Willy Heist

Peace Corps Ghana.

Willie was both a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student in the Loret Miller Ruppe Peace Corps Masters International Program at Michigan Tech. Find out more about this program at http://peacecorps.mtu.edu/ .

November 4, 1998 - Training in Ghana

"… the only thing i miss from the states is spending time in the beautiful woods of the u.p."
"so how's ghana you ask? well, fantastic, and very, very strange.
"and training? eh, not too bad. for the most part, good even. of course there is some ridiculousness, but, i suppose that is to be expected. anyhow, i will include more in the quarterly report.
"oh, yeah! about the quarterly report, i'll try, but i'm quickly assimilating to the pace of things and the national motto 'take time'."

November 13-14. Willy's site:

"Domiabra - "come if you love me", which basically means you only go there if a loved one is there. but it doesn't seem so bad, in fact i kinda like it (I spent a week there on site visit.) it's a village of about 800, round about an hour west of accra. the nearest market town, kasoa, is about 12 km away, and by all accounts, the worst place in ghana. ... i look forward to spending some time there. the people of the village are predominantly ga, so mii kase ga (i'm learning the ga language), but it's the edge of the ga district, so in kasoa, ga, twi, fante, and even some ewe are spoken.

"the guy before me did a really good job, he walked into a mess and really cleaned it up. ... the collaborative community forestry initiative (ccfi) comprised of peace corps, m.o.f.a., and a.d.r.a manages the money funding by usaid. it was originally a reforestation project, but now is more agro-oriented, still focusing on trees, but as funding is withdrawn, it is hoped, that some agro-enterprises will have been established in the community. the primary project at the nursery is to provide a.d.r.a. registered farmin groups with seedlings. this is successful to varying degrees, group to group and nursery to nursery. at Domiabra they've got a pretty good poultry project going. they raise about 150 broilers every 6 weeks or so and sell them, mainly to the expat community in accra. this is done with the help of john the missionary. also, a structure for raising grasscutter was just completed. what's grasscutter? it's an herbivorous rodent that is very much enjoyed, pretty much thru-out the nation, however the most common way to harvest them is to light a bush fire then shoot them with a shotgun. so this is not particularly environmentally sound, raising them would diminish bush fires but still fill local demand. i'm not sure yet what may become of the hunters.

Helpful advice:

"if you're in a local bar with say, 5 fellow trainees and one of your PCV trainers, drinking a few beers, and ya think it's a good idea to strip down and, basically, dance naked, it's not. the PC administration doesn't care for it too much."

Early February 1999

"I've just been easing into village life. i'm pretty well eased in now and really get out and start making more of an effort. i usually go to the nursery about 4 days per week, but as it is the dry season we don't do too much, mostly weeding around the place and filling poly bags for outplanting (we're supposed to have ~65,000 by March/April).

"... as far as Ghana goes, i dig it more & more every day. yes, indeed it is an odd place, but somehow, it just makes sense."

June 1999

Inservice Training (IST) was at Songhai Center in Benin. They've got a little bit of everything goin' there (animal husbandry, vegetables, feed crops, biogas, etc.). There's really nothing spectacular about any of the sectors there, but what is rather impressive is the integration. They use virtually no external inputs with everything that they do there, they do both very low technology (for the rural farmer) and slightly larger scale requiring capital investment.

I've had (have) giardia for the last 2 1/2 months. I held out taking the drugs until it was positively identified because they are rather harsh. When giardia was ID'ed they me metronidazole (flagyl) which didn't work. Then they gave me the even stronger (more toxic) facygin which I don't think worked but soon I'll go in to find out. So I think I'm just going to get used to living it with it for a while; it's generally not too bad, the drugs are bad and I can't drink the local liquor (or any alcohol) while taking them. For a two week spell around i.s.t. I had a small fever, headaches that would come and go, and general achiness and fatigue (malaria? dengue fever?). When I finally went to see the PCMO [Peace Corps Medical Officer], it went away, so I'm not sure what it was.

3 July 1999

"The rains are here and they are a comin' a plenty, they tell me it is like old times.

"At the nursery I've been occupied, if not always busy with the distribution seedlings, which has gone fairly smoothly, all things considered (like being in the developing world)."

Early November 1999

I had my mid-term medical exam during the past quarter and indeed I do have giardia yet again. It appears that perhaps I should be a bit more careful as to what and where I eat. As I have told you, my market town is a bit on the dirty side and as I go there at least twice a week and shop on the street rather freely, it is in fact my fault that I continue to get sick, but the food is just so tasty that I can't help it.

From the mid February 2000 report.

I'm sure that you have heard at least some account of out travels up north from Bergert so I won't say so much about them, just that no matter what Dan has told you, I assure you that we are all fine upstanding young men and if we caused any damage along the way it was limited to our brains and livers. Truly, I had a fantastic time as I think the others did, and it was a well needed breather from Peace Corps. I remember you telling me that west Africa has some of the best music in the world when we first found out that I would be going to Ghana. I'll tell you, up until we went on this trip, I thought that either you'd lied to me or your taste in music is somehow disturbed. However, I now realize that you were in fact speaking truthfully, and damn, they had some great music there, especially in Mali; both the traditional and newer stuff, but as you know, there really isn't so much difference between the old and new, kind of like one big continuum.

So back to Ghana and problems in my village. As I returned, I was expecting the worst. As it turned out, it was bad, but no so much so. Most of what little interest there was in retrieving our pumping machine dissipated. About the pumping machine anyhow… I know I am to be a facilitator rather than a policeman, but, especially at first, I thought I should put in a little effort, for appearances, if nothing else. I would still be willing to put some effort into it if the workers and/or community committee and/or village at large put in any effort whatsoever. Surely (not to be confused with Shirley), the workers would like it returned, but they aren't doing anything about it, although the foreman does still think we should sent the case to a juju man, even though we, even I, all know who is involved. I'm not all too bothered by this except for this: A few individuals are in essence stealing for there own benefit something which benefits the entire community (not just the C.C.F.I. stuff, we had been renting it out dirt cheap to farmers and had lent it to the village for use in some small dam project). Even this wouldn't bother me much if it had ended up being used more effectively, as you mentioned, but the word on the street (bush path) is that they were unable to sell it to a nearby commercial farmer and now it's too hot so the boys were going to bury it somewhere in the bush.

Willy blowing bubbles.

December 2000.

Since the last report, there has not been all too much going on at the nursery; mostly just weeding and watering the seedlings. We have (approximately 2500 cashew and 1500 each of neem and gliricidia) and general nursery maintenance. We planted these woodlot species in hopes of a minor season as the major season was so bad, but it didn't come. Actually, as I was preparing to leave Domiabra, it looked as though it might; only about two months late. Also, I had a couple of little sessions with the nursery foreman going over the books/record keeping and writing the monthly reports for adra. As it turns out, he was hesitant about this before because then I wouldn't have much to do. When I explained that the main job of the PCV is to make himself useless, meaning that the workers can effectively run the nursery themselves, he consented to more actively learning to keep the books.

I officially left Domiabra 22/11/00 and moved to Amedeka, which is roughly 80 km northwest of Accra, and pretty much right at the point where greater Accra, eastern and Volta regions come together. There is a C.C.F.I. nursery here and the volunteer has been here for 1 year. Although farther from Accra than Domiabra, the transport is better and takes the same or even less time.

In the last report I mentioned something about the nursery getting together a cornmill project. Since that time, the proposed project fell down. The woman was getting impatient for us to pay off the machine and after some time and we still couldn't, she came and collected her machine. Our adra seedling check came the following week. As we were having then about exactly enough to buy a machine and all of the accessory equipment and build a housing structure, we decided to wait on this project because if something went wrong, we'd be screwed. So we ere thinking of something smaller; if nothing else, treasury bills (at the time it was 41%); and that's where it was when I left.

February 2001

"As for Domiabra, the wickedness is reaching new highs, with the current chieftancy dispute. I went for a visit a couple of weeks ago and upon arrival, I was informed that 4 houses were burned in the previous night. They calmed down a bit when I was there and only burned 2."

You can also go to the official Ghana homepage.

Most recent update: March 13, 2001.

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