Margaret Shao -
Peace Corps Ghana.
Margaret 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/ .
26 August 1999 - About three weeks before leaving for training.
"I've met three people from a PC database who are also going to Ghana. One girl, Rosa, is from Los Angeles and she has a CCFI assignment too. She's been working in the television business in LA but her family lives in Michigan. Small world. One guy, Billy Register is from DC and is doing SBE and Angela is assigned to water sanitation."
"Well, I'm saying all my goodbyes now and getting treated out to wonderful meals and good wishes. I've been very aware lately as I pull out ice cubes from the freezer or turn on the warm water faucet in the shower how great it is to have these things. But, easy enough to give up for the next two years.
"I've been reading over Dan's web page and I'm really impressed with his observations. I'm reading the same material over and over (that you sent me) and lately I seem to be retaining more of the issues that some of the nursery manager /sites present."
25 September 1999 - Just arrived in Ghana.
"Well I'm so happy to be here in Accra. It's been such a warm welcome here and everyone has been so awesome and wonderful. Today we are on a scavenger hunt through Accra to get us familiar with riding tro-tros and asking people for directions. A nice computer engineer student at one our stops has kindly let us on the internet to write some email so I wanted a chance to let you know everything is great!! Long flight from NY to Amsterdam to Accra, something like 30 hours of travel but it was worth it. 44 trainees in this group and there is a cluster of women, about 6 of us who are in our mid to late 30's. It's a great group. I met Ann Chan and everyone went to a local bar, Mr. Ree's for Star and Club beer. "
13 October 1999 - In training
The staging was really quite brief from 2:00 pm to 6:30 p..m. the first day. I was very impressed with the breadth of experience and wide diversity of the training class. During ice breaker introductions, I found out 3 other people also brought seaweed! I wasn't the only one. There's a cluster of women my age - 32 to 40 years old. There's about 6 or 7 of us so we've got a little support group going (mostly drinking on top of the roof of the training center in saltpond after classes before we have to go home to our homestay).
We had been on the move for about 32 hours without much substantial sleep but we were met at the airport by Leonard Floyd, our Peace Corp Director, as well as several Peace Corps staff. We met a couple of volunteers as well.
We were loaded onto a couple of buses to our hotel. Secaps which was really nice. Bungalows with thatched roofs. When we arrived about 30 or more PCV's were there to welcome us! It was terrific welcome. We got rooms, ate a little dinner and is tradition, we were taken to a local beer joint called Mr. Ree's where Star and Club beer are on top. Willy Heist was there and gave me a hug. It was nice to see a familiar face. His hair has grown out quite a bit. I'd call it an afro (I know - not politically correct). So I met some forestry volunteers and it all was a bit of a daze with my mind and body deprived of sleep but I went to bed feeling very welcome into Ghana.
The next day was a mellow day at Peace Corps headquarters in Ghana. Got fitted for bicycles (I hear we are getting TREK 820's), had more vaccinations and immunizations, put our valuables in a safe as well as meet with our assistant Peace Corps Directors (APCD's).
So that evening was the reception for the PCT's at the US Ambassador's residence. Wow what a party. Kay Robinson was our gracious hostess and we had a chance to meet some of our Ghanaian counterparts. I met Mildred Taylor, head of ADRA, which is the agency that partly administers the CCFI Nurseries and some NGO representatives. It was very nice, good food, cold drinks (with ice!) And beautiful surroundings.
My homestay family is Mr. & Mrs. Mosood Johnson, a Moslem family with 2 teenage children who are awaiting entry into Senior Secondary School based on their test results. I have my own room. I'd call them middle-class. Mr. Johnson is a retired teacher, school board executive, while his wife Hajura is still teaching. They have been very friendly and they have lots of relatives nearby so I'm visiting or being visited by aunts, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc. It's very nice when the little kids come around. They are fascinated by my mini tape recorder and sing me lots of songs so they can hear themselves on tape. They don't have any running water, so its bucket baths. At homestay, I've gotten to eat all kinds of Ghanaian food. The most typical and favorite food is fufu, made from pounded cassova and plaintain shaped into the size of softballs which you eat with ground nut (peanut) soup. I like it. It reminds me of nicchi, which is Japanese pounded rice. I've had boiled plaintains, cocoa yams, banku (fermented cassava and yam dough) yam fufu, snails - they are huge pink and purple snails the size of baseballs! I didn't like the snails. I've had a lot of rice and chicken, fish stews ll cooked in a spicy tomato base. Very spicy but I like it. I feel I've fully been initiated to Ghana with a mild case of gastro-intestinal diarrhea (I think it was the snails), but I am fine now. Unfortunately, a lot of trainees have gotten sick but the PC medical staff has been great. My homestay is ending on Friday with a dinner for the host families given by Peace Corps. My host family loves video and we have videos every night, such as True Lies, Action films, Nigerian films - everyone comes to watch.
I'm going to the Upper East Region to a nursery in Kandiga. It's 16 miles from region capitol of Bolgatanga. I'm replacing Jared Buono who fortunately was one of the PCV trainers at Saltpond, so I got to know him.
I think the North will be challenging. Harmattan ends in January and February. Temps up to 120 but also very beautiful landscapes and the people up north are even friendlier and more welcoming. The southern nurseries produce lots of seedling but they truly aren't self sustaining because the 30,.000 seedlings they produce and distribute are brought by ADRA farmers subsidized by USAid money. That money runs out at the end of 2000 and it order to be self sustaining, they have to find new farmer clients or secondary income. North the nurseries only produce a tenth the number of seedlings, but in a sense will be more realistic nursery that will not be so heavily reliant on ADRA/USAid money.
The Ghana PC Env. Training Group.
Oh, I forgot to tell you about tech training. I think its been really good. We've had a lot of field trips. We've seen 2 nurseries and one more this week. So we have an idea of what ours will possibly be like. Gomar Main Nursery built a grasscutter house where they are raising grasscutters for meat/secondary income. We've also met a community that received seedlings and saw farms that had planted cassia for a woodlot and cashew trees. Cashews, citrus, seems to be favorite seedlings in the South. We've had vegetable production soil, agro-forestry extension workshops, but he best so far has been a field trip to Kakun Forest Reserve. It's tropical rain forest with a canopy walk suspended around 7 tree platforms with these rope bridges. That was so fantastic and seemed like a successful eco-tourism project that USAid helped establish.
30 November 1999
I was sworn in as a volunteer on Friday, November 27 and I'm making my way to my site. I went to the Kumasi sub-office for two days and visited a new eco-tourism site that Billy Register from my training class is working on. It's a mountain with a great view of the Ashanti region. It's a series of escarpments that would appeal to nature lovers, outdoorsy hikers. The village near the mountain was Nsuta and getting back to Kumasi we took a car from Nsuta to Mampong. In Mampong we got a tro-tro to Kumasi. We had to wait for the tro-tro to fill up before we left. A man came on with his newly acquired grass-cutter. I guess he had it killed so it wouldn't run around the tro-tro so it was dripping a bit of blood from its rodent incisors on to the tro-tro floor. I found out it was a good price at 7000 cedis. I asked him if he had brought it on alive if he would have had to pay the fare for it as another passenger. He didn't get the joke. I'm now in the Tamale sub-office typing up this report on their computer and last night Dan Bergert and Willy Heist rolled in from Burkina Faso. They're finishing up a trip they made up to Mali and Burkina. It was a Michigan Tech reunion of sorts. They are well and making their way back to Accra. Willy is going back to his village and Dan will be flying to Germany and then the US.
Eighteen of us were headed to the Upper East region (nine Peace
Corps Trainees and nine Counter Parts) so luckily Peace Corps
in Accra bought our STC (State Transport Company - equivalent
to Greyhound) tickets. We needed to catch the daily 9:00 am bus
to Bolgatanga, 800 km away. After arriving in Accra and sluggishly
moving through the morning traffic we arrived in the STC station
and check in went smoothly. We drove through the Brong-Ahafo region,
which is lush green/humid tropical rain forest. It is the part
of the forest belt of Ghana with up to 200 mm of rain / year.
The bus stops about every two hours for a fifteen-minute rest
stop. Amazing how fast Ghanaians can eat a softball size of fufu
(pounded cassava and plantain starch staple of Ghana) and groundnut
soup during a bus rest stop. The most exciting stop up north was
at the vegetable / fruit stand. People were buying plantains,
yams and pineapples - last chance to buy southern produce before
heading into the drier climate of the North.
The bus was then loaded with 50 kilo bags of yams, huge stalks of plantains and more passengers so we were packed in. The only hint there was any free floor space was when a yam was rolling around under your seat. I don't know if STC has a policy on bringing livestock on board but we didn't have any goats or chickens. It took 13 hours to drive from Accra to Bolga. It wasn't too bad but I don't imagine I'll be heading to Accra more than I have to, even if I have a craving for a good Chinese meal or ice cream. We arrived in Bolgatanaga (Bolga for short) at 10pm and we go a taxi to take us 16 miles to Kandiga. Ten miles on paved road and at Kandiga junction there is a great big sign for the tree nursery.
My job will be to phase over the nursery so that it is no longer relying on USAID funds. Beginning in December, our funding will be cut by a third and by June 200, we will no longer be receiving any money from USAID through ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the Ghanaian administrator for the USAID money). Our goal is to get the nursery to be self-sustaining. Besides tree seedling sales, income is generated by dry season gardening. We have a permanent water supply from the huge reservoir that was dammed up more than five years ago. The nursery has a valve and irrigation channel with which we grow. Another way of increasing income is increasing our inventory of grafted mangos. The mangos native to the north do not produce a marketable fruit, so we are grafting a couple of the more popular varieties to the local rootstock. The most difficult thing for that enterprise is finding good budwood / scions for grafting.
Relaxation time outside of training has been good. We went
to Cape Coast Castle, site of many slave-trading operations. It's
quite horrible. The castle contains dungeons where hundreds of
slaves were kept at one time when awaiting slave ships. An awful,
gross inhumanity that is contrasted to the quarters of the governor
who lived above the dungeon in splendor, overlooking this spectacular
coastline of Cape Coast. Another diversion was created by a trainee
Jim, from San Francisco, who took it upon himself to clean up
the beach next to the trainee center. Many people free-range (use
the beach as a toilet) so Jim decided to have a beach clean-up
in order to have a beach-party. He organized three video nights
where everyone paid 200-300 cedis (=10 cents) to watch videos.
He collected about 5000 cedis which paid for small boys and a
foreman to create a stone lined path and clean up part of the
beach so we could have a volleyball game. We played US Vs Ghana
and had food and beverages catered by a local woman, Mama Ethel,
who owns the California Bar, and we had a regular beach party.
Map of Kadinga Nursery.
31 December 1999
My village is great and I have a couple of projects in the New Year that I want to work on with my Community Tree Nursery. Grafting mangos, trying to start a rabbit raising business, and aquaculture in a small fish pond that is dug but needs to be lined (want to raise tilapia to sell in the market so if anyone has any info please let me know).
Jared Buono and Margaret with a grafted mango.
I've been at site for one month and my day revolves around going to the nursery for a few hours in the morning working now with the dry season garden (tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, soy beans) which is irrigated from the reservoir and irrigation channels that were built and established by previous volunteers. So the rest of the time is building friendships in the village by visiting the market (every three days where you can buy some produce, lots of millet, groundnuts)and hanging out with some of the chop bar (Ghana equivalent of fast food which usually is rice balls and some type of meat soup usually goat) ladies, one of whom has adopted me into her family. I also spend time just trying to get some other projects going, elementary school is only 2 rooms with 210 students so I helped write a grant proposal to build onto that. I'm very much just gettting used to everything. I've been fetching my own water at the borehole 200 meters away, wash my clothes at the borehole, and just cooking and the day flies by. It's the Harmattan season now with sometime fierce winds and the sky is full of dust and sand but it's nice because the evening and nights are cool which is refreshing. I even need to wear sweats when I wake up in the morning.
25 January 2000
I¹ve been to going to "work" everyday at the nursery. I want to get familiar with the routine and what is going on, get to know the workers. The nursery had been without a volunteer for about a month but they were doing fine. The harvest of millet and groundnuts have been in now for over a month and people are starting dry season projects like repairs on their houses from the previous year¹s rain (which were quite severe bringing about a certain number of deaths, cholera outbreak, and the property damage). Other activities also include dry season gardening. Unlike the nursery with easy access to the large reservoir via a valve and concrete irrigation channel, most dry season gardens are small and watered by hand from hand dug wells. There are two large agricultural areas that have concentrated dry season gardens. One area is in Pwalugu, a town 13 miles south of Bolga towards Tamale on the White Volta. Several small farms operate along the banks of the White Volta. There is also an old tomato processing plant that is located there waiting to be bought and machinery updated. Rumors are that someone or company is waiting to buy it when the price comes down. That would definitely boost local industry providing some employment as well as a market for dry season gardeners (including Kandiga Community Nursery). The other large agricultural area is the Tonno Dam Irrigation project which is west of Navrong (about 20-25 miles from Kandiga). I¹d like to investigate what¹s going on at both of these sites. Tonno dam has tilapia fish and maybe our source once we get our fish pond done. As for lining the fish pond I talked with other volunteers and Dusty (also from Michigan, downstate) had just gone to Songhai Center in Benin. It¹s an exceptional place, demonstration farm of agroforestry principles that the last few Peace Corps In-Service Training have taken place. He asked about my dilemma and they suggested clay also buy layered with wet cloths (like flour sacks) as a way of lining our pond. That will our project for the upcoming quarter, perhaps before the big crush of polybag filling/seedling germination begins. The first two weekends after I arrived at site were filled with harvest and farm festivals. The first weekend in December is Farmer Day and President JJ Rawlings came to Bolgatanga to support and praise the work of the farmers. In all the villages they had their own celebrations which basically is a chance to visit with neighbors, collect donations for projects (like church building funds) when people are flush with a little money from harvests, and celebrate with food (koosi, a deep fried bean flour doughnut without the hole) and drink (plenty of akpeteshie and pito which is brewed from millet, did I say plenty?). So a big celebration the first weekend and I got a chance to meet some of the local politicians including Clothilda Amengo-etego, the Chief District Executive (an appointed position by the president, one for each District). She also happens to be the senior sister of the chief of my village. She is quite powerful, smart, influential so I know she will help me if I need her help. The second weekend was Agroforestry Day hosted by Kandiga¹s Tree Planter¹s Association. This association has been meeting for the last 16 years and they have planted trees and helped with some soil erosion bund building but from what I can see it¹s more of a social group (it originated with funding from an NGO which has sinced pulled out as has the momentum of the association). However, they put on a good celebration which the chief as well as local dignitaries attended. The local radio station, Bolgatanga radio FM 89.6, came and Alex, the radio talent recorde many of the speeches and described the events. So I heard later that my little speech in Gurune made it on the next days "Morning Tidbits". So most of the people in town tuned into their radios know who I am but I¹m just beginning the process of meeting the people in my village.
The landscape [around my village] is shrubby, sparsely forested grassland which has been well farmed over with millet and groundnuts but spotted with large trees like dawa-dawa and my personal favorite, baobab trees. I remember first seeing the baobabs in Kenya and during the dry season they lose all their leaves and they have this strange branching umbrella like form which goes well with the Kenyan fable that when God was creating the world he got angry at man, I can¹t quite remember the reason, probably for man being stupid. God picked up the baobab tree in anger and threw it back into the ground with roots sticking up. Most of the houses are these family compounds made of mud and manure (sienna red comes to mind for the color) structures with little courtyards where the goats, guinea fowl, sheep, cows, chickens live and then there¹s a low wall you climb over into the human habitation area and rooms.
The last three PCV¹s have all been men and gender roles in Ghanaian society don¹t expect men to do these things. So they have been more than willing to do those things for me but, being kind of independent and stubborn, right now I fetch my own water and wash my clothes and cook for myself but gladly accept their supplemental help and all invitations for dinner. I know I will tire of fetching water and will hire some small boy or girl to do it but for now I¹m enjoying the novel experience of it all. The borehole pump is about 200 yards away (some women fetch up to 5 gallons of water in their headpans and walk 700 or 800 yards away). I need about two buckets a day so it hasn¹t been too bad yet and my arms are getting strong (not trying to do the head carrying, girls and boys as soon as they are walking start carrying small bowls and pans on their head and progressively get bigger and heavier &SHY; I walked the other day, 2 1/2 miles pushing a wheelbarrow full of tomatoes following my worker Nsomah with an 80 lb headpan of tomatoes on her head to the truck from Accra that buys tomatoes). I¹m working at the nursery which is digging beds with a hand hoe, pulling up water from a well with a bucket and rope, hacking trees with cutlass, and pounding cow manure into powder with a hammer.
An aside about gender roles. The community committee and nursery gave me a welcoming ceremony with chicken light soup and pito. However, there is only one woman nursery worker and one woman member of the committee. The worker, Nsomah could not come so Victoria of the committee and I prepared the light soup (killing, plucking, cutting up chickens), serving, then cleaning up for the 12 men attending my welcoming ceremony. So funny, I¹m the guest of honor and I had to do all the work because I am a woman. Victoria was kept away during part of the ceremony so I was up and down serving pito. We'll have to work on that before my going away party.
14 February 2000
Today was a difficult day in that one of my workers at the nursery died last Friday and the rest of the workers and I went to his house today to sympathise with his family. Tanko Atanga was his name and he was a hard-worker and well liked. Even the cause of his death is a lesson in cultural differences. He had been ill for about a week, his teenage son came to the nursery as a substitute worker for him. We stopped by his house on the Wednesday before he died and he seemed shaky but didn¹t know how severe his illness was. The general consensus is that he had pneumonia but some people in the village think his elder brother who was jealous of him poisoned him, another theory is that a quack doctor "herbalisit" misdiagnosed his condition and didn¹t give him the appropriate medicine. Won¹t ever really know what the cause of death is but it¹s a difficult situation to be faced with. We all went to mourn which includes loud wailing for several minutes, initially it seems contrived crying but soon the emotions kick in and the real weeping and wailing takes place( I didn¹t participate I sat to the side of the house being a stranger). Then, we brought a gallon of akpeteshie (local hard spirits I¹ve heard it¹s similar to everclear) and cola nuts as offerings to the family. I guess the drink and cola nuts is to help them through the mourning.
15 May, 2000
I have just returned from the Forestry IST (In-Service Training) that took place from May 8-12 in Saltpond in the Central Region. If you remember Saltpond was the site of our 9 week PST(pre-service training). It was a bit surreal, feeling as if we actually haven't spent 6 months at our respective sites, that it was all a dream and we were still at PST.
Since my last quarterly report I have traveled to two conferences. The first conference I attended was the Annual CCFI Conference held in Tamale in the Northern Region March 28-30. I attended the 3-day conference with my extensionist, Daniel Adelipore. It was attended by PCV's and a member of the nursery staff (usually the foreman, extensionist, or a member of the community committee) representing the 34 nurseries in the CCFI family. About a quarter of the nurseries have already phased over (no longer receiving financial or food aid from ADRA-USAID) and the Ghanaian foreman and managers of the phased-over nurseries also attended. All of the ADRA(Adventist Development and Relief Agency) staff working on the CCFI nurseries attended as well as some of the staff of the collaborating agencies like MOFA (Ministry of Food and Agriculture), FORIG (Forestry Research Institute of Ghana), and Ghana Forestry Department.
The agenda of the meeting focused on Phase Over, which will be complete by September 2001. That is the deadline or final phase when the nurseries will no longer receive aid. The nurseries in Northern Ghana were established earlier than the southern nurseries so many of the northern nurseries have already experienced whether the nurseries are self-sustaining. Sessions included writing a constitution for the nurseries, financial management, production targets, out planting scenarios, extension, secondary income projects, and innovations. Some of the nurseries have been assimilated into their districts so that it is supported by the district assemblies. Many of the nurseries want to remain "private" so that they do not get enmeshed into the local politics and bureaucracy of local district governments. It was my first chance to see representatives from all the nurseries from all over Ghana. The final session were "incentives" to keep up the good work by giving awards like best extension to community, best community involvement, largest production by a nursery, etc. with the best all around nursery. Kandiga did not win but we did get honorable mention for good record-keeping. An auditor had come to all the nurseries to summarize the fiscal year (Oct. 1 1998-Sept.. 30 1999).
The other conference I attended was the IST that I mentioned above. It was just technical training and the emphasis also for this training were phase-over and self-sustainability with a little diversity and GYD (Gender and Youth Development) thrown in. It was facilitated by Aba Sey (our APCD-Associate Peace Corps Director) and Vincent Djarbeng, Agroforestry Specialist for ADRA. We had a good session on organic farming led by Mr. Newton Amaglo of Ghana Organic Network. He gave us a good overview of the importance of organic farming and he was giving out Mucune prurience seeds as a green manure to plant. We'll try that out in the nursery. He also had seeds for Moringa olefeira which he says is a good treed providing animal fodder. We may try to plant that around our fish pond. Any additional info you may have on either of these species would be great. We also had a session on cashew nut processing. Ghana Forestry department is pushing cashew as an agroforestry tree but most farmers don't have enough land to have a cashew orchard so they produce only small amounts of cashews. ADRA is trying to set up small coops for processing and also buying agents so that farmers can actually sell their cashews. It's very labor intensive and a long process. The skin on my fingers are still peeling from the CSNL found in the shells when you crack them open. Peace Corps is also sponsoring and focusing more attention on AIDS/HIV education so we also had a session on that. Next year they will have one or two positions for third year extending volunteers to be AIDS education trainers/coordinators
We had interesting field trips including a women's group that is self-sustaining running a batik and tie dye workshop and store, a school teacher who raises sheep, goats, turkey, grasscutters, layers (chickens) in a very small yard. Intensive production but kept really clean and all the animals seem very healthy. She makes good money selling the animals. Beekeeping and product processing was also a good field trip. Our nursery isn't interested in bees because all my workers are afraid. We had one bee box but we have since sold it off since no one wants to get within 10 feet of the bee box. However, other nurseries are doing well with this project. Overall I was remotivated and reenergized to get our nursery to self-sustainability.
The projects at the nursery that I may have mentioned before in the previous report are to start a rabbitry and stock fish pond to supplement our income. The fish pond has been on hold since our water supply and the high temps and evaporation haven't allowed us to keep water in the pond. I tried on small scale lining some small ponds with clay layered with plastic but they didn't hold water. We can't afford to make a fully lined concrete pond so we are considering finding good size rocks to use as bricks and mortar with concrete. That won't be as costly. The rabbitry is on hold due rabbit availability. I checked out a New Zealand initiated rabbitry but they only had 6 rabbits and were not selling until they had a few litters to increase their inventory. There are bush rabbits but too skinny for meat production. So my other option is to go to the veterinary college in Pong-Tamale, about 3 hours by tro-tro from Bolga. I'll go into more detail regarding the nursery under site section.
Well, all I can say is it's really hot. My candles are wilt over so they look like candy canes. All the disposable single use Thermadot thermometers that tell temperature by heat sensitive dots they gave us in our med kits are all spoiled since it has been well over 106 degrees. I'm surviving by drinking lots and lots of water and not doing an awful lot in the middle of the day. At least there are plenty of mangos to eat to pass the time and plenty of books to read. I've read over 30 books since being at site. Reading seems to be the best thing to do and least likely to overheat myself in the middle of the day. At the end of the day at dusk it cools enough so that I can do my chores around the house like laundry, etc and then it gets dark and I read some more. There was one big rain storm just before I left so we are expecting the rains to come in June.
As for the nursery we have been busy most of March and April filling our polysacs with soil. Our seedling production target for this year is 9000 tree seedlings. We want 3000 mango trees with the majority being rootstock for next year's grafting. 2000 Cassia, 2000 Albizia, and 3000 cashew. About 80 percent of the trees will go to the five communities around Kandiga that have been selected by ADRA. Each community has 24 farmers who will plant the trees. Each farmer will receive 45 trees to plant on their farms. This is tied to the food aid they receive so right now ADRA wants a planting survival rate (to be determined but 50% seems to be batted around) from the farmers or else they will not receive food aid. The rest of the trees we will try to sell to traditional farmers. We seem to have a big market for grafted mangos from the regional capital, Bolgatanga. Those are our most expensive seedlings we sell and most of the farmers around us can't afford it but plenty of people in Bolgatanga can and want to buy grafted mango so we want to increase our marketing towards Bolgatanga.
I started a numeracy class at the nursery twice a week. Three of the nursery workers have never attended school and even holding a pen to write with is a new experience. So I have been doing this for a month and doing very basic exercises like practicing writing their numbers and simple addition. We play games like BINGO and CONCENTRATION just to get them use to seeing numbers. The goal is that the workers can cross-check each other when it come to the simple record keeping involved with running the nursery. A ledger book with entries for expenses and tree sales and other income (tomato sales, wood sales).
During this last quarter I was surprised by two visits by art teacher PCV's on their Easter break. They just showed up at my door because my village is listed somewhere among their teaching material as a good site for traditional house painting decoration. Unfortunately I didn't know they were coming but as it all worked out and I got to participate in doing some of the traditional painting. We first plaster the mud brick walls with mud and manure to give a smooth finish. We also did relief of coiled snakes, a tree, and an airplane and gave the wall a lot of texture. We then painted using paint made from ground up black stone, white stone and red stone. I didn't see the whole procedure but what started as a way to protect the walls from the rains has turned into a decorative art. A book by Margaret Courtney Clark called "African Canvas" really is a beautiful art photograph book that documents this. So the painting is done only by women and turns into quite a social event. I can't believe they do this in the dry season when it's so hot but no farming is going on and the rains would wash away the paint so it really is the only time to do it. Now, some of the houses are painted using coal tar mixed with kerosene to make the geometric patterns painted using feathers or rags as brushes. I hope I can send you photos of the paintings next time.
Mango season has come and gone. The local mango is really small and sweet but very stringy and fibrous. The grafted mangos are huge with tiny pits and very little fibers. But they also cost about 10 times more than the local mango. So my diet still consists of rice, pasta, tomatoes, and tuna fish. When I don't cook for myself I eat at the market or else at people's home so I get a chance to eat the millet porridge (tissat), kenkey (made with maize that looks like a big tamale), and rice balls. Not much variety and I do miss leafy green vegetables. I am planning to start my veggie garden in the rainy season. I'm also lucky to get some great packages from the US with dried squid, dried shitaake mushrooms, top ramen, dried miso soup, beef jerky, cranberries so I'm doing really well as far as food.
Since I've been in Accra I've been in indulging in ice coffees with ice cream, pizza, Vietnamese food, and last night we went to a very nice hotel called the Labadi Beach Hotel. They have a dinner buffet that on Monday nights is half-priced. 30,000 cedis which is a lot for a PCV allowance but works out to about US $7. It was so good with roast pork, 5 different salads, potatoes, gravy, carrots, green vegetables. Needless to say the 10 other volunteers I went with inhaled the offerings buffet table. It's good to splurge once in a while.
I found a Tae Kwon Do club in Bolgatanga that I have started
practicing with. It's all Ghanaian and the black belt is great
advertisement for youth development since he started TKD at Bolgatanga
as a small boy and now volunteers his time 6 mornings a week training
all the kids. We did a demonstration at the 6th of March parade
(Ghana's Independence Day) and it was lots of fun.
1 August 2000 (In mid-July Margaret returned to the US for minor surgery.)
I'm flying out today on Lufthansa via Frankfurt. I should arrive Wednesday, 6pm and stay in Accra one or two days until I go back to site. Unfortunately I'm loaded down (I travelled light coming to DC) but t-shirts are 4 for $10 and there are lots of people in the village I want to bring something back for. Also I've got lots of seaweed but that doesn't take much space.
I don't know if I told you that when I flew from Accra I got
on the wrong plane. They only have two boarding gates at Kotoka
airport with half a dozen flights leaving at the same time. Well
I thought I heard the boarding call for KLM flight to Amsterdam.
The gates are really just bus stops for the bus to take you to
the plane on the tarmac so after showing my boarding pass to at
least two people boarding the bus and plane I was all settled
into my seat when the pilot announced that he was happy we joined
him tonight on this flight to Lagos! I asked the flight attendant
if that was a stopover before the final destination of Amsterdam
and she said no. I ran off the plane onto the tarmac and was looking
all over for the right plane. Of course I had tucked my boarding
pass somewhere inconvenient and I couldn't find it so after a
brief panic I found my way to the right plane with the help of
some of the ground crew. Now on my Lufthansa flight, we actually
are stopping off in Lagos.
15 December 2000.
Somehow it feels like Xmas. The Harmattan winds have come early and there is lots of dust in the air making for hazy days and star less nights while the wind is bringing temperatures down and it's cool and nippy in the mornings. The velvety pendant fruits are hanging down from the leafless branches of the baobab trees resembling something like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. The general elections took place December 7 and polling stations were everywhere: as I was riding along during election day I saw plenty of people lined up to vote at schools and some polling stations were under great big baobab trees. Even if you can't read or write you can still vote with a voter ID card with your picture and your thumbprint, then a poll worker helps you with your ballot. Ghanaians keep questioning me on why Americans can't decide who the president of the US is, when we've been practicing democracy for so long.
Well, because I was gone for almost two months I missed the whole out planting procedure. That occurred in July. About 5000 trees that the workers had nursed were distributed to five communities. There are 24 ADRA farmers in each community who have signed up to receive food aid, agricultural inputs, seeds, and they in return have to plant trees on their farms (where we come in) and then with the hopefully higher productivity they repay their "loans" with the soybeans and other products they produce. When I came back in August the bulk of the seedlings had been distributed and the workers were farming our small plots of land with rice and sweet potatoes during the rest of the rainy season.
The first week after I left on med evac the community committee called a meeting, an emergency meeting. I found this all out after the fact. I feel many people connected with the nursery didn't think I was coming back and they had to decide what to do for that event. The very first volunteer in Kandiga was a woman and she ET'd 3 months after arriving so there is some precedence for their fears. At the meeting, two of the workers quit rather than take a salary cut since June 2000 was the time that ADRA fully withdrew financial support. Daniel Adelipore, our extensionist, and Nsomah Akayisa, our only woman worker, quit. So the three remaining have tried but I think right now we are having morale problems with heavy absences and no direction. I feel very ambiguous because I'm the last volunteer and I should be phasing out myself as well, not involve myself in the daily work or management but it's hard to do when you see 2000 mango seedlings wilting and only one other worker has showed up. I'm going to ask them if they want another worker because three people can't run the nursery by themselves.
I have been teaching numeracy classes at the nursery but currently only one worker has remained interested and is doing quite well. Nso never went to school but he is able to do multiplication, subtraction, and addition and the goal is he can do some of the simple bookkeeping. Unfortunately this last month Nso has been preoccupied nursing his eldest son, in his 20's, who had come down with meningitis in Cote d'Iviore, where he was working. Nso hasn't been coming to work seeing his son at the hospital. I gave him 150,00 cedis to pay the hospital because they weren't going to treat him without being paid. Despite all the nursing his son just passed away. This is the second funeral I've gone to. Back in February, one of our workers Atanga died unexpectedly. Then just last week our foreman's mother in law died. So I feel we are all upset and need to regroup and move forward with the nursery.
On a positive note, our foreman, Anthony Ayangba went to the foreman's association meeting December 13. ADRA suggested that the foremen from the 10 nurseries in the Upper East region meet quarterly to help each other since Peace Corps and ADRA are phasing out their support. The plan is that they can rely on each other and pool resources for continuing the individual nurseries. Anthony went with a list of concerns and came back with a written report so I was pleased.
The main secondary project I'm involved in is the grant for building Father Morin Primary School. Ignatius Ayeliwu, the headmaster, and I submitted the grant last December to the US Embassy Self-Help Fund. John Sullivan from the Embassy came by in March 2000 to visit with the PTA and see the village and assess our needs. This was actually the second application. The volunteer before me had submitted a proposal the year before but it wasn't approved. The grant was approved in August and when I signed for it we received US $8,500 to build a three classroom school block with office and storeroom. The funds are from the US Military Humanitarian Assistance Program and we were one of I believe 8 recipients.
We didn't receive the check until September when we opened a bank account. We received 70% of the grant and will receive the balance when we have sent the receipts for purchasing all the materials. Also in September we were trying to survey dealers for good prices on cement, iron rods, roofing sheets. Finally in November we found a contractor (a good deal not a great deal, contractors here are not looked on favorably--they all have lots of money and they have a captive audience for their services) to gather the bulk of our supplies and delivered them to our site. The last few weeks we've had tipper trucks come to convey sand to our site so that we can start molding bricks. It will be a reinforce concrete building with aluminum-zinc corrugated roof. The community responsibility is to provide labor as their contribution to this project.
I haven't started this project but I want to help Kandiga JSS and perhaps Henry Amengo-Etego (father of our current chief) JSS to paint a world map on one of their walls. It's a popular and useful project a lot of PCV's can do and only requires a couple weeks of actual time to complete the project.
I helped with the Pre-Service Training (PST) II that occurred September through the end of November 2000. There are two training classes that come into country each year. The first group of trainees come in June and they are all teachers. They are sworn in then start teaching in their schools. The second trainee group includes environmental, water-sanitation/health, and SED (small enterprise development) volunteers. The Training Officer, Arne Vanderburg, has changed the format of training from center based training (ours was the last one in Ghana were all the trainees spent their 9 weeks at a center-Saltpond) to community based training. It was divided between southern and northern regions.
The trainees stayed at a homestay for the entire nine weeks and would meet once a week for 2 days to get some technical training and facilitated processing. The Northern region met once a week in Bolgatanga. In mid-September all the trainers, language, cultural, technical, PCV's spent a week to create, organize, schedule all the training activities. It was a good experience and it was interesting to have some fresh faced trainees around so I could reflect on how I felt a year ago and what I've experienced since then. I worked with the technical training with ten environmental trainees during two weeks in November before they were sworn in. Swearing in took place the day after Thanksgiving. We celebrated Thanksgiving with all the traditional trimmings (sans cranberry sauce) . We had turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pie.
Overall, I think the community based training is a much better format for volunteers entering their communities. The center based training somewhat coddles the trainee and insulates them from what they will be encountering for the next 2 years. Especially in Ghana where the culture, languages can be quite diverse region to region I think the trainees had a much more realistic entry into their final site assignment then we did.
I think some people have the impression that because I live in West Africa that I look out on my verandah across the field and I will occasionally see bushbuck antelope or elephants or maybe zebra grazing nearby. Unfortunately that really isn't the case since the land has been inhabited, cultivated, and managed for a long time it's hard to even know what it's native or natural state was. Of course there are plenty of goats, sheep, cows, donkeys, guinea fowl, chickens, foraging freely around except during the rainy season (June-September) when they are secured by ropes or herded by small boys to keep them from eating the crops.
I have to mention domestic animals. I have a cat called Toby that I mention in the Travel section. I had a dog named Buster who had to be destroyed in September. He was only about 5 months old when a mad rabid dog came through our village. It caused quite a commotion as all the men picked up any blunt object, chasing this mad dog to kill it before it hurt anyone. Apparently last year two babies were killed by a mad dog so they were determined to destroy it. Well I saw all this commotion and they did kill the dog but when I went back to my house my puppy Buster wasn't anywhere around. My neighbor said that the rabid dog had grabbed my dog by the throat and was dragging and biting him. We searched and found Buster hiding and his wounds were so severe he couldn't eat and was certain to come down with rabies in 10 days. I've been asking the local vet worker to vaccinate my dog and cat against rabies but the vaccine is stored in the clinic 3 miles away in the refrigerator. The vial contains enough shots for 10 animals and the vet worker needs to find 10 clients and arrange the same day to inoculate them because once he takes out the vial from refrigeration he needs to use it immediately or it is no longer effective upon thawing. The shot cost 5000 cedis and unfortunately many people with dogs and cats aren't willing to pay that much. So my dog wasn't vaccinated. I asked some boys to kill Buster for me because he was suffering. They cooked him and ate him and said the meat was very sweet. They felt pity for me because they saw that I was weeping over the dog. Thank goodness no one offered me some of his meat.
I have a good small girl that now helps me fetch my water. So I lasted 8 months fetching my own but it's easier with her. I have gotten over my feelings of exploiting child labor because I'm paying her and she would be working just as hard and she's bringing in some money to help with school fees and family expenses. I'm doing yoga most every morning and one of my goals is to be able to stand on my head before I leave Ghana.
14 January 2001
I'm in Accra as I got recruited to be the Northern representative for the CCFI Nurseries for the National Working Committee. I think the main function of this committee is to have representatives from ADRA, MOFA (Ministry of Food and Agriculture), Forestry, and Peace Corps who are involved in the administration of CCFI. Anyway I got late notice on Tuesday that I was invited to both become a member and join the meeting on Friday in Accra. Big plans now in the works for the Annual workshop and the last workshop since ADRA is withdrawing completely from CCFI come September 2001.
Well with the committee meetings it looks like I'll be travelling more regularly to Accra. The next meeting will be February 12. More access to email and food. A new mini-mall food court opened this expat neighborhood of Accra called Osu is looking more and more like some shopping district in America with pizza parlors, junglemania for kids, I just wonder when Starbucks will come.
17 May 2001
The rains have started. The first rains started end of March, beginning of April. But just these past two weeks, the rains are heavy and frequent enough for the farmers to prepare their fields and some have already sown their early and late millet. There is a carpet of green from the newly sprouted crops as well as all the newly germinated seeds of weeds that have been dormant during the dry hot season. Another indication of the newly sown crops is the bondage of livestock. Goats, sheep, cows are now herded, pegged and staked, tied together to prevent them from eating all the newly sprouted millet. It's a better time for taxi and tro-tro drivers because less animals are crossing the roads these days. Oh, I can almost say I've survived another hot season but a really scorcher surprised me today and was a sweaty reminder of how hot it can be.
I decided to make a list of the good things about hot season:
- takes no time atall ** toboil water for my morning tea (*ghanian pidgin english)
- when I do my laundry my clothes dry really fast
- when I dress and put on clothes, the clothes always feel like they've just come out of the clothes dryer
- don't have to boil my water for my bucket bath, it feels like warm bathwater straight from
my water barrel
- that the maximum readout on my thermometer is 120 degrees farenheit, because it probably was hotter than that, but I couldn't tell from my thermometer.
I'm really fascinated by the Dawa Dawa articles regarding the
increased palatability and nutrition that fermentation has on
the dawa dawa seeds. It provides a some protein in the local diet,
eventhough it isn't eaten in great quantities, mainly used for
flavoring. In "Lost Crops of Africa" which I've seen
in your office, there is a copy here at the Peace Corps suboffice,
there is small reference to dawa dawa endosperm, the yellow powder
as possible binder or filler for bread like products.
Dawa dawa products are flooding the market. Peak season of the fruit maturing is March and April, so there are plenty of dawa dawa products for sale. In the village, it's the beginning of lean season. Not much is available in the market, or what is available is expensive. Getting to the last of the stored grains and people are selling their livestock to buy staple food like millet and rice if their own stores have run out.
I asked other volunteers to fill out a simple market survey I came up with. Only have gotten two responses but it's a little interesting to find out that Iincluding as well as outside my village there are "wholesale" and retail marketing of dawa dawa. I met a women in my village who will sell her Hostess ho-ho's sized dawa dawa , 6 for ¢500 cedis to small boys or girls. They then being more mobile walk around the market selling one for ¢100 cedi and make a little profit for their walking around. So many women seem to be vendors at the market, selling pito, rice balls, dawa dawa, that one of the few ways of getting their grocery shopping is done is by the small boys or girls walking around selling cola nuts, onions, kerosene, etc. From the survey response, in Busa village in the Upper West region, a woman sell her ping-pong sized balls from her house for ¢50 and enterprising youngsters will sell them for ¢100.
What I'm currently doing is following up with two women in the village who are going to let me watch step by step process of the dawa dawa fermentation. I'm also following up on getting a pH kit to see if the boiled seed pods which is used to produced "sour water" actually changes the pH. Perhaps ask some contractor is a acidic plaster is better than a neutral or alkaline plaster. I'm still frustrated that I haven't been able to do as much interviewing as I wanted to, due to my poor language ability in Nankani language. I've asked one of the primary school teachers who speaks very good English to take me around the market so I can interview more of the dawa dawa vendors.
It's tree seedling production time in the nursery. Our production
target for this year is 8140 trees. Basically the breakdown is
3000 woodlot (Cassia sp. , Albizia sp.) trees, 3000 mango trees,
and 2000 cashew trees, and miscellaneous trees (dawa dawa, guava,
We started back in January collecting cow manure, pounding it, and mixing it with the local clay soil plus sand from the stream bed for our polysacs. February and March was spent filling polysacs. To date, we've place all the germinated all the seeds for a target of July for distribution and outplanting. The mangos are a bit different. We place a single layer or mango seeds (collected during the height of mango season when we paid small boys ¢500 cedis a bucket for seeds collected at the market) about 6 inches deep in a germination bed. Then we cover it with soil, then rice straw, either water or let the rain fall on the beds until the seedlings start sprouting. One seed can produce more than one seedling, perhaps 2 or 3. The workers then transplant the single seedlings from the bed into polysacs. Our mangos are usually a year old before we distribute or graft onto them. The two year old seedlings are actually better for grafting because the root stock has a thicker stem, the scions we graft on tend to be large, so we need thick stems on the root stock.
I'm very impressed with one worker, John Nso. He independently organized a tree planting group of 25 people in his area. As I may have mentioned before, the houses are scattered around their farms and spread out. He's gathered these people, collected dues, and have their cooperation to plant a woodlot among their houses so they can have fuelwood, building poles, etc.. They all came to the nursery in March to help us fill polysacs and we will give them extra trees to get their project off the ground. I want to ask our committee members to approve his promotion to extensionist. We haven't had an extensionist over a year but I think he can do the technical part.
Our dry season vegetable garden wasn't very successful this year due to limited water supplies. We have an irrigation canal from the "dam" (that's what everyone calls the large reservoir sthat were dug by John Deere big back hoes and bulldozers financed by Danida or Japanese Embassy trying to ensure water availability) into the nursery. However, the dam has been silting up for the last several years since it's not lined, thereby, reducing the volume of water it holds. In February of this year, the water level looked like the level in May of last year. In order to conserve water we cut down our production of tomatoes and concentrated on keeping our fruit orchard watered. The fruit orchard is mainly bananas and plaintain trees with a few guavas and some pineapples interplanted among the bananas. The nursery also has two wells but they are quite shallow and run dry at this time of year.
The current nursery workers have been doing alright. They were involved in a ADRA sponsored training at the beginning of April for 3 days held at Paga. I got to water the seedlings while they attended the training sessions. Other than that, I've been limiting the time I spend at the nursery since I'm the last volunteer at this site. I go once a week, just to "consult" on the weekly activities as well as planning out the monthly and yearly calendar. We are going to ask for a raise in salary. They had a cut in salary due to ADRA phasing out financial support, but since the crew has reduced to three, the bank account is healthy, we want to keep morale high with some incentive. Currently the monthly salary of each worker is ¢19,000 cedis which is a little less than US $3. They work about 3-4 days a week for 2-3 three hours each day.
A tentative date has been set for July 16 as the Phase Over ceremony when ADRA, Peace Corps, Forestry, MOFA (Ministry of Food and Agriculture) hand over full control and the community accepts full responsibility of the nursery .
Secondary Project Work
The school building is not progressing as fast as I would like.
I'm here for about 6 more months and I just talked with the PTA
and said I would like it finished before I leave, due to my name
on the bank account and wanting to have spent all the money for
the building so that there won't be loose ends and a half finished
school building. The major obstacle actually is a good one. The
head teacher was also working with Catholic Education Services
who approved another grant at the same time for a two classroom
building and that building is getting the finishing touches right
now. Hopefully by the time I leave, Father Morin will have two
new school buildings to house the 210 students, some of whom currently
take classes outside on the dirt under the trees.
Unfortunately, another obstacle is just during the Easter break, the head teacher I've been coordinating with was transferred to another school. There are local politics, name calling, bad reputations, false accusations that have caused this shuffle. I just met with the new head teacher and he is willing to continue with the project. We want to dig the foundation now, before anyone sows seeds on the field and complains that we are digging up his crops. The molding of the bricks has started and I think there will be some delays with the rains but we'll try our best.
The beginning of the year was a big bash at the Paga Crocodile
Pond that's just about 20 miles away from me. There is a PCV there
working on ecotourism and he threw a big New Year's party and
over 40 PCV's showed up. Not really my kind of scene but it was
so close I mainly went to see other PCV's that travelled from
far away. It was fun with donkey races, soccer (PCV's versus Ghanians),
with catered roast pig and roast dog served up in plastic buckets
(really need to work on presentation). The meat eating actually
was quite ghastly as people were just reaching into the buckets
for their hunk of meat. You know why people opt to be vegetarians
with a sight like that.
I was able to take a week off in the middle of March and visit two of tourist spots for wildlife viewing. I went with two other PCV's and a Ghanian to Mole National Park and then to Weichau and a hippo sanctuary on the Black Volta river. Mole is largest game park in Ghana. We got to see lots of elephants, kob antelopes, baboons, warthogs, white faced tree ducks, on our walking safari with park guide armed with a rifle. Our guide Christopher has been at the park 5 years and has never used his rifle. It reminded me of walking safari I took in Zambia at Luanga National Park. The most memorable of that walking safari was getting close enough to zebra to hear them pass gas and see these mongoose type animals, like meerkats running away from us. In Mole, the most exciting was sitting at the watering hole and watching about 30 elephants splashing and bathing within about100 meters from where we were sitting. Mole is not like the big game parks in Kenya and Tanzania but I enjoyed myself. We went in March and the baboons were stripping the dawa dawa trees of the fresh seed pods, maybe I can incorporate that fact into my master's project.
Weichau is in the Upper West Region and there is a PCV working there promoting it as a tourist center and working on conservation. Currently it's the site of an Earthwatch study so several Earthwatch groups go there to help a researcher do bird surveys. Any independent tourist like PCV's benefit from the improved accomadations that were built with Earthwatch money. NIced pit toilet latrine I've been to in Ghana, wonderful local architecture for the rooms but fully equipped with mosquito nets and foam mattresses and orthopedic pillows. We opted to sleep on the flat roof under the stars (it was too hot to sleep inside). You go out on the river in a dugout canoe with a guide and although the hippos are shy and we didn't see much other than their ears, eyes, and noses there were plenty of malachite kingfishers, egrets, and other birds on the peaceful river to look at.
As I wrote in the previous section I'm travelling a lot to Accra for the CCFI National Working Committee. This last trip I lucked out and got a ride with an ADRA car with my CCFI coordinator Tony Mainoo. Also, for a week in April I went to Volta Region to help with the first year Forestry IST. That was my first time in Volta Region. It was at Ho, the capital of the region at Chances Hotel. We lucked into a good deal at this hotel and had air conditioning and satellite TV. I got to watch Star Wars Episode 4 in an air conditioned room. I worked with Aba Sey, our Environmental APCD and Vincent Djarbeng, ADRA Agroforestry Specialist with the training and facilitating. I also got to type up the minutes. Peace Corps has lap tops available for all these trainings and as I'm sitting here in the Tamale Suboffice computer after travelling 3+ hours to get here, I really wished I had brought a laptop with me. Not just for quarterly reports but for personal journal keeping as well.
Peace Corps offers a scholarship program through FAWE (Foundation
of African Women Educaors) to promote secondary school education
for girls. This pays for 2 1/2 years of secondary school fees
and boarding costs. I think about 80 scholoarships were granted
in April and a girl I nominated, Comfort Azamoh won a scholarship
to Bawku SS.
9 August 2001
So now we are in the middle of the rainy season. Everything around is lush and green. The baobab trees are in bloom, big white blossoms hanging down that remind me of inverted magnolia flowers. The rains were small and far apart during the first part of the rainy season but now the rains have come strong and often which sometimes leads to my latrine to fill up to the brim. I learned the local name in Nankani for a rainbow, "gomatia tahoe" which means "chameleon's bow".
The early millet is being harvested although not as plenty and stunted by the meager rains. Earlier this rainy season, girls were walking around playing this local instrument made of many small coin size discs of broken and smoothed calabash, threaded onto a long stick making a castanet sounding stick instrument as you shake and lift it like a drum major would do with a baton. When the first of the millet is harvested, the girls are no longer allowed to play this instrument because it is believed that it will bring strong winds that may harm and break the stalks of millet and prevent them maturing. The sowing of soybeans, ground nuts, sorghum, cowpea, maize, sweet potatoes, and rice are all done now and a lot of work now is hand weeding around the crops.
I've been eating plenty of the shea fruit (taama) since it's the season. It's a yummy green fruit the size of limes which you pop into your mouth and suck off the really sweet custardy pulp (only about an inch or so of fruit pulp) revealing the pecan like shea nut. I went to the local diesel grinding mill about two weeks ago to have my soybeans ground into a coarse meal which I boil with water to make soy milk. There was a long line of women with their headpans of shea nut (yuuni) that had been collected and coarsely pounded by hand awaiting grinding into fine grains. This is then boiled making something that looks like Hershey's chocolate syrup which then is laboriously "knocked" to extract and purify out the fat which becomes the creamy white shea butter.
I'm writing this report from Accra. I've traveled down to attend the COS (close of service) conference that is being held in Ada, in the Volta Region which is about 2 hours from Accra. the conference is from August 6th through August 9th.
Distribution and out planting of trees is nearly complete. On July 20 with help from MOFA, we delivered about 2500 tree seedlings to the ADRA farmers in the communities of Kumbusingo, Mirigu, and Sirigu. Two local communities of Longo and Azeadoma, the ADRA farmers will pick up their tree seedlings from the nursery.
A simple handing over ceremony was held at the nursery on 15th of July, 2001. About 30 people attended including the chief, community elders, assemblymen, and representatives from the collaborating agencies. The nursery is now officially handed over to the community of Kandiga from ADRA, Peace Corps, MOFA (Ministry of Food and Agriculture), and Forestry Department.
We are germinating mango seedlings for rootstock for grafting. This year we made close to one million cedis in grafted mango tree seedling sales and we think that will be the main income that will sustain the nursery.
A new extensionist, John Nso, formerly a trainee for the last
seven years has been put in place. He attended a ADRA sponsored
training. He has also started his own tree planting group.
ADRA/CCFI NATIONAL WORKING COMMITTEE
I went on trek with ADRA/CCFI coordinators Tony Mainoo and Kwame Ochere to visit 10 of the CCFI nurseries in the south, in Volta, Greater Accra, and Central regions. This took place May 26 through June 1. It was a great opportunity for me to see how other nurseries operate. The purpose of this trek was to visit and evaluate the nurseries and also talk with the PCV's, workers, committees about any concerns, successes, updates. Since this is the last year (end date September 2001) of the program that is funded and supported by ADRA and Peace Corps, our team also stressed to the nurseries the importance of getting documentation such as land titles, leases, constitutions in place since the management and responsibility of the nurseries will all be handed over to their respective communities.
We did a lot of driving and I heard a lot of stories from Tony and Kwame. One good story involved a conference ADRA was holding in Accra for their staff. Many of the staff decided to eat at a local chop bar near their guest house and that night and following morning most of those who ate at the chop bar had distressed stomachs and diarrhea. The following morning some of the staff wanted to go to the chop bar to complain and when they arrived, found it closed with no one around but upon taking a closer look discovered the name of the place, "Forgive and Forget". Driving in Ghana is not the safest or easiest thing to do. Many of the roads are potholed or not paved at all, rutted and in bad shape. Also, many of the drivers are just careless and bad because they drive too fast and many are poorly trained and illiterate. Another story during our trek was that the HIGHWAYS department surveyed drivers to see if they knew and understood road rules. Drivers were asked what the sign showing a silhouette of a cow (cattle crossing) represents and one driver said it meant there was a restaurant/chop bar coming up.
The school building is finally being erected and going very fast! Hooray! There was a delay due to another proposal grant being funded at the same time that took precedence over our school building. Catholic Education Services had money to establish and build a day nursery on the school grounds which delayed any work on our building. The day nursery was built in three months thereby delaying any work on our building until April. Then, also in April the previous headmaster, Ignatius Ayeliwu, who I worked with initially to get the funding for the school left. He was demoted and transferred to another school. This was the action and response that GES (Ghana Education Service) had to his taking of the USAID food aid and selling it. That food aid is meant to provide hot lunch for primary school students and is clearly labeled not to be sold or traded. This is a common problem throughout Ghana however, in our village our head teacher was caught and punished. This put a big damper on the building project and my spirits. Another acting headmaster was transferred in.
Initially we asked for bids from contractors and they were asking for 30 million cedis (about US $4000) to build, although we had already purchased most of the materials. We didn't have that much money and it was too late to appeal for more funds. Fortunately, the acting headmaster made appeals to the local school district in June and the he was able to secure the expertise of 6 artisans to help us build the school. The local masons don't have the experience or knowledge to build a structure of this scale. The six masons are driven to Kandiga from Navrongo, our district capital 20 kms away by a GES (Ghana Education Services) car. The masons are all building and contracting teachers at the vocational school in Navrongo. They are volunteering their time 2-3 times a week (fortunate in timing that it is now the summer break in the school year) and we are providing them with local labor and catering their meals when they come to Kandiga.
The school building project is moving along quite fast and when I left for Accra the foundation had been dug and poured in with stones and concrete, the first two rows of cement blocks have been laid, the iron starter pillars are in place. While I'm in Accra, they should have filled in around the foundation with sand, wooden forms for the pillars made, and the he concrete floor poured. I've been on the building site the last couple of weeks and it's really great to see how it is being built. It involves a lot of hard manual labor (I help out small with lifting headpans full of mixed concrete onto the women's head). Everything is done by hand from carrying water from the pump by headpans for mixing to the actually mixing of the concrete on a cement round with spades and shovels to lifting the heavy concrete blocks around.
We've been really fortunate with the weather and I think it'll get finished before I leave Ghana. I'm now in Accra also to get the balance of 30% of the grant (US$ 2500) from the US Embassy self-help fund so we can finish the school. I'm really anxious to have the school completed before I leave at the end of October because I'm the treasurer/banker/funds controller for this project and any money not spent will certainly be "chopped" or embezzled and will not be properly used.
New Peace Corps Training Group
PST I 2001 had nine trainees arrive at the northern CBT(Community Based Training) Bolgatanga site June 30. A Welcome ceremony was held for these art, math and science teachers. July 6th they organized a Fourth of July celebration/American Cultural night complete with sausages, potato salad, chili, cake, ice cream and a round of square dancing to settle all that food. I'm not participating in this training but may help with the PST II group coming in September.
The upcoming COS conference is the beginning of the end. It now really feels like my time is coming to an end and I really have felt that what little I have accomplished has come in the last 6 months of my service. Overall, I'm glad I've stuck it out. If I had left earlier, I don't think I would have had the satisfaction of some of the work that I've been involved with these last few months.
Excerpts from Margaret's September 2001 Report
Wow, overwhelming shock and disbelief is how I feel after hearing about the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I didn't find out until Wednesday. The masons who are working on the primary school in Kandiga came to the village and gave me their condolences, and told me what had happened. I then started listening to BBC and have had some chance to talk about it now that I'm here at the Peace Corps Tamale suboffice with other PCV's. I've yet to see any pictures or television coverage. I'm sure the opposite is true in the States where every station is covering every angle and minute horrifying detail. I somehow felt or was feeling joyful or thankful after I heard as I was sitting with my Ghanaian family. They didn't understand the impact of it at all and we were going about village life normally, eating rice balls, then by the light of the kerosene lamp, pulling the peanuts from the roots of the plants that they are now starting to harvest. The rains are starting to let up, when it does rain, the people go out to harvest the peanuts while the ground is still soft.
DAWA DAWA STUDY
The most relevant thing I've found was in the Daily Graphic, one of Ghana's major newspapers. The Wednesday, August 29 edition had an article titled "Charcoal producers destroy more trees". An EPA(Environmental Protection Agency) Officer in the Upper West Region was quoted that due to the disappearance of mahogany, acacia, and pterocarpus trees, charocal producers have now started using shea trees and dawa dawa trees. The article said that for every 100 basketfuls of charcoal produced 80% is composed of shea trees and the other 20% is dawa dawa or neem trees. So the short-term economic gain is far outweighing the longterm value of these trees. It's takes about 15 years for shea and dawa dawa trees to be mature enough to produce fruit so it's quite a problem. The Upper West is not so far from the Upper East and just by general opinion less populated and more forested than where I am in Kandiga. So the warning has been stated but I don't know what solutions are being put in place.
I still am waiting to see the soybean process of fermentation. I've got good photos from the last observation with traditional dawa dawa. I'm keeping track monthly of the raw material prices of the soy beans versus dawa dawa. I also have found out that in the village, the raw seeds are ususally bought in the regional capital, Bolgatanga, by traders and then sold in the village. Again, this "wholesaling" versus direct profits to the villagers.
SECONDARY PROJECT - FATHER MORIN PRIMARY SCHOOL BUILDING
As of today, the walls are at the lintel stage. What needs to be done next is a binding course, build up of the gables, carpentry of the frame of the roof, then metal roofing nailed onto the frame, plastering and spraying, then finally painting. Sounds like a lot (it is) but a lot has also been done since we started on July 20 with the initial layout of the foundation.
There's a temporary lag right now because we can't buy anymore
materials (stones to finish the concreting of the floor and lintel
as well as the wood needed for the pillar forms and roof frame).
I just called the Embassy and the check is in their office but
it'll probably be another week until we get it. I wanted to leave
Ghana in mid November but I'm considering extending for a few
weeks until the first week in December. The main reason is that
if I just leave the money the project may not get finished because
I don't trust anyone with that much money. I'm sorry that's the
case but corruption is a big problem and I'd rather delay my departure
then see the school not finished. I'll just have to see how things
go but I should have a better idea in a month or so.
It pales in scale to the tragedy of the terrorist attack in America, but tragedy hits us again in Kandiga. I think I mentioned in a previous report that an adult child of one of the nursery workers, John Nso, died about 6 months ago. Another nursery worker, Awung-selisiba Abiiro smallest child, about a year old just died unexpectedly. Within hours of having a fever and sending the baby to the health center 3 kms from their house the baby died before they could transfer him to the hospital 20 kms away. So in the two years I've been in Kandiaga, of the six nursery workers, Atanga Azasi died in February 2000, leaving 5 workers. Two workers left in June 2000 when I was med evac leaving 3 workers. Now 2 of the workers have had children die within their family. What I have to say about it all is that it's a reality that other Peace Corps volunteers have faced and will face during their service. The reason why many of these sad events happen is just plain poverty. There is no access to health care or medicine, along with the low standard of living with poor nutrition. It's not something that was talked about during training but I guess I'm just writing about it for those yet to go on their assignments just be somehow prepared to encounter this.
23 October 2001.
In Ghana we have Mmoteia dwarves, maybe analogous to Irish leprechauns. They cause mischief, stealing groundnuts and bananas and can be visible and invisible. Their feet are attached backwards so if you see one he is walking away even if you see his face. Anyway, I bring up the Mmoteia because I think they've been moving stones on my path to the latrine. During the evening when I go to take my bath (it's very dark) I always seem to trip on a stone that wasn't there before. I'm sure they are sitting in my woodlot giggling at me whenever I trip.
Most recent update: 26 June 2002.
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