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.

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