My first government junket took place this week in the form of a trip to the northern city of Tamale. The purpose was for my colleagues in local government, the district parliament and some community leaders working on the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership (CCP) project in the Eastern Region to share experiences with their counterparts working on a similar project in the Northern Region.
Spending 12 hours on a bus in Ghana can be a tad sweaty and significantly increases ones risk of being involved in a traffic accident – some particularly tasty examples of which are evidenced in most roadside ditches. Fortunately some decent driving from Kwekoo and some intensive praying at the start and end of each leg helped us complete the journey safely. Unfortunately I cannot confirm whether anyone prayed for the 72 yams, 100 bananas, thousands of beans, 6 guineau fowl or the goat all tied on the roof for the bumpy 12 hour trip back.
Tamale’s population is 80% Islamic and so the culture is very different to that in the south. Women are dressed much more colourfully, most people (men, women and children) get around on scooters and bicycles, people speak a different language and food markets are more plentiful (at least during the wet season, which this still is). I took on the role of observer as my colleagues negotiated their yam and guinea fowl purchases.
Tamale is also known for having something of a white elephant of a football stadium built by the Chinese for the 2008 African Nations Cup. The majestically named Real Tamale United currently prop up the Ghanaian Premier Division and attract crowds that fill one in every ten seats. Judging by the number of football tops being worn around town, the remaining 9 people support Chelsea.
We had a really interesting visit to a small farming community about an hour from the city. The project we learned about helped communities develop their own action plans to address their own priorities and then find ways to deliver them. The theory is that this is far more sustainable than NGOs imposing their own priorities.
Our CCP project in the Eastern Region is very similar.
It is designed to try to empower similar communities so that they are sufficiently organised and knowledgable about the instruments of local government that they can deliver improvements themselves, campaign for funding in specific priority areas, get their needs included in local government plans and pester their politicians. It was clear from our visit that breaking people out of a mindset of dependency will be a significant challenge.