths like Innocent relied mostly on pot metal and rebar for their supply, although they still used wood charcoal to fire their furnaces. I was working as part of a broader reforestation effort at the time, but did not realize the extent to which iron smelting was responsible. Since the Middle Ages, vast forests have been converted to coal throughout West Africa, especially in the Bassar region, famous for its iron rich ore.

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