Our Visit To The Sang Community

By Iyanu

Women in Sang, Magazia, CFTC and RAINS in Sang, Ghana

CFTC and RAINS staff with the women of Sang

As part of our voluntary experience in Tamale we are fortunate enough to go out and observe firsthand the work that RAINS and its partner organisations are doing in different communities. So, a few days ago we were invited to accompany Regional Advisory Information Network Systems (RAINS) staff and a partner organisation, Canadian Feed The Children (CFTC), to the Sang community in the Mion district. It was a welcome treat to visit Sang on our second day in the office. During our journey we noted the countless green trees that lined the major roads and we also found that driving over certain large and unexpected potholes drew out amused, nervous and relieved laughter from us all, but not necessarily in that order.

Arriving at Sang we were greeted with song and dance which was really nice, and after speaking to one of the representatives of the Chief there were discussions into what work had been done in the past by RAINS and CTFC and if there were any pressing issues that needed to be discussed for the future.

Tamale, Sang community visit

Being shown recently harvested crop produce

The interventions carried out by RAINS and CFTC over the past 6 – 7 years have been with aims to enhance quality education for children, developing a food security resource programme and to improve livelihoods. The community also thanked RAINS & CFTC for all the work that had been done so far. The women were keen to show us some of the products yielded from their own farming such as okro and we were given a tour of the local primary school, the Sang Al-Zakaria Islamic School.

Sang Al-Zakaria Islamic School board, Sang community school, primary school in Ghana

Primary school classroom in the Al-Zakaria Islamic School in Sang

We found out during the trip that a major concern for the people of the Sang community was water availability, there’s not enough water in the existing bore holes that water is being pumped from. The alternative of using local dams may not be the best as there won’t be enough water available for everyone with the lack of rainfall, high humidity and sanitation concerns. The next steps for RAINS and CTFC will be to develop alternative methods of  access to clean water and possible partnership with water NGOs.

What we took away from the visit were the following,

  • A very warm reception and the people of Sang are very welcoming (children especially were excited to see new faces)
  • Visibility of results in agriculture and education which the work by RAINS and CFTC has produced
  •  Development work is a gradual process and there are always opportunities to do more
  • Access to enough clean water is important to the community
  • Speed bumps were everywhere – which was good as there are quite a lot of goats wandering around
  • Find out more about the work being done in Sang and what can be done to help

We are looking forward to learning more about the work RAINS is doing in Ghana, as well as visiting more places and meeting new people!

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Africa’s rising star

economist.com top GDP growth 2013

The world’s 10 fastest growing economies in 2013. Source: economist.com

by Ben

Take a quick glimpse at any list of the fastest growing economies in the world and you are sure to see Ghana mentioned. Its growth topped 14% in 2012 and is forecast to return to a modest 8% in 2013, the same level as 2011. Ghana is the model of stability in Africa; this has been the base for its economic growth.

Ghana’s economy is powered by a service sector that accounts more than 50% of it’s GDP. It also has strong exports in gold, cocoa and oil. Like so many other countries, it was the start of oil production in 2010 that transformed Ghana into one of Africa’s fastest-growing-economies. The Jubilee field, which is 60km off the coast of Accra, has oil reserves of up to 600 million barrels and produces around 20,000 barrels a day. If targets are met (they haven’t consistently been so far), then the Ghanaian government estimates that oil revenue of more than $650 million will be added to the treasury.

Ghana’s continued growth and political stability have led to an increase in the number of expatriates who are returning home to capitalise on the opportunities now available. Ghana’s economic growth will fuel the growth of its own middle class – young professionals with families and desires for the latest technology and mod-cons. This new class causes the creation of a whole range of businesses to provide the services and products needed to support it – and so the cycle continues. Ghana’s position as the flag bearer for West African growth was seemingly cemented when in 2009 Barack Obama choose Ghana as the first country to visit on his first Presidential visit to Africa. The visit was acclaimed by the current President John Mahama as bringing worldwide attention to Ghana, if just for a moment.

The people we speak to Tamale attest to this change. An increase in the number of cars around the busy city centre, the opening of new bars and nightclubs, the rise of more and more telephone masts all seem to indicate it is happening. But outside of the city, in the rural communities we visit, we are presented with a very different scene. These are farming communities, reliant on a successful harvest, who are yet to reap the rewards of an 8% growth or the discovery of oil hundreds of kilometres away in the south. It is a stark reminder of the low baseline that even a stable like country like Ghana is coming from and the extent of the work still to be achieved.

It is worth noting though despite the scarcity of water, regular droughts in the Northern region and water shortages lasting days, water bills for Ghanaians are roughly £60 per year for access to the resource (15cd a month flat rate regardless of use). In the UK, where we face no such problems and our average rainfall far eclipses that of Ghana, it is expected that water bills will rise to nearly £400 per year for families. If the extra £340 is for knowledge that the water is drinkable (which it is here but it’s the pipes you can’t trust) then I’d rather the Ghanaian system where you can purchase 14litres of drinking water for about 50p, or the cost of one bottle of Volvic. That’s 11900 litres of exclusive drinking water (32 every day for a year) that you can afford on top of all other water costs i.e. baths, showers, toilet etc. Lets be honest I’m probably not going to drink as much as 32 litres every day, so could probably save myself some money. Guess we don’t have it all our own way.

Pipe dreams

by Tolu

water pipes Tamale GhanaWe moved into a new house in Tamale and the initial excitement of living in a humongous brand new house has quickly worn off. We’ve had no furniture, fridge, kitchen utensils, and to top it off no running water.

Being without water quickly gets you to appreciate the little things in life such as making a cup of tea, washing your feet after a dusty harmattan day and flushing the toilet. In moaning about our misfortunes, a joke was made about how our right to water was being infringed upon. But we clearly know that all we have to do is kick up a fuss, apply some pressure to the landlady and water will come gushing out of the taps. Not that this has worked for us as we’ve now been for almost a week without water, but we live in hope and expectation.

However, for a lot of people in Ghana, a steady supply of water is an intermittent luxury with little hope of a quick remedy. Tamale (where we are currently based) is one of the fastest growing cities in the country; the demand for water is around three times more than supply. The dry season makes water supply even more erratic, with households going more than a week without any water and in some extreme situations, up to a month.

The lack of adequate water supply has more far reaching consequences than not being able to have a shower or make a cup of tea.  It disrupts the education of children if they have to travel far to access water in the mornings, it affects healthcare if hospitals are also subject to water shortages and sanitation also suffers which brings on its own consequences.

The Human Right to Water has proved controversial in international law and was only formally acknowledged by the UN General Assembly in 2010.  Up until this point, there was no legal oligation on states to fulfil this right, merely a political acknowledgement that it existed.

The Ghanaian constitution does not explicitly contain a right to water, but Ghana has shown commitment by ratifying the 2006 Abuja Declaration where it pledged to promote this right. The Government also met its aim to reduce the number of people without water supply by 85% by 2015 in time for the Millennium Developments Goals deadline, ahead of the designated target set by the UN of 78%.

In addition, development organisations are working in northern Ghana to establish a better water supply for communities. There is clearly a desire for improvement and the new term of President Mahama inspires hope that even more positive change will be seen in the Northern region of the country.

For a more detailed explanation of the issues in this post, check out the Water Aid website.