Saturday, 16 July 2011

the Lyin’, the Witch, the Tech Probe: The finale

Hello there from Ghana!

So for all the readers who've hung on until now! Thank you very much I deeply appreciate your support and interest!

Some people may have read the first post called "the Lyin', the Witch, and the Tech Probe". If not basically it outlined the interesting discovery I made early on in my placement about the fact that parts of the community believed that my landlord is some sort of witch. Now it's important to mention that the belief of witchcraft is common in rural parts of Ghana, but it's not something that takes a large focus of the community from daily life. The belief in witchcraft is more of superstition among villagers, and in some cases used as a scapegoat to explain odd things or things that they can't explain. I just want to make sure that all the readers understand this is a very minute, all be it very intriguing, of the Ghanain culture.

Hopefully in this context people can take this story with a grain of salt and understand that there's infinitely more to know about these people before passing any kind of judgement on them from reading what I write down in these posts.

So with the context set I will finish off the story!

A while ago I heard alot of drum music quite a distance away late at night and I was having some serious trouble sleeping, but somehow I succeeded for a while. I was awoken by some loud noises outside of my room but I was pretty scared so I didn't get up to see what was actually happening, I just decided in the morning I would ask around about what the noises might have been. In the morning I stepped out of my room to see a large hole dug in the ground about 8 feet to the left of my door, I asked the only person in my house who speaks any english what the whole was and she told me that "something was buried there" but she seemed reluctant to say what.

Later that day after work I decided I would inquire with the University of Development studies students residing in the nearby primary school as to what all the commotion was the night before. They told me that one of the locals who believed my landlord to be a witch had called in some kind of specialists in the matter, which they called fetish priests. They told me that the night before they had performed some ritual upon there arrival to find the witches in the community and also to generally "wow" the crowd of onlookers, these things included supposedly eating glass and rubbing hot pepper juices on their eyes (I have a tendency to believe that these were actually illusions, especially since they were performed late at night when it was fairly dark). The told me they had come to my house and dug a wooden pot out from beneath the house where I was staying and that this pot contained some sort of power, power that can either protect the holder or give him the ability to hurt others as I understand.

That very night they were to hold another sort of ritual, and this ritual was to be more of a de-witching ceremony. I of course wanted to see it this time, and attended armed with my camera. During the ceremony (which was all done in Twi [a southern Ghanain language]) the fetish priests chanted somethings, killed some animals, shaved the accused witches heads, and forced them to drink some of the sacrificed animals blood. Of course for me this was incredibly difficult to watch, but at the same time hard to look away because it was so very interesting. When all was said and done my landlord's head was shaven and his supposed powers stripped, meaning no more trouble for him at least in form of unreasonable accusations of witchcraft. I couldn't be happier to report this, because this man is one of the kindest, hardest working, and intelligent individuals I've had the fortune of meeting and he never deserved any of this.

For some people it may be enough to know that all of this craziness is over, and thank God that we can put it behind us. But for me I was still inquisitive as to why all of this had to happen. What was it that caused these accusations and incidentally all of these events? 

Well before I move on to my understanding of how it all started I should mention that there was a small period of time even longer ago when my landlord disappeared, and I was told he had gone to visit some friends. Very recently I discovered that actually he had gone to a place called Kintempo, upon the request of a few community members, where a woman supposedly experienced in "witchcraft" would decide once and for all whether or not he had any real power. He rode there with a friend, and apparently even before entering this house if you have these powers or the intent to hurt others one should go mad. As to be expected he entered easily and sanely, and once inside was told that he in fact had no problem. To show this he was given some pieces of white cloth as evidence to here decision to show to his accusers.  

These events had all taken place before the arrival of the fetish priests, but apparently some community members weren't convinced, so they called in those men. I had gotten sick not long after this (completely unrelated but important to the story) and saw my landlord in the hospital. Because of the communication barrier I had thought that he was there to visit, but I found out this wasn't the case recently.

The origin of the noises outside of my room that night had been the fetish priests informing him he was accused then digging the pot out from beneath the house, but more than this because of the pot his accusers had beaten him that night. He was in the hospital that day because of the pain. I was furious to discover that even after "proving" to his accusers he wasn't guilty of any sort of witch craft they had to call in these "priests" and even go as far as physically harming him. And it's important to mention here that when I told my landlord that this wasn't right, and something needs to be done, he told me "if it means that they will leave me alone, I will quietly collect what they give me" (in this case he collected their punishment). I'll forever be deeply humbled by this man's strength and honor, and forever be touched by the smile he can keep on his face through all of this!

Finally I heard from his daughter why she thinks all of this happened. She told me the neighbor doesn't like her father much. When asked why she told me that an agricultural project that came to that community last year which provides ten sheep to a few people then takes the same number back two years later (the idea being that some would be born in those two years which would help the farmer). The accusations had come from a man who hadn't received the benefits of the project, and had started around the same time. To me this is incredibly interesting because MoFA's responsibility in these projects is to sensitize communities on how the project will work so misunderstandings like this can't happen, and negative social impacts don't come out of work like this. Extension services in this case had failed to perform this duty correctly, and in this case the effect of this failure was much more than what anyone could have expected.

I'm here to help extension services more effective and accountable, and this story has motivated me to work harder than ever before. Extension educates farmers on the how-to, but it also has the power to increase and sustain community capacity as a group, and to me this is something incredibly valuable in rural Ghana!
Thanks for reading everyone, and this will be the final post on this topic, so I promise the rest will be much more up beat!

Dolla Dolla Bill


  1. Wow, thanks for sharing Bill. All this was super interesting, and I was just shocked to read it all happened because of negative social impacts caused by a MoFA agriciultural project. To me, the story serves as a warning that good intentioned projects can go very wrong if they are not carried out cautiously. Great job digging to the root of this!

  2. Hello B.J hope all is well with you. I heard you were not feeling well, I would like to think you are better now. Your story here put me to tears and I certainly do not understand how you can manage to handle these situations, I for one would not be strong enough so kodos to you. I love you and miss you very much please take care of yourself and come home safe. Remember all the work you do there can only make things better as you have stated if they are done right and no miscommunication happens.

  3. My goodness, which region was that?! Drinking blood?! How barbaric?! I have heard of such occurrences but have never witnessed one before. It saddens me to know that people in my own country resort to such crude acts! The bottom line of this is selfishness which is a basic human nature and it might not happen in this form in 'seemingly developed' parts of Ghana and the world as a whole but it still goes on in other forms. I don't know this landlord of yours but I feel this immense respect for his response and I am at least happy that from your post it seems this experience did not scar you for life but rather had the counter effect.

    From your posts, I see a very determined and selfless young man who is intent on making an impact. Thank you for doing this; thank you for coming to Ghana. God richly bless you.

    PS: "...I had gotten sick not long after this (completely unrelated but important to the story)..." made me smile though.