Hi again everyone,
This article is the second in a series from my recent trip to Ghana. As I mentioned last week, my purpose for going to Ghana was to work with farmer associations on the topics of group dynamics and organizational strengthening. Prior to heading to the village, we stopped by the offices of the District Executive, the Honorable Paul Awer Avaro. I was asked to explain the purpose of my visit and the expected results from the mission. He was very understanding and recognized the need for farmers to work together to improve food production and farm income.
Then it was on to the village I would work in everyday, Akutuase. In the Twi language (a tribal language spoken by almost everyone, English is the official language of Ghana but a second language for most people) akutu is orange and ase is under, so the meaning of the name of the village is orange underneath in reference to the reddish, orangish soil. The first day we went to the village, the first stop was at the police station where I was introduced to Chief Inspector Addae. I was told he would look out for me and should contact him if I encountered any problems. Fortunately, I didn’t need any of his services, he had the only gun that I saw on this trip.
The second stop was most interesting, it was the palace (home) of the village tribal chief or king, Nana Obeng Ayimah, where I asked permission to work with the farmers. The guy on my right is the chief’s interpreter, in other words, visitors don’t directly talk to the chief only through the interpreter. It’s a good thing there is some latitude for visitors! My request was granted, he was involved in the initial planning for the request to ACDI/VOCA for a volunteer. Here’s a photo from our meeting.
Every village has a tribal chief who is the head authority and decision-maker. He handles disputes not settled within families and provides direction for the villagers. The chief is a member of the Ashanti royal family. Each village also has what is called a Queen Mother who is over the women of the village. The King or Chief always consults with the Queen Mother before decisions are made.
After meeting with the Chief, we headed over to the Methodist Church for our introductory meeting with the farmers. My mission was to work with the leaders of the four associations, the rice, maize, vegetable farmers, and the women’s group. However, many members attended the meeting and requested that they also be allowed to attend the trainings. This was agreed to, it didn’t matter to me, hey the more the merrier but it did make for some big classes. Each day class size ranged from 35 to 54, all jammed into a tiny room with kids desks. But there was no complaining, they were grateful to be the afforded the opportunity for learning. They all knew that I was a volunteer sent from the US to help their associations so they were very interested in the material and a chance to meet an American. Here are a few photos from our first meeting. Of interest in the top photo, all meetings started and ended with a prayer, sometimes lead by a Christian and sometimes by a Muslim (more on that in another post). In the second photo, I’m giving a short talk on my purpose and mission, the fellow in red, George, is interpreting for me. Some members didn’t understand English very well so all my lessons were interpreted from English to Twi.
The next person I met was the minister of the Presbyterian Church, Stephen Asuo Ayebi. We used one of the church school classrooms for the meetings and classes with the farmers. Here are a couple of photos of the outside of the classroom, when the windows were open and there was a breeze, we had warm air conditioning! The roof was tin so most days it was very hot in the room. Everyday on the way to the village, I bought a 1.5 L of cold water and drank it all by the end of class.
We had class seven days (took Easter Sunday off) from 3-5 PM. You might be thinking that isn’t much time but consider that they are farmers and they are readying fields for planting. Besides that I would spend at least 3-4 hours each day preparing for class. There was no Powerpoint presentations, just old fashioned flip charts and markers! Worked great. There was not projector and the electricity was not reliable. Some of the topics I covered were: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to their organizations; leadership roles and responsibilities; problem solving and decision making; communications; conducting an effective meeting; conflict resolution; increasing membership; and basic record keeping. Following are some photos from the classroom.
In addition, to some lecture, I tried to include as much participation as possible so I did some pairs and small group discussion as well as the large group discussion and questions. I have to admit, I didn’t know how it would work culturally but they went along with everything I did. Some of the discussions got pretty loud with some of the farmers standing up and talking over each other. At first I thought they were in conflict but I was told it was just an effort to be heard, very much a part of the Ghanian culture. Here are a few photos of some of the small group discussions.
I really enjoyed my time working with the farmers. They were very engaging, interested in the material and topics, asked great questions and some of them were really funny, telling and playing jokes on the teacher! I should mention that not all the farmers were literate, couldn’t read or write so verbal learning was really important to them.
So that was the mission, the reason I was in Ghana, to work with these farmers. To be honest, I think I learned as much or more than they did. And again, they are like most of people we’ve met on our journey’s around the world, they want to make a good life for their families and live in peace.
Up next week, more photos and stories from some of the people I met on this excursion.