Monthly Archives: May 2012

When the Sun Sets in Gushie …

… the streetlights do not come on.

In the village of Gushie, there is no electricity. When the sun sets, it gets really dark. The only things that are visible between 7:30 p.m. and the wee hours of the morning are flashlights going around town and headlights from passing trucks and vehicles. If it’s stormy out, the odd lightning bolt might light up the area for a moment, but that is a brief moment.

In the evenings, people gather in small groups outdoors where they sit in silence between the odd comment listening to the radio. I went to my friend Kareem’s group with him. I sat and watched the stars while he and his friends spoke dagbani.

It never becomes quiet in Gushie. From inside my room I can hear trucks slow down outside my door with loud squeaks as they approach a speed bump, then listen as they rev up their engines in celebration once they have passed it. I usually don’t share their enthusiasm at 2 a.m.

The roadside shops seem to be running before the sun rises and long after it sets. I wasn’t sure if I would ever see a closed shop. But this morning the rains came. And when the rains come, the roadside shops close. I suppose that’s reasonable, because the rains in Gushie come down hard.

Truck going by at night




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My Summer Plans

I have written and re-written the beginning of this blog post several times now. What keeps happening is that I start off by describing my location, but then get interrupted and do not resume my work until I’m in a different location.

My solution from here on in is to let you know when I write each post, and then you can guess whether I’m still in that location or not when my writings get posted.

So, without further ado, it’s 7:37 pm (GMT) on 17 May 2012, and I’m sitting in the common room of a guest house in Tamale, Ghana. It’s been a hectic few weeks, with tonight being one of the first free nights I’ve had in a while.

But right now I’m not going to talk about those weeks – I’ll summarize those in pictures at the bottom. Right now I’m going to talk about my placement, because I did not know enough to tell people about it before I left St. John’s.

I’ll be working in Gushie, Ghana. It’s about an hour north of Tamale, which is the main city in the Northern Region of Ghana (a region being the Ghanaian equivalent of a Canadian province). Gushie has a population of 800-900 people, and is on the side of a main roadway. I’ll put up a map of where I am in Ghana on one of these side bars here once I get a good internet connection.

My main partner organization will be the Organic Mango Out-Grower’s Association (OMOA), which is essentially a union of mango farmers. They have two full time office staff (in addition to me), and work closely with the Integrated Tamale Fruit Company (ITFC). The ITFC facilitate the sale of mangos between farmers and export companies in the Northern Region of Ghana.

In order to ensure the farmers have the most productive crops and most delicious mangos possible, the ITFC sends out Agricultural Extension Agents (EAs) to the field to tell the farmers about new techniques and new technologies that can help to optimize yields.

OMOA gets charged for these extension services. Each farmer pays OMOA 2% of their total yield to fund these services, but due to low yields in recent years, that fund has been dwindling, and OMOA has remained reliant on funding from an external NGO (USADF, to be specific).

This is where my role becomes relevant.

The EWB Agricultural Extensions team has recently changed it’s focus from exclusively the public sector to include the private sector. This switch was made for a variety of reasons which I won’t get into right now, but it means that our team is new to Agricultural Extension models in the private sector.

My role in Gushie is threefold:

  1. To work with the OMOA exec. EWB has developed a moderately successful Agriculture as a Business workshop aimed at changing the mindset of the average farmer towards income-generating farming as opposed to subsistence farming. I’ll be working with OMOA employes and it’s elected exec to adapt this workshop to suit OMOA’s needs.
  2. To study ITFC’s extension model. This will encompass talking to all persons along the farming information supply chain – from ITFC upper management to farmers – and studying how information flows from one party to the other. This is bound to be a messy process, so I will post a bit more about this as my placement moves along.
  3. To gain a better understanding of ITFC’s extension work and how effectively it results in a change in farming practice. In other words, do the farmers actually listen to the extension agents? Do the extension agents give the farmers relevant information? Is this information explained in a pertinent way? I’ll be trying to make this relationship more effective.

So that’s what I’m dealing with this summer. It’s a very open-ended placement, so I will likely need to adjust my role as time goes on … or maybe I won’t need to. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ll send you off with a bunch of photos from the past few weeks.

Pretty much sums up my week in Toronto

Q&A with George (EWB CEO)

Eating Groundnut Soup at the EWB house (don’t worry, I washed my hands first)

Waiting for Flight to Amsterdam

Waiting for Bus from Accra to Tamale (2 hour wait, 13 hour bus ride)

Where we stayed in Tamale

How we Slept in Tamale

Bit of casual frizbee for a break

Central Tamale

Tamale Market


PS – I took zero of those pictures. I have the other JFs to thank for those

PPS – Yesterday I moved to Gushie, where I’ll be spending my next 3 months. I’ll write a post about Gushie very soon.


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