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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.