In March 2016 I visited Ghana for the sixth time. “Abena, you are half a Ghanaian” was said to me several times. And that’s how it feels a bit.
In Ghana, Abena refers to women born on Tuesday, at least in the South and Center of Ghana. Before you visit Ghana, it is therefore quite essential that you look this up or ask your mother.
Where in the Netherlands everyone goes their own way, in Ghana you are regularly asked where you are going or where you have been. greeting superficially is considered a bit rude, but extensive greetings and asking how the other person is doing immediately puts a warm smile on the face of the average Ghanaian.
To me a visit to Ghana feels a bit like coming home. The smells, the sounds, the language, the food, but above all the sincere cordiality of the Ghanaians make me feel safe in this country. Nice to be here again, to get a feeling for ‘what and why we are doing it with the Help Ghana Foundation’. It is good to experience that in this beautiful country the smallest things take up a lot of time and that it is not socially acceptable to handle your visit in an efficient manner. Before you are allowed to come “to the point” as an impatient Westerner, everyone is first extensively introduced. Time is not a criterion here. Good to realize again why people in Ghana sometimes cannot follow our train of thought.
Supporting a “private school”, for example, is not one of the spearheads of the Help Ghana Foundation. A private school is financed by the parents, as well is the salary of the teachers. A private school is therefore not accessible to every child. The opposite turned out to be true in this case. The school was not yet allowed to call itself a “public school” because the school did not have its own land and building. The current school was a private house of a villager in a very deplorable state. No ventilation, bad furniture and rooms the size of my smallest room at home. The ambition to become a public school, where the teachers are financed by the government, was certainly there. The very first condition for this recognition was to own the land and the building. My friend Bilge shows me that an open-minded attitude works best to understand the Ghanaians. If you stick to your own logic, norms and values, then your stay in Ghana will probably be less fun.
Unfortunately not only positive stories in Ghana. By having conversations with friends and acquaintances, I find out that Ghana has the necessary challenges under the current economic and political regime.
In the past two years, water and electricity have become incredibly expensive in Ghana. Prices have risen by 275% and 300% respectively, following the oil price. In the NRC Next of Wednesday, March 23, I read that people in Ghana spend a quarter !!! of their monthly salary on water. During my trip I fill up the tank of the borrowed car and pay 200 Cedis. More than € 46,-.
However, labour is very cheap. I don’t get the impression that people in Ghana get a good salary from their hard work. The GNP per capita in 2012 was € 2800 per year.
Wages are therefore slightly behind the prices of water, electricity and oil. Unfortunately, clean water, sufficient electricity and transport are no longer affordable for most people.
To reduce costs, the orange rusty buses have also been taken out of the stable. A cheaper alternative than the STC. The serious accident on February 18, 2016 on the Kintampo road was with this type of bus. The driver knew there was a technical defect but left anyway. The result was an accident in which 71 people died. “By all means, please do not travel with this bus”
At the time of our arrival in central Ghana, it has not rained for over 6 months. The harvests have failed and the farmers have to look for alternative sources of income. Normally, this region has two rainy periods per year. Now this seems reduced to one period. Trees are being cut down in the north of Ghana. The logging is used for the production of charcoal. Entire mountains and pyramids of bags of charcoal obscure my view in the area between Tamale and Techiman. Charcoal is needed to make a fire and cook your food. So far so good. I understand that people need it as long as there is no alternative available. But because of the mountains of charcoal, there seems to be more of a surplus of charcoal than a shortage. Because there is only three months of rainy season in the north, the area is not particularly suitable for agriculture. But where the river meanders through the landscape, some form of irrigation must be possible, suggests our youngest contact Eric. And if you cut down more trees, farming will of course also become more difficult. The result of the felling of trees in the savannah area is that the desert is advancing. Solar energy / electric cooking could solve part of this problem.
Illegal gold mining
Not only near the gold mine in Obuasi, gold is also being mined illegally in the Ghanaian rivers. Fishermen lose their source of income and the (drinking) water is polluted on a large scale. According to the Ghanaians, the Chinese are bribing the chiefs. Unfortunately, the latter make their land available with all the disastrous consequences that entails. Ghana has a lot of potential if you take into account how much natural resources they have. Unfortunately the Chinese discovered this already.
Unfortunately, plastic is thrown everywhere and no improvement has been seen since my last visit to Ghana (2009). Earlier deterioration. Especially the bags of water are abundant. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to bother most Ghanaians. I blame it on ignorance or unconscious incompetence.
Our contact person Kofi indicates that people find it more important to be good to their loved ones, in accordance with Christian values. Clearing up that plastic has nothing to do with that, of course.
In my opinion there is insufficient information/awareness with regard to the consequences of this pollution. There is no garbage collection service, there are no incinerators. Unfortunately, the country’s only plastic recycling plant (Elmina) has gone bankrupt.
Kofi has come up with a song to the melody of father Jacob in which he wants to make children aware of the fact that you cannot just throw plastic on the ground. Right now he is still a voice crying in the desert. But there is hope.
I would like to end this blog on a positive note. Ghana is a country with enormous potential when it comes to natural resources. Gold is still the most important export product. I hope that in the future Ghana will realize that its natural resources need to be protected. And that everyone is responsible for this. I don’t buy gold, but in Ghana I always eat the most delicious mango and papaya in the world. At least in my eyes.
Finally, I would like to advise everyone to go to the beautiful and authentic Ghana to enjoy a holiday and to do volunteer work in order to make a modest contribution to the economy. Then we will continue to focus on education and projects that generate income.
Thank you in advance for your one-off or structural financial contribution to our projects.
Board member Help Ghana