A fruity language

pineapple Ghana Tamale Dagbani alaafee

How are you? Pineapple.

We’re not pros when it comes to Dagbani, the local language in Tamale, but we’ve got the standard greetings down. And we know that the answer to ‘How are you?’ or in fact the answer to any question asking ‘how is/was..’ (how was your weekend, how is your family, etc.) is ‘Alaafee’ – meaning, or so we thought, ‘fine’…

But it turns out that, bizarrely, ‘alaafee‘ also means ‘pineapple.’

I now intend to carry a pineapple around with me all the time, and proffer it as a response to all questions about my well-being…

Plastic fantastic?

by Zoe

It’s fair to say that some of my favourite things in life have been plastic, starting at the age of two with Baby Talk, a doll which did indeed talk, coming out with phrases such as “I like to be picked up,” “turn me over” and “more, more!” I don’t know what my parents were thinking, but I loved her. Then there was my Gameboy at the age of 8, the red plastic belt I adored as a teenager… the list goes on.

So I should feel at home here in Tamale, because if there’s one thing you can’t avoid here, it’s plastic.

Go to any restaurant. Take a seat. It’s probably plastic. Order your meal, and the plate it comes on will most likely be plastic. Want some water with that? It’ll be in a plastic sachet. A takeaway? Yep, you got it, you’ll be given the meal wrapped in two layers of plastic bag.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see the appeal (apart from having no clue where to start when handed a bag full of takeaway coffee or stew). Plastic is cheap and cheerful and difficult to break. But here’s where the problem lies: although there have been appeals to make biodegradable additives in plastics mandatory, many of the plastic items produced in Ghana are not recyclable.

But even if they were, there are no recycling facilities available. There aren’t even waste facilities. You can walk miles in Tamale without finding a single rubbish bin, which means that it’s pretty standard practice to chuck rubbish onto the street, into the gutter, or just into a nearby field. 1,980 tonnes of plastic waste are produced every day in Ghana, 70% of which ends up in drains or open spaces. Add the harmattan winds to the mix, and suddenly, rubbish is EVERYWHERE.

plastic waste chicken rubbish plastic bags Ghana Africa

Which came first, the chicken or the bag?

But there are signs that times are changing. In October, the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology launched a pilot recycling project that will be rolled out in the ministries and in time extended to schools, universities and households. The following month, the same ministry launched the Plastic Waste Management Awareness Creation and Public Education Programme (rolls off the tongue…), which sets out to educate the public and incentivise them to recycle and find alternatives for plastic use.  According to the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), GHS1,200,000 (around £400,000) per month, as well as thousands of jobs, could be generated in Ghana from the sale of plastics for recycling.

And in the meantime, on a smaller scale, schemes like RECNOWA’s Handmade Plastic Recycling Initiative are already turning plastic waste into fashion products like laptop bags and wallets.

Baby Talk would only have one response to initiatives like these: ‘more, more!’

There’s Ghana be a new pope

Cardinal Peter Turkson papal candidate for pope

Cardinal Peter Turkson – will the next pope be a Ghanaian?

Well, Pope Benedict XVI is resigning from his post on 28 February, and here at Team Tamale we’re interested to see that both Paddy Power and Ladbrokes bookmakers put Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson as the favourite to replace him.

Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, from Wassaw Nsuta in Western Ghana, is the current president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and was previously Archbishop for Cape Coast.

According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, there have only ever been 3 African popes – but if Cardinal Turkson is elected as the new Supreme Pontiff, he would be the first ever black pope.

Wake up and smell your own coffee

by Rhogan

Ok, so as mentioned on our Team page, I have been longing for a refreshing brew accompanied by a few meagre biscuits. Unfortunately, I was not as primed as some of our friends north of us in Sandema who decided to bring 120 Yorkshire Tea bags along for the trip. Nevertheless, I am hankering for other nourishments which I wholeheartedly assumed (as did some of my other colleagues) would be abundant in Ghana.

This country is the world’s second biggest cocoa producer. Ghana’s neighbour, Ivory Coast, is the biggest. Yet ask for a hot beverage anywhere in Tamale and the response you will get will most likely be ‘Lipton or Nescafe?’  Instant coffee is plentiful and this is understandable considering both countries produce mainly the Robusta variety of beans, which are used in instant coffee and espresso. But still, a cup of ‘real’ coffee would be nice, in addition to a bar of Ghanaian made chocolate, which also seems to be in short supply.

blue jeans energy drink Tamale Ghana

Blue Jeans energy drink: Feel the Superpower

Fortunately, Ghana plans a fivefold increase in coffee production by 2015. Let’s just hope that not all of this is exported and a few beans are kept in Ghana for the locals and tourists to sample. After all, I know from my own experiences that dabbling in a country’s local cuisine is one of the best parts of travelling. If you headed for Japan, would you not try some sushi? Upon landing in the Emerald Isle, would not most of us enjoy at least a sip of the black stuff?

With Ghana’s economy being amongst the top 10 fastest developing in the world, tourism is more than likely going to increase. It makes sense for the country to make the most of what they have and add another feather to their cap. In turn, giving the rest of the world another reason to visit and experience what Ghana has to offer.

Yet I do not believe I’ll be waking up any time soon to a freshly ground ‘cup of Joe’. In the meantime, however, I do believe the tasty beverage Blue Jeans will fulfil my caffeine needs and help me to ‘FEEL THE SUPERPOWER!’ Even if it does mean I irrepressibly shake for the remainder of the day.

Working 9 to 5…

It’s come to our attention that some people don’t think we’re doing any work here.

So, just in case you’re thinking that all we do here is watch football and sit on crocodiles, here’s some photographic proof that we’ve been hard at work in the office:

Hard at work

Our project is based at RAINS (Regional Information and Advisory Network Systems), where we are doing an impact assessment of the ‘Next Generation Programme’ that was run from 2007 until 2010. Funded by Comic Relief, the project focussed on

  • improving the treatment of foster children, and
  • reducing the number of children going to work as kayaye (head porters) in bigger cities like Kumasi and Accra.

Both practices (child fosterage and being sent for kayaye) are widespread in this region of Ghana. No doubt we will give you more in-depth information on the project and its background soon. In the meantime, here’s a photograph of us interviewing some of the beneficiaries of the project today, in Kpalung.


That’s TWO pieces of photographic evidence of us hard at work. Happy now?