Working_in_Ghana_with_ MOFA

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Article 1: An Experience in Ghana as an EWB Junior Fellow

It is 5:30 am, today I have been woken by the alarm on my watch, I am lucky, other days I am startled awake by a roaster that has crowed outside my bedroom window. I recollect the several vivid dreams I experienced throughout the course of the night: it is Monday, so one of Larium’s (anti-malarial pill I had taken the night before with dinner) engaging side effects is at its peak! This morning I am thankful, the only discomfort I feel is in my mid section is from a full bladder that was last emptied at 8:30pm, the previous evening, before going to bed.

My name is Ghislaine Johnson, Co-President of McGill’s EWB Chapter in Montreal. I aim to share a little bit of my internship with you by painting you a quaint picture of my stay here in Ghana.

I arrived in Ghana on the 8th of May, 2006 and arrived in Bole around the 10th of May. Bole is a village, in the Northern Region of Ghana, where I live and have been placed on a 3 ½ month internship with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada. I live in a compound which is a set of two buildings that are placed in a square to enclose the structure with a gate; conveniently leaving a courtyard in the centre, perfect for doing and hanging laundry, as well as preparing dinner. I am fortunate to have electricity in Bole and in my home; however it fails every so often as to leave you sweaty and in the dark.

Today I am well rested from my relaxing weekend of hand washing my clothes, preparing meals with my host mother (Sister Jane), reading, doing yoga, walking to the market and taking many catnaps. I am now ready to tackle the week ahead of me.

It seems this week will consist of me going to my District Ministry of Food and Agriculture office (MoFA) office to continue preparing for some workshops I will be facilitating for the following week, watching the Ghanaian “Black Stars” play football against the best team in the World Cup: Brazil, and taking a trip to Wa to use the internet.

I fold open my bednet to do my ritual 30 minute yoga routine that makes my bucket bath that much more refreshing (a 5 litre bucket bath sure makes one realize that Canadians waste a lot of water, unnecessarily, considering my 10 minute shower in Canada takes around 100 litres, to be sparing). I get dressed in my cool Tie and Dye dress that was sewn by my seamstress acquaintance, sister Gladus. After preparing my bag for work, I help sister Jane prepare for breakfast which usually consists of juice/tea with bread and fresh golden honey (taken from the Apiary she started this past January), oat porridge or eggs and bread. We pray before we eat, regardless of my spiritual beliefs, and we converse about many different topics. Sister Jane has become a good friend and I learn a lot about the culture in Bole, and how the culture throughout the Nation changes travelling as little as 18 miles, through her.

It is 7:45am and I am off to work. My office has 2 desktops, one laptop and best of all, it has A/C!!! My placement with MoFA had been strategically planned by a long term volunteer, Robin Farnworth, who has created a fool proof plan for 12 of us summer interns, who are working in 12 different districts in the Northern Region.

My goals with MoFA are to build the capacity of their Agriculture Extension Agents (who extend information, solutions, resources and appropriate technologies to rural farmers), hence the workshops I am planning focused on Adult education, VAK (verbal, auditory and Kinaesthetic) learning styles, participatory learning, action plans, results based management and report writing.

Furthermore, I have coordinated a District Food Security Network, with the Director of my District MoFA office. By conducting interviews with several stakeholders and organizations, currently working in the district, I completed a profile of the holistic team (Processing research centre, women’s group rep, Professionals from the district assembly, NGO’s in the area, HIV/AIDS awareness…) of 21 members (plus a summary of their missions, resources, hopes/fears for the DFSN, and challenges the DFSN will face in the future). The committed members are to represent their organization four meetings per year, intended to be planned and coordinated (once I have left the district) by the executive team elected at the first meeting I had planned, and helped facilitate, which took place on June 22nd. The Goal of the DFSN is for the organizations to collaborate with one another (share information, resources and technologies) to better and efficiently achieve food security. Also, the DFSN hopes to gain more trust and reach more rural farmers in the District through the strategic creation of action plans focused on the priorities they had established during their first meeting.

My job here is pretty clear cut and keeps me busy in the office.

Sister Jane is a teacher at Primary school so I am left to fend for myself at lunch.
I have a light lunch consisting of either a couple of oranges, a pineapple or I go home to eat some watermelon that is conveniently placed in the ice box. Weetabex has also become my afternoon lifesaver, due to it’s high fibre content.

At 5 pm I finish work for the day and walk home approached by many children asking to carry my bag for me, what my name is or for a simple conversation lasting around 2 minutes. When I arrive home I try to help Sister Jane prepare dinner. My favourite meal is TZ with green leaf stew. It is delicious. My helping prepare dinner usually consists of me washing and cutting vegetables, grinding up spices or vegetables, or taking the large wooden spoon to take the occasional stir of the TZ or Banku.

The staple foods are mostly starchy foods prepared from yams, maize or cassava. They are formed into balls and served with stew or soups. You must use you right hand to when devouring the carb rich ball by cutting the amount that you can swallow (without chewing) with your fingers. Once dinner is finished, and I am fully satisfied, I help wash the dishes in the courtyard and prepare for my bucket bath before climbing back into my safe nook, anticipating the many wild new dreams that will lead me through the night.

Some nights, when dinner is done early I will borrow Sister Janes bike to go and practice playing my Jimbaye with my friend, sister Allison, who is staying in Bole volunteering with the Peace Corps working with a local NGO. Going to Church on the occasional Sunday is also entertaining in that the sermon is lively and musical.

I feel very fortunate to have this wonderful experience: my host family is kind and understanding, my colleagues are self-motivated and open to new ideas (most of them) and the surrounding landscape is breathtaking. I am by no means living in poverty (but also do not have the luxuries of Canadian living), however I see it around me nearly every day.

This placement with EWB has taught me a lot about development, the complexities of development work in Ghana and especially some of the challenges and roadblocks the nation faces as they continuously try to reach the standard of living of which most countries in the West take for granted.

EWB is definitely on the right track, especially if I can see impact from my 3 ½ month placement half way through my stay here in Bole. I am proud to be part of EWB, in Ghana and back in Canada. I feel that I will bring home some culture and, more importantly, a wealth of knowledge (collected through experience) that I can share with those around me.

FIRST DFSN MEETING IN BOLE: my work with MoFA

For those of you just tuning in to my visually un-stimulating blog cite (sorry for the lack of pictures, they take such a long time to download and send via internet), DFSN stands for District Food Security Network. And if you really haven’t been reading my blog…MoFA stands for Ministry of Food and Agriculture…

The DFSN is a holistic alliance of stakeholders (Government Organizations (GO’s), Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s), Community Based organizations (CBO’s) and the Private Sector) working within the Bole district. EWB (with the funding from a Manitoban Organization) has funding for the first four meetings, two of which I will be attending. My role was to organize the first meeting, with the help of the Director of MoFA: interviewing all the stakeholders, creating a profile and summary of the organizations, creating a letter of invitation and basically prepare all logistics for the meeting.

The DFSN is aimed at creating a platform where organizations from different sectors/or same sectors, can come together on a regular basis to help attain Food Security in the District (“Good quality nutritious food, hygienically packaged and attractively presented, available in sufficient quantities all year round and located at the appropriate places at affordable prices”). So we had members from the District assembly including Environmental Representative, Engineer (Infrastructure), MoFA reps, HIV/AIDS awareness rep, Women’s group Rep, Female Trader (Bole Market), a Farmer Coop representative, a health nurse…invited to attend the meeting. The idea is to have groups collaborate to share information and resources in order to be more efficient at achieving food security within the Bole district.

The first meeting was last Thursday, June 22nd. The meeting was to start at 9am…come 9am there were only 4/21 people present. I was getting nervous as 9:30 rolled around and only around 3 new people had shown up. Peace Corps volunteer, and good pal, assured me that she was early, and to rest assured that there is nothing I can do: it is normal for Ghanaians to show up to meetings an hour or two late, or what others would like to call “Ghanaian Time”. Around 10am the meeting started, although members slowly dripped in to the meeting without any worries. Now that the meeting was one hour late we were to speed up the pace a bit, not to mention close early because Ghana “Black Stars” were playing against USA in the World Cup at 2pm.
Although both of these constraints were beyond my control, I will be aware of some of these inhibitions for my workshops for next week.
Regardless, the first meeting turned out to be successful, in my view. The next meeting is planned for August 9th, which will creep up quickly. I will have to plan the meeting with the DFSN exec team in order to ensure proper information transfer and consultation of meeting logistics. I will have to allot more time for preparing, seeing as though it will not just be me, in the office, working at my own “Canadian” work pace.

Next week I will be facilitating 2 workshops back to back, directed at adult education, learning styles, action plans, results based management, field book records and feedback cycles for the Agriculture Extension Agents (AEAs). The AEAs are at the forefront of farmer education. Some AEAs are established in remote villages, focused on educating the farmers in their operational areas. My workshops are aimed at building the capacity of the AEAs to better their skills when delivering information and new technologies to the farmers. Also, I will hope to improve their understanding of recording observations on the farmers fields in order to have documented information for establishing results of their extension work. With all this being said, if they can see results in their work, then they are doing well, otherwise, they should look at their results as a feedback system: no results then you must change your approach.

The workshops, being two days in a row, will take a lot of energy from me! I am ready to tackle them with full strength, but also must accept that I will have to be flexible and accommodating to the staffs needs.

Well, that is all for now on my development with MoFA Bole District. Stay tuned for another fun filled exciting article describing my progress here in Ghana.

June 26th: Culture Shock Settles In

I am always sceptical of frameworks until I experience them thoroughly or have been proven otherwise, therefore the Culture shock curve, shown to us during Pre departure training, seemed unreasonable and far fetched. Although I still feel that I hit absolute rock bottom during training in Toronto, this past week gave me a blow that I was not expecting: maybe that curve has a little truth to it after all.

After coming back from Mole, I felt like there was a dark cloud lingering above me. Gloom crept through my mind and body. I could not help but feel melancholy. I didn’t think that I would hit the stage where I would be “depressed”, but that was exactly what it was. I realize that this was completely normal, and that it once again creates greater self realization and limitations.

I realize that being abroad with the primary goal: to work with MoFA, is exactly why I chose to come to Ghana representing EWB. I never thought much about how my social life would consist of me interacting mostly with my host family and compound neighbours (watching the World cup on the television or preparing dinner) with the occasional drum lesson and dinner with my Peace Corps buddy, Allison. Going to bed at 8:30pm is now regularly scheduled into my day. It is quite different than having entertaining resources, or the network of friends additional to family, at the tip of my fingers in Canada.

Although I am still getting used to the high carb staple foods in Ghana, they are beginning to be a lot more palatable. My sister Jane is super cool to talk to, we have become good friends during my stay here; I try to be honest with her, telling her about the ingredients that I have difficulty with, or in other words, ingredients that make my stomach unsettled (basically high levels of oil, animal skin, fatty meat, high amounts of pepe (chilli peppers)…). I realize that I am a foreigner, I am here for 3 and a bit months…I am NOT going to fully integrate into their culture. If I have not already gained their trust, then I am not going to at this point. I share my culture and language with them, while also making some effort to learn and practice Ganja.

With that being said, I have realized that I am content here in Ghana…it is a beautiful place to be. I feel that when you are away from your family and close friends (no matter where you are in the world) you can always find a time when you are under the weather.

The sun is back out and I am feeling much better, although I think my stomach will always have a little gurgle, and my legs will be spotted with bites, I hope to be climbing back up the culture shock curve to a fine state of satisfaction…
THANKS MOM (Dad and Jill) FOR THE PHONE CALLS…

Friday, June 23, 2006

Short and Sweet

Thanks to everyone who has sent emails...I love hearing from you all.

I have just sent a load of emails out...I am always pressed for time on the slow internet access I've had here, so I apologize if you did not get a personal email...email me and I will be sure to give you more attention!!!

MOLE NATIONAL PARK

Jeff came to Bole on Thursday night to meet with me before heading for the TaTa at 3:30am. To our dismay, it was the same TaTa we had taken our last journey to Tamale. We were anticipating a long journey. We were pleasantly surprised when we realized that the bus had been fixed. It did not stop every 15 minutes to be fixed or fueled…YAY!!!

We arrived in Larabanga around 8am. Larabanga is a small village outside of Mole. It is a tourist village, yet there are no professional tour guides, rather, every person in town approaches you asking you the same questions, eager to take you to the magic rock or the “oldest Mosque in Western Africa”.

The magic rock is a rock that when it disappears or is moved, it always returns to its place. Apparently it has been to Germany and back. A long journey for a large rock!!! The Mosque had been built in 1421 and still looked very stable. It is a beautiful, simple, well built structure: wooden bars that, create its main structure, can be seen from the outside made of clay.

We sat down to eat at the one and only restaurants in the village to have an “egg sun wich”. It was the most expensive egg sandwich I have had in Ghana yet. Jeff and I were shocked by the list of prices on the menu…we had no idea what was ahead of us in Mole. In Larabanga you pay 8,000 cedis for a pop…in Bole you pay 2,500 cedis (~8,000 cedis/Canadian Dollar)…I know, we have become very cheap…in Mole we paid 12,000 cedis per pop drink (300mL bottle). Anyhow, I don’t blame the Tourist hotel for charging the foreigners so much, however I don’t see how the Ghanaians can ever afford to stay at the Hotel, let alone eat anything. On average, you may spend around 5,000 cedis for a good meal in Bole or Tamale, however, the western/Ghanaian cuisine Hotel restaurant charged 40,000 to 55,000 cedis per meal. I shouldn’t complain, it was fantastic to fill myself sick with French fries on our first night there.

The Hotel was gorgeous…the best (and most expensive) I’ve stayed at in Ghana so far. There was a fan (when there was electricity), a bathroom with flush toilet and bathtub (usable when there was running water), clean tidy beds and comfortable chairs in an amicable ambiance. Our room out looked the safari that lay below us.

The Hotel had the outside restaurant/bar patio that out looked the pool, which out looked the safari below. Baboons were free to enter the premises. I watched as one Baboon stood on the roof, above a table crowded table on the hotel patio, jumped onto the table, grabbing a mango, and bolting (scaring the Canadian volunteers out of their witts). Another Baboon didn’t seem to like my colleague Chloe. He tried mounting her as she was relaxing by the pool, breaking the skin with three distinguishable scratch marks…poor girl. She tried to return to the pool to collect her things when a monkey tried to come and attack her…maybe she had some kind of scent that they didn’t like very much…who knows!!! I was not intimidated nor worried…no animals came near me other than minding their own business.

We took a walking Safari tour on Saturday morning. It was unbelievable that I was walking with a Ghanaian tour guide who was to protect us from any animal that we may come into danger with, using a rifle that seemed to be at least 25 years old. We hiked for around 2 hours. We spotted an animal called a Kobs (looked like deer), spotted deer, Warthogs and most notably, we got surrounded by a few herds of elephants (just a little bit nerve wrecking!!!). The most exciting part of the tour was when we skillfully maneuvered ourselves out of the elephant ring to hear an elephant “roar”…it was a deep, fierce “roar” that I was happy they did not make that sound while we stood timidly amongst them. The tour cost us 20,000 cedis (around 2.5 Can dollars)…unbelievable!!!

It was great to see the number of animals that we saw at Mole. Some arrive and do not get the chance to view these animals in their habitat. We could wake up early to watch the elephants bathe in the waterholes. So surreal, and so breathtaking: it is an experience I will treasure.

The Ghanaians eat the Game meat like elephant. And upon the random questioning, some do not even realize what extinction is. Laws are placed to try and control the amount of animals that are killed in the park. Poachers are also fined, while the dead animal is sold and fed to the Hotel staff and guests.

One other highlight of the weekend was watching the Black Stars (Ghanaian Football team) win their second game in the World Cup Tournament 2-0, Czech Republic (2nd best team of the league). This is Ghana’s first time playing in the playoffs, so this was a great feat on their behalf! It was an exciting game and left the Ghanaians in a great mood.

On Sunday morning we left the park at 4am to make it back to Larabanga by around 5am…just in time to visit the mosque for the first prayers of the day. A young child told us the history of the mosque…I gave him an orange after exhausting my funds in the Park.

It was a long day…waiting in Larabanga, many young men approached us to bring us to the mosque. Each new approach only added to the annoyance that built within Jeff and I. After a while, as soon as someone approached us we would tell them everything that everyone else asked so as to cut to their chase and so they would save their breath. We were denied entrance on the first TaTa heading toward Bole because it was too full. We sat under a tin shelter as the rain drenched the village. I was so thankful for my “well-prepared” packing technique, as I had included a sweater of which I had not yet previously warn in Ghana…the rain brings about the cold…

I was so relieved to catch the Bus heading toward Wa, regardless of having to stand up for 2 hours in an overcrowded bus, holding on to the window frame as the rain saturated my sweater sleeve and my hand exhausted from its firm grip. To be honest, even though I stood the whole ride, the Bus was far more enjoyable then any other public transport I have taken in Ghana. I am now tempted to stay in Wa the night before traveling to Tamale so as to ride on this luxurious mode of transport (which is by no means a grey hound bus…but rather a grey hound where the isles have been piled full of people standing packed like sardines).

When I got back to Bole I was exhausted, content and am once again grateful to be back home.

It was Fathers day yesterday. As I was on the bus I couldn’t help but think about my Father. I am so thankful to have had such an inspiring, selfless, hard working, loving, charismatic role model in my life. I would probably not be doing this work in Ghana if it were not for his incredible sincerity that I feel I have adopted from him ( and my Mother plus the sense of responsibility they both has instilled in me).

I have already returned back to work…finishing off the preparations for the first District Food Security Network meeting on Thursday.

I am content with my life and enthralled by my work here in Ghana. I hope to hear from some of you soon. Thanks for the comments and emails…Lot’s of love to you all,

G’g

Monday, June 12, 2006

Back in Bole: The Work Begins (Monday May 5th )

Being back in Bole feels great. Some of the children here have remembered my name now; I am not just “Kubrini, How are you? I am Fine…Thankyou”, they now yell “Sister Gigi!!!” from across the fields. That is much better.
Since my return I have learnt many new things about Bole, one very important detail; highly related to this blog entry, is that there is internet access 5 minutes away from my AGRIC office (MoFA). I will be heading over this evening to see if I can make plans to use it on a regular basis.
This weekend I took out all of my hair twists…yes, I know, I practically just got them in…I lasted two weeks before the itching and the heat got the best of me. My head feels so much lighter and after removing a handful of my own hair the itching has finished…AHHHHH!!!
This week was very productive. I started preparing for the District Food Security Network (DFSN). I conducted around 5 interviews and hope to have at least 3 or 4 more completed by the time I go to Mandarai (Village I will be staying in for around 5 days), on Wednesday. The DFSN is aimed at finding as many stakeholders as possible who are working towards food security in the district, interviewing them and creating a profile of their work. Since the Bole district does not have many NGO’s working in its area, we must try to find other stakeholders interested in collaboration with MoFA, the District Assembly and other important members who aim at sharing ideas, information and resources in order to be more efficient with all assets in order to better achieve food security. EWB will be funding the first four meetings (two of which I will be present for). I have a lot of work ahead of me this week and the weeks to come.
This past Friday I attended my first staff meeting. It turns out that I have met most of the AEA’s…on and off since I first arrived in Bole, however it was great to have them all together for the meeting. I aimed at trying to use some techniques to make the meeting more time efficient. I suggested coming up with some ground rules for the meetings…only one person can speak at a time…interruptions like phone calls will cost you 10, 000 cedis (~1.5$ Can)…a TroTro Station…The director and I came up with an agenda with time limits; I was the time keeper this past meeting, next meeting someone else shall keep watch on the time. Since MoFA has changed their organogram (staff structure) we decided to split the staff up into groups to brainstorm the best ideas for how the AEA’s should best report according to the new organogram. I think the group discussions were quit successful.
Apart from all the suggestions, there is one important suggestion that I failed to make: getting the group to sit in a circle or horseshoe. I now take it for granted how in most meetings I attend with EWB and in Canada we automatically sit in a circular formation as to make communication between all colleagues fluid. Sitting in rows at a meeting was extremely difficult for me…next time we hope to try out this suggestion. Change does not occur over night and maybe it is best to introduce one idea at a time as to not bombard the staff with all the suggestions all at once.
At the end of our meeting we discussed dates when we will hold the AEA training workshops. The AEA’s decided that it would be best to have the workshops two days in a row, as to cut down on the amount of travel time and havoc the bad roads reap on motorbikes. This will be lots of work for me…I hope to prepare everything well in advance as to have the most successful training workshops possible.
This past weekend I attended the Catholic Church. There were far more people attending this Church than the Methodist Church I attended two weeks ago. The music was great; the TamTams definitely made the music most enjoyable. I have returned back to Bole with a Jimbaye drum, I hope to learn from Sister Allison, my past roomie, how to drum. She has taught me a little, however I have much to learn.
One of the other EWB volunteers working in the East, Jeff, has called me about meeting with some of the MoFA group to go visit MOLE National Park. I am looking forward to the attraction as well as meeting up with some of the friends I have become close with during this whole internship experience. Going to Mole will be a treat after being on the farm for a few days. I am looking forward to leaving my comfort zone in search for a new learning experience. My only wish is to not get sick, so far so good.
I can not believe it has been a month since arriving in Ghana; time fly’s by. I am looking forward to the rest of my stay here. There will be lots of hard work, many great meals, many warm days, many rainy days and above all, much to learn.
I send out my love…and hope to hear from some of you soon…

KEEPING ME ON MY TOES (May 6th)

Sister Robin (Long term EWB volunteer who put the MoFA Junior Fellow project together), has just left after visiting Bole for 24 hours. She looked through some of the work I have been doing and has been most helpful at guiding me through some of my challenges.
The District Food Security Network (DFSN) is where I have been focusing my energy lately: it seems that the work is coming together well. Since I will be gone for five days, it will put a halt on my work, therefore when I get back I will have to focus on working hard with the Director and Gabby in putting together the first meeting for the DFSN.

Sister Robin made me feel much more comfortable and feel less guilty for having such a great home stay as well as such a “superstar” District to work with. Lindsay (McGill President 2005-2006) has always been a mentor whether she knew it or not; she also makes me realize that my comfort level helps me accomplish more…I believe she is right! Thank-you both for your words of wisdom and encouragement!

It seems that when ever someone from EWB visits me they fill me with more motivation and excitement. They are catalysts that make my job run that much smoother! When they leave, I feel as thought there presence was merely a dream…

Back to work…I must tie up loose ends before my farming experience in the village.

VILLAGE REPORT...

Where I stayed…
I spent 5 days and 4 nights in Mandari, a village located around 20 minutes away from Bole, off of a long dirt road. Mandari both has traditional housing; made from mud and clay finished with beautiful native designs, otherwise the housing was made from cement with tin roofs. There are 4 boreholes in Mandari; one which does not work because it is old and does not reach the water table anymore, the one directly beside the broken bore hole has very hard water (it is very salty), the third one has less salty water (the one I used to fill my water bottle) and the last one I did not see nor taste the water.

Mandari has two chiefs, one whom is a Ganja chief. The village people go to the chief when there is an argument or quarrel that needs settling; the chief tries to settle the argument, otherwise he guides those in strife to the proper authorities. Both the chiefs live in the village centre. The Ganja chief (was the only chief I had the pleasure of meeting) “hung” out at the store in town. When first greeting the chief I had to remove my sandals and kneel before him. He was a very cool man, he spoke excellent English and was extremely friendly.

Mandari has a daily market, which consists of around 3 or 4 booths. The merchants are mainly women. They mostly sell spices, as well they may have fish, eggs or nuts to sell in addition to one person who may be selling street food. There are no fruits being sold in Mandari; one would be lucky to arrive in Mandari when mango’s are in season otherwise if you shake a shea nut tree you may be lucky to have a few fruit fall down in order to eat the sparse flesh that surrounds the large nut.

The women of Mandari are well known for the Shea nut collecting and processing. So far they manually process the Shea, however there are some NGO’s in the area preparing Shea nut processing centres for the women.

The village is picturesque with its miniature storage huts, native housing with unique engravings and the skyline is silhouetted with hills afar separating Ghana from Cote D’Ivoire. The land is green, lush and fertile.

Across the road from where I was staying was the primary school. Before school the children line up, decide which song to sing and march rhythmically while entering their classrooms; their lyrics are about how the children march on the land, the sea, the air. The singing and drumming are my favourite parts of social interaction in Ghana and it was refreshing to be in a place where, due to the lack of electricity, the music that was played was that of the people

Who I stayed with…
I stayed with a farmer named Moses. Moses is a father of five (youngest being 9 months and the oldest being 11 years) and is married to a woman named Helen. Helen works in Tuna (another small town located further than Bole). Helen has the children stay with her in Tuna, therefore it was myself and Moses that stayed in his two room housing. Moses’ Mother stays in the room next door. Moses’ mother is constantly processing spices and groundnuts. Two students from Wa University of Development Studies were staying in Moses extra room.

There is no electricity in Mandari and there is also no running water. They harvest rain water for bathing and drinking. Otherwise the water is fetched from the local borehole (the closest one to the house is more salty than the other borehole). I noticed while washing my clothes that the harvested water that is consumed (as is) has little worms swimming in it. Stagnant water, regardless of how often it is topped up, has many different varieties of life. I am unsure how clean the rain water is let alone how clean the roof (on which animals tend to climb upon),as the means of harvesting, is.

As for Moses; he is the innovative farmer in the community. He has around 15 acres of land. His largest crop is maize of which he grows two varieties of which last year he harvested around 8000kg. Moses also strategically grows yams of which grow on a field where the forest has been burned down; to allow for the roots of the native trees to be inhibited from competing with the crop for water. Moses trusts the AEA’s and follow their advice by hiring labour and paying them for planting 100 mounds over 1 acre of land. Each mound will yield one yam…you do the math. Moses also began cashew farming in 1997. He intercrops with his cashew trees when the plants are young. He also makes sure that his trees are well pruned in order to allow for proper growth, leading to optimal and quality yields. He prunes his trees with a machete like tool called a cutlass. This type of pruning is extremely energy intensive. I pruned trees for around half an hour: after sweating excessively and removing my gloves to drink some water I was displeased to see that I had wriped open two large wounds on my hand…I have completely skipped the blister stage and have jumped straight to the stage of open wounds.

Farming is labour intensive and extremely tiring.

In addition to all of the crops mentioned above Moses also plants sorghum, of which I had been very helpful and successful at. He does not space using any special tool, he basically makes marks in the ground with a large stick where I (and twenty of his school children) planted three seeds covered in poison (to detour the birds from eating the seeds) and pressed the soil over the seeds with our feet. He wanted to plant quickly, therefore he did not plant as efficiently as he would have liked to.

Moses is also one of the 10 first entrepreneurs in Apiculture or bee farming in the district. He has yet to harvest any honey. He has 10 beehives and protective gear. Most of the hives are now inhabited. The rainy season is a time for the bees to be busy making the honey and reproducing: he will only harvest around January or February. He has many plans for his Apiary: to sell the honey and to sell the wax for candles. He hopes to constantly be enlarging his bee farm to one day sell internationally.

In addition to all this Moses also teaches at the primary school. The class consists of males (60%) and females (40%), who range in age from around 7 to 15. Some students understand and speak English better than others. The class size was around 60 students. There were not enough English reading books for all the children and so they had to share. Regardless, the desks were overcrowded therefore there would not have been enough table space for all the students to have their own book.

Moses is himself still in school. He is doing his JSS (Junior Secondary School), which I could assimilate to junior high in Canada. He attends classes during the summers, and a program that normally takes around 3 years to complete will take him around 4-5 years to finish.

Although Moses does not even have his JSS he is still teaching the children at primary school, a job that is usually filled by a person who has finished their (SS) Secondary School (like high school) or senior secondary (somewhat like college in Canada).

With that being said, the teachers are not as qualified as they could be. Observing the class I noticed many things: the teacher scolds the children for them not correctly reading a sentence (though it is him who is mistaken), the teacher makes the task at hand very confusing for the students, the class lectures are not efficiently planned well, some students do not understand English and there is a lack of light in the classroom. These are just some observations, I am sure I can come up with a better list.

After shadowing Moses for the day I would come home to help the women with their daily routine. The women who live behind Moses are his sisters and their children. I was lucky because his niece could speak English. She helped me communicate with the family.

With the women I helped sift through the rice that would be cooked and sold with beans and pepe (chilli pepper paste) at the market. The rice has many impurities in it that are hard to see, but need to be removed…like rocks or seeds. I would help the women peel cassava that would later be dried and processed. I would help prepare the variety of stews that would be served with the TZ (at night time) or TB or FuFu (at lunch time).

I tried to help sift the floor for the TZ, but was laughed at because my whole body would shake as my hands tossed the sieve back and forth. I tried stirring the TZ, but did not last too long either…I suppose it may take some time to champion the art of TZ stirring. I helped to peel the Ceedublee (yam), that would be boiled, then pounded into FuFu. I had around 4 pounds at the FuFu before Moses’ sister took the pestle/pounder away from me while giggling at my lack of technique in FuFu pounding. Regardless, I made the effort and satisfied my hunger with their staple food.

Basically I would help the women prepare the food and clean the dishes. If I returned from my daily activities with Moses early then I could help the women prepare for their livelihoods. Their livelihoods are making and selling rice, making taffy out of cow’s milk and sugar, or trading livelihood (processing of agricultural outputs into ingredients that can be used for food preparation).


Farmer’s Livelihood…One day in the life of Moses…
Moses is an extremely busy man. He wakes up in the morning around 5:30am, he has his “tea” (Milo: hot chocolate) with bread. He prepares for his school lessons and goes to teach from around 8am until around 1pm or 1:30pm. After school he has lunch that has been prepared for by the women and then he goes to his fields to farm.

As a teachers incentive he can get his school children out of school to help him with some of the labour needed on the farm; experience in the eyes of those in the community.
Moses farms on his Saturdays and on Sundays he teaches the Sunday school at 9am and attends the Church assembly from 10am-noon. He also returns back to the church at night time for the evening sermon.

Moses is motivated and takes risks. He trusts the information that Charles brings to him (AEA from MoFA), and also asks many things of Charles in order to better his farm outputs and make his job more efficient.

Farmer interviews…
Moses has been farming all his life. His father taught him how to farm and he is extremely greatful. He has 15 acres of land. He has many different crops, but he mainly relies on Maize. Moses does most of the work on the farm, otherwise he hires labour or gets the school children to help him. Most of the labour is manuel, however when chemicals are available and affordable he will use them if they will be efficient with his time and are appropriate. Sometimes he will rent a tractor in areas where the tractor can access the land. He stores his yields inside his house in large bags. He gives 10% of his yield to the church (who feeds the poor and feeds the church staff), he gives some of the yield to his family and then he sells some of his yield at harvest time, but also saves some of his yield to sell later when the prices will rise.

The largest problem with farming is the maintenance and planning of the farm year. With maintenance it is making sure there are no weeds, pruning, stabilizing the plants on sticks (as to not touch the ground: yams). This requires lots of labour and or outputs which are not always readily available.

Farm planning: when the farmer has not forethought what he will do with his land then he may not efficiently produce as much as he is capable of.

AEA’s are sometimes found to only go visit the farmers that serve them Pito, and some farmers consider this inefficient or bias. AEA’s are not thought to go out to monitor all of the farmers’ fields (mainly due to lack of AEA’s as well as lack of fuel).

Family interviews…
Moses believes that electricity is what the village needs in order to develop. He says that the internet will open the world to the village. He also believes that the young people will not stay in Mandari because there is currently no electricity. He believes that the electricity will entice more youth to stay in Mandari. He has been told that the electricity brings many problems: fires that deplete all the assets of the victom. He believes that the benefits far outweigh the cons.

Apart from interviewing Moses, there were not many people I could interview due to the language barrier. I observed many things as well as had the opportunity to speak with Moses niece about life in the village.

The women seemed very content with their lives: possibly I was lead to believe this through a false representation created by my mere Kubruni presence.

Although, when asking Moses niece:

How is life? She said it was good. She was happy and her family was happy. They had food to eat, especially since Ceedublee was introduced to the community nearly a decade ago. The Ceedublee was imported from Cote D’Ivoire, and is part of the yam family. The name of the yam variety is unknown, however the man who imported it was named Ceedublee, therefore that is what they call the yam.

Those in the community who do not live a good life are those who are lazy she says. They do not work or farm. They steal from others to eat, and they go hungry because they do not work.

She sleeps in the same room as her mother, her auntie and four other children who are part of the extended family. They only have one bed, so some of the children sleep on the floor, on matts I was told.

Her uncle is who helps her and her mother when they need it. Her father passed when she was very young. Her uncle will be the one who helps her pay for SS (~500,000 cedis: where around 7,000 cedis is ~$1 Can).

The children fetch the water from the borehole situated around a 7 minute walk away from their house.

Most of Moses’ extended family are Muslim, although Moses is Pentecost. I was told that there are 3 main religions in the village: Muslim, Christian and Pagans. The Pagans are mainly the traditional religion.

As for medical treatment or nurse stations, Moses has told me that there is one nurse station in Mandari, meanwhile his niece was unaware that any medical services where available. They both strongly suggested going to Bole for any medical advice or treatment.

Spare time…
The female children weeded for money on their spare time. If they were not helping their mothers with daily chores they could be found playing what I know as “Hacky sack”, using a ball of leaves that they had tied together. They were quit good at bouncing the concoction with their legs using many different manoeuvres. It was interesting and fun to watch, especially because they would sing songs while playing.

Since the World Cup has begun, Ghana is consumed with watching Football games/soccer games. Ghana, Black Stars, has yet to play. Despite not having electricity, the Football tournament is watched on a black and white TV through the power of a car battery. Brother Moses can be found watching the game when he has finished farming and preparing his lessons for school.

Development in Mandari…
Students from the University of Development Studies in Wa were staying with Moses, as I had mentioned above. They are interested in getting Mandari attached to Bole’s electricity grid. They proposed there idea while I was staying in Mandari, and the proposal was accepted. However they are waiting for final approvals and funding which will only be found out at the end of summer. I hope that this village will get there electricity. They would benefit greatly, as would any community who acquires electricity.

Special Events…
The Friday that I was in Mandari, unfortunately a Muslim woman had passed from what was thought to be native fertility drugs. Her funeral was reason for the community to come to a stand still. The farmers could not farm.

The funeral consisted of prayers and a burial. The community wanted me to take pictures so that I could send them back from Canada. It was a sad day, sorrow and sobs of mourning filled the air. The woman who had died had left behind some small, young children, which makes me the most uneasy.

The funeral will persist for 12 days: on the 3rd, 7th and 12th day there will be more prayers for the deceist.

Another event which I was lucky to have attended was the HIV/AIDS awareness animation presented by Papa Dev, the NGO based out of Bole. They showed an HIV/AIDS awareness video with at TV powered by a portable generator. They carried the equipment on the back of two motor bikes. The presentation that was aimed at taking 45 minutes ended up taking around 2 hours. The first time they played the video none of the children could hear audio because of those speaking in the room as well as those children making noise outside.

The HIV/AIDS awareness video was very vague. It did not describe what AIDS was; it basically told girls not to accept gifts from men, and to abstain from sex. The animator tried to summarize the film by asking what the children had learnt. No one responded. He basically said that you can contract AIDS through sex. He did not even bring up the idea of the use of non-sterilized needles used in medical offices. I found the whole awareness inefficient, vague and lacking many great points.

Pests..
Of course, there are pests everywhere…here I found them to be the worms in the harvested water. They may not be harmful while swimming in the water, but once ingested, who knows.

Also, sand flies were very prominent. They are like tiny flies that bite. They leave red marks once they have quenched their thirst. They are not itchy, thank goodness!

The mosquitoes in Mandari are sparse, or otherwise they were easily deterred by the bug spray. Regardless, I did not find them as much a pest as I do in Bole.

Uhhh, huhhggg Moments…Out of my comfort zone…Learning Opportunities…

The most prominent for me was the drinking/bathing water. Moses, while out on his field drank water from a tub of water sitting out on his field. When he poured it to drink it I was drawn back. The water was yellow and had filled with sediment. I suppose when you are thirsty you will drink anything!

The water in the collection basin at home had little worms in it. Again, the household would drink the water without batting an eye at the quality of the water. What were they to do with the water anyway…other than boil it.

When I first arrived I insisted that I bathe in the cold water, but after seeing the worms I had asked to boil some water (that would cool), so that my mind would be at ease. The warm bathe was not as satisfying as the cool one, but it sure made me less concerned about the state of my health.

My basic knowledge. When Moses was teaching the class his topic was recording and graphing. He was measuring the height of the students…4 ft 6 inches…4 ft 10 inches…4 ft 16 inches???...4 ft56 inches???...I asked the boy sitting next to me how many inches there were in a foot…he had no idea. There was a curfufle cascading from my inquiry which lead to Moses asking me what I had asked him. Moses’ response was that there were 30 inches in one foot. I did not want to correct him in the middle of class. He finally realized his mistake, but failed to inform the students…I did not want to embarrass him in front of his class. While his students were using his data to create graphs he was constantly changing the data as he was trying to learn how to calculate the proper heights.

The role of women in the society. I felt like a slave to the man. WOW, it sure made me appreciate the respect the men I have grown up around have shown for women! I am so grateful to not feel subordinate to the men in Canada.

The hard working, obedient children. The extended family had around 4 young girls who helped with the daily chores. They never whined to their mother about having to do it, and they never “talked back” or disrespected their elders. It was beautiful and made me realized how spoiled most of the children I know, and how spoiled I was while growing up.

Religion. I was a target for the missionary preaching’s of Moses, who insisted on lecturing me on the bible and on the Pentecost religion. I don’t know why this makes me sick to my stomach…but once again I had to hold my tongue as he proudly lectured me on why I should follow him and his faith. At one point I saw anger in his eyes, and it frightens me to think how religion for some brings such negative feelings; regret, fear, resentment or shame. On the other hand, I am contented by how religion can conform a community; decreasing the havoc that could be a result of lack of fear or shame for ones action’s.

How I can learn from Moses and how Moses can learn from me:

Moses taught me:
That bee sting venom can help fight off malaria
How to prune a cashew tree
How to sow sorghum
What colours to not wear while bee farming (red and black)

I taught Moses:
Some Chemistry: Basic Chem/Organic Chem (JSS course)
How many inches in a foot


Overall, I am grateful for my “unique” experience in Mandari. I really appreciate many things I took for granted in Bole. I have skimmed the surface when coming into contact with poverty; however I managed to get a small taste of rural life in Ghana’s Northern region. I would hope that more people from Canada could have this experience, or one as similar, as to be more appreciative of the things we take for granted. I hope that I will never forget this experience and that I can carry forward this lesson in the future so as to have a better understanding of the work that the AEA’s do (having a greater impact with MoFA), so I can better my life and forever use this knowledge when making decisions during the course of my career.


Love, peace and happiness to all of you who were interested enough to read till the end...it is those of you who I love dearly...