Hi again my friends,
Last week, you met some of the people I encountered during my visit to Ghana. This week I’ll take you on a tour of a few farms that I visited during my stay. You’ll also meet some more people along the way. So let’s get started.
On Good Friday, my local handler, Patrick Frimpong, one of the agricultural extension agents, picked me up from the hotel at 7 AM to visit a couple of livestock farms he works with. The first farm was located on a commercial teak plantation, the farmer and his family keep an eye on the slow growing teak trees and raise livestock of all kinds; goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits and birds of some type (they were let out and feeding someplace). They also raised snails for food in a concrete bunker. Patrick is showing me where the snails are kept until they are ready for sale or eating.
Here’s a photo of some of the farmer’s kids, all very friendly and too cute for words!
And the farm wife and some of the kids again, next to the rabbit hutch.
This is the farm house, much different than the farm houses in the US, made of sticks and mud with a thatched roof. Not a very big house for all those kids.
I should mention that the road (trail) from the main road to this farm was really challenging. We should have had a sturdy 4 wheel drive but Patrick made it with his Toyota Corolla all in one piece! The farm family doesn’t have a vehicle, they either walk or one person rides the bike. You may wonder how they transport their livestock to market. Well, I saw a taxi pick someone up on the side of the main road, tossed two live goats in the trunk, the farmer jumped into the taxi and off they went! This farm wasn’t too far from the nearest village so it was walkable.
The next farm we visited was a piggery where they farrowed to finished pigs. This farm was helping to improve the breeding stock in the area by giving away breeding stock to interested farmers. They had Large Whites, white Durocs and Landrace breeds. The pigs are raised on concrete, the pens are open to the air with galvanized metal roofs. Each pen had a concrete water basin so the pigs could keep cool in the tropical heat. Running water was available by pumping water from a well up a hill to a large holding tank (on the right side of the photo), then the water gravity flows to the pig house.
We went to this farm so that Patrick could help the manager treat the boar with antibiotics for a sore on his leg.
While we were at this farm, I noticed a number of women and children carrying water on their heads. In fact, they carry most everything on their heads, learning from when they are very small. Here’s what attracted me to what they were doing.
Since I was curious, Patrick and the farm manager took me down the hill where they were dipping water out of a spring into containers to carry the water back to their homes. This water is not used for drinking but for washing, bathing and cleaning. Clean, treated water for drinking is available from a nearby source. I found out later that water borne diseases cause a high percentage of preventable deaths in Africa, even though there have great improvements in recent years. Here’s the scene:
This was one of the things that bothered me the most of all the things I saw in rural Ghana, the spring is down the hill from the pig farm and to get to the farm we had to drive through a garbage dump that was also uphill from this water source. Think about that for a moment. The concrete tank in the back left is the well. Again, I have to keep in mind that this water is not used for drinking but its use must carry some health risks.
This girl was about 11-12 years old and carrying this container (I’m guessing about 4 gallons, weighting over 30 pounds) on her head, quite at ease I must add.
Those were the two farm visits for that day. The following week, Patrick, Stephen and I were picked up the manager of Scanfarms, a large commercial farming operation north of Agogo. Scanfarms has about 600 hectares or about 1300 acres under cultivation with more coming on line. They raise mostly corn but also cassava and soybeans under contract. While I don’t have any photos of their fields, they were just planting corn, I do have some of their equipment. The grader in the top photo and the Cat tractor in the bottom photo are used to prepare the fields for cultivation. They bulldoze the trees, brush and boulders, use a 3 foot spike on the Cat to clear out the roots and rocks, then the grader to level the field. The fields look very much like a field in the major corn growing area of the US, large and fairly level.
This farm employs about forty people; mechanics, tractor drivers, laborers, field hands, planters (cassava has to be planted by hand) and two cooks. They also have security guards who patrol the fields to stop squatters and prevent cattle from trampling the fields (this is an issue between crop and cattle farmers who are used to free range grazing). We stopped at the cook house where they were preparing the noon meal. Each farm hand has their own dish that is taken to the fields for the lunch break. The cooks honor preferences as much as possible. Here they are at work dishing up the food, mostly rice and some spaghetti.
We also stopped by the corn drying and processing facility. After the corn is dried, it goes into a hopper, then the corn is bagged for the market. I found this amazing, at the current time buyers can only handle bags of corn and not bulk. So there is a crew of people whose job is to fill and stack 50 kg bags of corn.
This woman was taking the inner plastic out of the outer bags to be repurposed for something I didn’t quite understand. But I do have to tell this woman was covered in sweat as it was hot outside and even hotter inside the metal storage building.
After we left Scanfarms, we made a brief stop at this Extension rice demonstration plot. The worker was threshing rice by hand, the traditional way it’s been done for centuries. Most of the small shareholder farmers do all their work by hand with little aid of machines. There are some tractors and implements available for rent but it is expensive and the farms are very small. The second photo is a new tractor and disk that was being delivered for use by small farmers.
Also along the way, we saw this herd of cattle on the road heading for pasture. A herdman or two (depending on the size of the herd) will drive the cattle from their pens to graze in a pasture or along the road or anywhere there is green grass available. Then back home for the night.
And the last farm related photo for this post, a photo of the store that sold pesticides and fertilizers to small farmers. Since most of the farms are small so there isn’t a need for large containers and besides that most farmers don’t have vehicles to transport large quantities of chemicals or fertilizers, they use their bikes, take a bus or hire a taxi.
So that’s a little about farming and agriculture in the area of Ghana I visited. I found these farm visits to be fun and educational, got to learn a lot about the people, the land, and the culture.
Until next week,