In EWB during our placements here in Western and Southern Africa we have what we call village stays. These village stays can be simply defined as a week spent in a new village, which is in a new district, and even possibly a new region. We do this to expand our understanding of rural livelihoods, because we're exposed to one district and one community for almost four months and it's easy for us to start to understand Ghana through the lens of single district, assuming that villages all over the country are just the same as the ones we call home for our short stays here in Ghana.
The team I'm on in my placement, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture team, tried something new for our village stays this year. We tried to assess groups who had benefited from a program we ran from 2008-2010 called Agriculture As a Business (AAB), this program endeavored to build farmer group capacities, business skills within those farmer groups, and informally instruct Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAs) on best practices in extension work. On top of this we were also learning about new cultures and realities in a new place, like the standard village stays.
My village stay too place in Bawku West which is in the upper east region of Ghana, in a community called Wiiga ten kilometers from the district capital of Zebilla. I was staying with a man named Dan who had been involved with the same group AAB had worked with in 2009, who was also the secretary (an executive position in a farmer group) of his newly formed group. Dan lived with two of his brothers in a fairly large and fairly nice compound, immediately informing me that his immediate family was doing comparatively well in there activities. This could also be due to the fact that Dan and his brothers all had fairly good paying jobs outside of their farming activities, Dan being a metalworker, one brother (Abel) being a mason, and the third brother (unfortunately whose name I've forgotten) was a junior high school teacher. But it could also be a sign of the groups success in there farming ventures, and related to their participation in AAB. Either way I got the feeling that I went from a village to do my village stay in something like the suburbs, I was even getting coffee and hot chocolate in the mornings which is not so common.
|Beautiful view of a mountain through the coconut trees opposite of the Tanga market.|
One of the nice parts of a village stay is it's also one week away from the office and everything involved with that environment. During the stays it's not exactly accurate to say that we're "on break" because there's alot of learning to be done on these stays, and a surprising amount of physical work to be done. We stay with the farmers doing what there doing, eating what there eating, and going where there going in order to understand a part of their lives. So during my stay I spent three of my five days on the farm doing some weeding with a hoe. This labor is extremely hard on your body especially if your not used to the heat, which became evident to me after having a small case of sunstroke in the field. But this did humble me even further; feeling the blisters on my hand, the pain in my back, and the dehydration. But all the while these people were chatting and laughing as they work together, and at the end of the day we would all sit together under a tree and eat lunch and drink coffee. It was quite a beautiful and touching experience.
|Manually weeding is the only kind in Ghana!|
|The family I was staying with, seated men are Dan and his brothers.|