Saturday, 29 January 2011

Hunger

18-25 January 2010
While working in the development sector, one keeps on hearing words such as poverty, livelihoods, food security and hunger so frequently that it all starts sounding like a rhetoric. This blog post is not based on any UN Millennium Development Goal or agenda of some development agency but whatever I have experienced here in Bongo and the thoughts I have on the issue.
I have heard stories about poverty and lack of availability of food from many old people. Though many Indians dream of their country becoming superpower, still in many parts of India, people do face hunger. The issue of hunger struck me greatly two years back, when we were conducting participatory situation analysis in tribal areas of southern Gujarat. People had classified the households in various wealth ranks and one of the criteria for determining the wealth rank was the availability of food.
I conducted the same exercise after coming over here in Bongo in some villages and the result was strikingly similar and the situation reported seems to be worse than the one reported in the southern Gujarat. The percentage of people facing food insecurity is double than that of India. The causes that were reported by the people were of course related with low agricultural production.
I think that it is a myriad maze of interrelated causes that are leading to this food insecurity. There seems to be a huge population explosion here with the families having 5-6 kids. The concept of family planning is virtually non existent. With low agricultural production, little opportunities for income generation in the area, feeding the families with enough food is a major problem in the area. In spite of that, as it was revealed in the discussion with the villagers, spending on social functions such as marriages and funerals and also the spending on alcohol is huge and together they eat up almost 50% of the income earned. Interestingly, total spending on social functions equalled to total expenditure on food.
Sight of food and people buying it is always an attraction here. A Solemiya (white person) like me, while in the market or open public eateries, always finds himself with some children as well as adults hanging around and asking for food. Walking on the road with some food in hand will result in open confrontation with some people asking for that particular food item in your hand. Of course it is impossible to give them free food; otherwise one will end up in swarms of people following you everyday.
Going hungry for a long time is something always heard here. A discussion which I had some school children about what and how they eat revealed that many of them go to school hungry with very little to eat in the morning. Most of them eat from previous day's leftovers and go to school. These days primary schools have a school feeding programme but there is no such programme for high schools. It will certainly be not right to expect these children going to the school hungry and still able to concentrate on their studies.
Generally, people from most of the food secure parts of India eat at least three meals a day i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here most of the people eat only two meals a day (breakfast and dinner) with third meal being mostly uncertain. This is the common scene even with the people who are food secure. It seems that most of the people here have adjusted to the hunger in some ways. When they eat, they eat in very large quantities and can go without food for a very long period in the day. The people who are very thin can be seen with eating huge bowls of food which I can not even imagine finishing in one go. I remember reading somewhere that due to frequent droughts faced by the people from sub Saharan Africa, they have developed some genetic ability to sustain periods of hunger for longer duration. Whether they have genetic ability or not, hunger can not be sustained beyond certain limit where it starts affecting functions of the body.
With all of these problems and results associated hunger discussed, it needs to be seen how well these issues are tackled in the grass roots. Compared to India, very little efforts can be seen in the rural parts of Northern Ghana. The impacts these programmes are having on the improvement in the situation is very little. There is good network of agricultural extension system but there is not much of improvement in the production and productivity of food crops. There is large number of NGOs working in this rural parts but they still have a very long way to go when it comes to poverty alleviation and reduction of hunger.
This is all happening when Ghana is considered as the most desired recipient of development aid amongst all the West African countries. I think that there is an important loophole in this thinking for development aid for mitigating hunger. When India became self sufficient in the food grain production and acute hunger problem was solved, they were talking of green revolution and adequate food supply. It might sound harsh but looking at hunger as some mean to seek aid will never solve the problem because if the problem is solved then one would lose the mean as well.
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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Guineafowls

17 January 2011
My work here in Bongo District Assembly involves study of some interventions identified by the district assembly of Bongo and developing strategies to promote those interventions in the district. One of the interventions identified is Guineafowl rearing. In this post I am writing about the scene of Guineafowl rearing and marketing, as observed by me here in Bongo. This post is the based on my article in Marathi, which I recently wrote for a Agrowon newspaper.
Guineafowl is a semi domesticated bird indigenous to savannah region of West Africa. It is in the family of Chicken. Though it is semi domesticated, it is an important livelihood source for the rural population in this part of Ghana. Almost all the rural households are engaged in rearing of this bird and approximately of 25% of the average family income is derived from poultry. Amongst all the poultry birds, number of guinea fowls is always the largest because of ease in their rearing. Number of guinea fowls reared by the farmers ranges from 10 to 300. One peculiarity of the economic arrangements in the households is that women and men in the house rear their birds separately. Even children who have attained 10 years of age are encouraged by their parents to rear their own guinea fowls and they are trained in this skill very early. The farmers having very less number of birds do it for meeting their consumption needs as well as meeting the expenses at the time of emergencies. The farmers who have more number of birds see it as a major source of income.
Guinea fowls can not be reared in complete confinement because they have a natural tendency for scavenging. The best way to attain maximum benefits from Guinea fowl is by keeping them in the semi confined state. Farmers keep the birds in the shelters in the night and provide them with some feeding and water. During the day, the birds keep roaming outside within the radius of about 500 m from their shelter. Due to this habit of the birds, they also lay their eggs outside in the open and there is huge loss of eggs amounting to almost 90%. Farmers generally collect the eggs and get them incubated under female chicken. One interesting fact about egg laying of guinea fowls is unlike chicken, these birds do not go into brooding state. Thus they keep on laying every day. However the egg laying season is generally from April to November.
Some farmers have improved their rearing techniques. They provide their birds with balanced feeding and they train them to lay eggs in the designated places. These days some farmers use locally fabricated incubators and provide hatching services to others. Some farmers have been able to increase the laying season by better management of the birds.
The birds are not all free from problems however. As they roam freely and lay their eggs in the open, there is always danger from predators and thieves. Some attention on the birds when they are moving is always helpful. Some farmers mark their birds with a unique marking system in which they cut parts of their toes in some specific designs, so that they do not get mixed with birds of other farmers. Some diseases which are commonly found in Chicken are also seen attacking Guinea fowls. These diseases include Gumboro, Paralysis, New Castle, Coccidiosis etc. There is also common occurrence of worms and mineral deficiencies. An important aspect with the control of these problems is that because of their scavenging habit, it is always difficult to notice the symptoms of the diseases in the birds.
The birds get ready for sale in the market in 6-8 months. Under better management and with the use of fast growing breeds, one can sale the birds in 4-6 months. Some farmers buy the birds from other farmers before they are mature for sale and fatten them for 2-3 months until they are ready for sale. Generally there is a very high demand for the birds during the local traditional festivals which come mostly in the months of November and December. There is also demand during the time of Christmas, Easter and Ramadan. The marketing of birds is not a big problem though lack of standards in the market is. The price is always determined by negotiation between buyers and sellers. Farmers with very less number of birds sell it locally whereas farmers with large number of birds sell it in larger town level markets. Some traders move from one market to the other and aggregate the birds for the larger city markets. Restaurants and Kebab corners are one of the major buyers of Guinea fowl.
Most of the buyers and consumers in the towns prefer buying the live birds. The consumers in the cities however prefer processed or properly dressed birds and do not like to spend time in the culling and cleaning, which is obvious because of the busy lifestyle in the cities. There are some entrepreneurs who are in the business of processing of Guinea fowl meat for long term preservation. The processing is done either by smoke drying method or by freezing. Smoke dried Guinea fowl is more popular in the traditional markets whereas frozen meat is more being explored in the bigger cities like Accra since it requires refrigerated storage and transport. The meat of Guinea fowl is considered as tastier than that of chicken and has less fat and almost free from chemical residues. Due to these reasons, it enjoys a niche market and does not compete with other meats in the market. Eggs of Guinea fowl are available in plenty in the small towns during the peak season of egg laying,. Some women do petty businesses by selling cooked eggs. They are also commonly used for the witchcraft. In the period of scarcity of eggs, people pay very high prices.
Though Guinea fowl rearing is not as developed as commercial chicken poultry sector, it is a major enterprise in this region. The farmers prefer rearing Guinea fowl as it needs very low investment and the risks involved are very less. It surely has big potential to change the economy of this region. When out in the field, guinea fowls make a lot of noise, but when they arrive on the plate all well cooked, they are very delicious.
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Guineafowl birds
traditional bird house
Traditional housing for the birds
hatching eggs stored in dawadawa seeds
Indigenous technical know how- Guineafowl eggs stored in earthen pots on dawadawa seeds remain fertile for longer duration
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Negotiations over the price of the Guineafowl in the village market

Harmattan

15-16 January 2010
Harmattan is a characteristic season of the Sahelian West Africa. Starting late in November and continuing up to late February, it is the most talked about season here in this part of the world.
Sahel is that part of the West Africa which lies between Sahara desert and the tropical forest regions near the coast. It is a hot and dry region with grassland and also sometimes called as West African Savannah. As the rainy season ends in the first half of November, cool temperatures start to take over the hot weather. This cooling is not part of the regular winter taking over the summer however. The region is not close enough to equator to be completely free from its unchanging hot climate and not far enough from it to have the sub tropical changing weather patterns. Vast expanse of Sahara desert to the north of the region, however, makes a large impact on the climate of the region.
As winter starts in Sahara, its sandy plains cool down and the wind blows from the desert to the southern Savannah region. It brings along with it cool air and dust from the desert. The wind and the season both are called as Harmattan. The Northern part of Ghana is highly influenced by Harmattan. Effects of Harmattan are these days seen all the way up to southern tropical forest region and the coast as well, as desertification process is rapidly spreading. It reaches its peak in the month of January.
Dryness in the air also dries the skin. People here apply Shea butter as a skin moisturizer. Shea butter is a vegetable oil extracted from nuts collected from Shea tree. It remains solid at the room temperature and hence called Shea butter. It has some skin rejuvenating properties and also used for hairs. The drying of ground takes place and as a result there is reduction in the number of mosquitoes. Many of the trees lose their leaves. The giant leafless baobab trees dominate the landscape. The same trees full of leaves are also dominant in the rainy season however.
PA070258Leafless Baobab tree
The temperature becomes lower and coolness of the air is a pleasant relief from the hotness of the air in the summer and rainy season. There is no need to put on the fan but one needs to sleep under the thick blanket. Clothes, which one feels to take them off in the summer, are again badly needed in this season. The local people can sometimes be seen wearing sweaters throughout the day, which I find it bit too much. The day temperatures are also pleasantly warm so that there is no sweating at all and one can easily wander in the streets during mid day.
The dust is another part of the Harmattan season. The wind brings it all the way from Sahara and it is always in the air. It finds its way in the rooms regardless of ones efforts to keep it away by closing windows. Every day as the morning sun rays enter the room, one gets a view of fresh layer of dust on the floor, tables and every flat surface on which light falls. The mornings are almost always foggy and it remains like that throughout the day sometimes. The fog is of course due to the suspended dust particles in the air. The outdoor day light photographs captured are almost always hazy. On some of the days because of the winds and the dust, the visibility is less than 500 m and vehicles have to put their lights on during the day as well.
PA070260Hazy Days Throughout

The season is not actually as bad as one may feel after reading it, however. That is Harmattan.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Unvisited Witches Camp of Gambaga

2-14 January 2011
It was the second day of the year 2011 and also a day off being the weekend. We decided to spend the day by going somewhere out. Gambaga, about which I have read in the travel guide book, seemed to be a convenient option as it was likely to be a day trip from Bolgatanga. We were four people who gathered for the trip, me, Jason, Jillian and Olke. We started early in the morning and made our way to Walewale, the junction town in between Bolgatanga and Gambaga, where we got off the tro tro and found another tro tro for Gambaga. There were a number of buses and tro standing at the junction. One man asked us by shouting loudly, “where?”, I had to answer him in the same volume level, “Gambaga”. The man smiled and directed towards the right bus. We gave money to the ticket seller and in return we were given one wooden chip each which was taken back when the bus was about to start. It took about 30 minutes to get the bus full.
The real painful part of the journey started from Walewale onwards. It was dirt road all the way up to Gambaga and the bus ride was dusty and bumpy. The bus stopped at a number of places where the passengers were alighting and boarding. Suddenly and unexpectedly a tar road started when I thought at last the dirt road had ended but Jillian showed me on the book that it was going to be only short. Exactly as the book showed, it ended abruptly and we were back on the dirt road. There was no way anybody could be asked “why is it so?”. I thought that I should stop thinking about the questions starting with why till I am here in Ghana but it is impossible, otherwise there is no point in volunteering. But still I did not go in for the enquiry of it.
When we alighted in Gambaga, the town seemed to be totally inactive. It was obvious that there were very few people on the road because it was 12:30 in the afternoon and it was Sunday. One person who looked unclean and insane approached us and started following by telling us that he could help by taking us to whatever our destination was. Nobody had any idea about how to approach the Witches Camp, which we wished to see. As we wanted to get rid of that person, we decided to have some cold drink before we started for our destination. But the man won, as we did not find any convenient place to sit near the lorry station.
We just followed him as he took us to a small open hut where few people were sitting. A woman was busy preparing the yam chips nearby and she by washing them in the dirtiest of water I had ever seen being used for food preparation. The person told us that we shall have to wait till the youth who was seating there under the hut would go the chief and get his permission for allowing us in the Witches Camp. The youth returned and another man who was seating there took over the scene. He introduced himself as the prince and grandson of the Chief. He told us that as per the African tradition, being a foreigner in the Chief's land, we were supposed to greet him and give him a small gift of Kola nuts and or some money. The arguments started thereafter.
Olke: But why we have to pay the chief? I have been living in Bolgatanga for last one and half year. I have met so many chiefs like those of Zuarungu, Vea and Tongo. I have never given them any money.
Prince: Madam, you have to respect our African tradition. It is not like that we want to cheat you or ask for your money after seeing your white skin.
Sachin: But you know that happens with us at many places. Our experience has always been like that.
Jillian: Some of our friends have visited here before. They never told us about giving any money to anybody.
Then she called one of our friends to check whether it was right to give money to the Chief.
Prince: You don't know Gambaga chief. He is superior to all the chiefs in this area. He is even superior to the one in Yendi. (Yendi is major traditional Chieftaincy area and infamous for the conflicts resulting into killings.) and I am the prince. I work in Tamale and I know what I am talking about. (talking to Jillian who was busy talking with the friend on the phone) Do you understand?
Jason: Brother, she understands English.
Jillian finished talking on the phone.
Prince: Have you finished talking on the phone? What does your friend say? Am I right?
Jillian: Well you can see the book which we are having. Nothing is mentioned here that we should pay something to the chief. But still we are now ready to pay.
Prince: So you don't believe me. You know chief is taking rest now. He is sleeping. You'll have to come some other time. It is not possible to visit the Witches camp now.
There were some further discussions but there was no point in arguing the prince and certainly we did not want to lose our pride by begging him to allow us to the witches camp and we left the scene. We found a spot and took some cold drinks and headed to lorry station. We found that buses on their way to Walewale get full by the time they reach Gambaga so we had to go to Nalerigu, a town further up on the road from where tro tros start. We found that there was a small attraction of ancient wall built by a local King, which we thought we would explore but the taxi driver cautioned us that we might lose the bus and since it was Sunday, we might end up without having any transport to get back to Walewale afterwards. We had to drop the plan to visit the wall and we took the bus back to Walewale and then returned to Bolgatanga.
After returning we again went through the Bradt guide book to check whether it was mentioned about giving money to the chief. It was there and we had completely overlooked it. The first line in the paragraph about Gambaga said, “it is the trail for exploring a part of the country, that is least visited by the tourists.” We laughed over the fact that though we did not visit the camp we had done that.
I am giving some information about the Witches Camp now. Belief in witchcraft is huge here. Many times women are the victims of accusation of being witch for some bad things happening in the family or surroundings. Such women are outcast and they have to live their villages and go somewhere else. Chief of Gambaga is supposed to have some magical powers due which these women are not able to practice their witchcraft. Some two hundred women from various parts of the country have taken refuge in this village and there is now a small hamlet where these women live. They earn their livelihoods by selling firewood and some other petty businesses and some are living their with their children as well.
It was claimed that some women were cured and lost their witch power completely. When they went back to their home villages, they were beaten and again sent away. Due to this reason, women feel that they are safe in Gambaga and do not want to return to their homes. A Christian organization with the help of Gambaga chief is trying to support these women. If one strikes conversation with other Ghanaians, including the educated lot, they say that they are real witches with magical powers and in interest of all the people it is best that they remain in Gambaga.
Why only women? Why Gambaga is the only refuge for them? How were they started to be termed as witches? We won't be able to find answers to any of those questions because we could not make it to Gambaga and don't have the energy to go back there on that long dusty and bumpy ride.
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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Volunteers' Parties

28 December 2010- 1 January 2011
I had never celebrated Christmas or New Year before in India. I, not being Christian, not following the Gregorian Calendar religiously and my country India being predominantly Hindu, these events have never been major for me. Having found myself amongst a big group of volunteers from Western culture, i.e. UK, America and Europe, I could enjoy these occasions with them and know a lot about these festivals.
As the area in which I am living, majority of its population follows Christianity, I was very much curious about how Christmas is being celebrated here. It turned out that traditional beliefs are still strong here and Christmas takes a second place because most of the traditional festivals also fall during the same period.
Most of the volunteers having a long vacation for the Christmas, had plans to celebrate the Christmas either in their respective home countries or go for some touring around in Ghana or some other countries. The volunteers here in Bolgatanga decided to celebrate Christmas together before time and there were two parties celebrated.
First party was celebrated as St. Nicholas Day. It is a festival from northern Europe and not much celebrated in UK or North America. Sharing and exchange of gifts and family gatherings are the main features of the day. The volunteers in Bolgatanga gathered in one of the volunteers house. Everybody, as it always happens in the parties of the people with western culture, was expected to bring their food and drinks. There was sharing of food. The hosts of the party, Hannah and Olke, had prepared Mould Wine and Dutch Soup respectively. Hannah is British, and Mould Wine she had made, consists of wine boiled with pieces of fruits. Olke is Dutch and she had prepared the traditional Dutch soup which was made from various unidentifiable spices (as most of them were not Indian), spinach and sausage. Both of these specialities were completely new to me and were very delicious.
What followed was the Christmas trivia game, where there was a quiz consisting questions about Christmas, Jesus and his birth etc. I was the only non Christian person in the whole group, but it turned out that many people, not following the Christian beliefs, knew little about those things. There was a gift exchange game as well. Each was supposed to bring a small gift with proper wrappings so that they could not be identified at the first sight. St. Nicholas is supposed to bring the gifts to the children (similar to Santa Claus). There were no children around but all the volunteers ready with gifts. Hannah performed the role of St. Nicholas and brought the bag full of gifts. Each one chose a gift, I ending up with a pine apple.
Major fun started afterwards, however, as the exchange started. A story was selected and read out loudly. Each one was given a particular word from the story. The rule was that as the particular given word appeared in the story, the person who was given that word had a chance to snatch the gift from any other person and exchange his gift with that person. I exchanged my pineapples with a small children's play keyboard and I could retain it with me through the entire game and irritate other people by playing it discordantly. I had contributed with the gift of Shea butter pomade and the person who ended with that gift was not particularly happy about it and I could not help that.
The another party was arranged on the next weekend and it was not exactly Christmas party but was celebrated with that mood. We had barbecue and hat day on that day. Rose, Louise and Rachel did the hard work of organizing the things as this time, no food was to be brought but everybody was supposed to contribute money. I tried my hand at the barbecue this time and gained some experience in roasting meat and vegetables using charcoal fire. There was again a large gathering of people and some people came with really funny hats.
The last party was on the new year's evening i.e. 31st December. We were only 5 people there as most of them had travelled. I was tired because of the weakness which I carried because of my recent illness with malaria and lot of movements in the town but somehow I could manage myself to remain awake up to 12:00 in the midnight. Everybody (except me) took a sip of whiskey and new year was welcomed with some people going online and wishing new year to others on Facebook.
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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Malaria Me Too

19-27 December 2010
When I read several blogs some of the VSO volunteers working in Africa, almost all of them had mentioned of Malaria. In our In Country (Orientation) Training, the talk of malaria was too much. I got bored of hearing it. After starting my volunteer life here, I have been hearing many volunteers and lots of natives complaining about getting malaria and remaining sick for days. If you say to somebody, “hey where have you been? I did not see for many days,” the most frequently heard response would be “Oh, I had got malaria!”. After spending some months I had got used to see somebody who always looked lively would suddenly start seem to be all exhausted and I would hear that person complaining that he might get malaria. Then that person would not be seen for some days in the office.
I had decided before starting for Ghana, that I would not get this disease at any cost. I was confident that I would not catch the disease, having prior experience of malaria in India, coming from a tropical and developing country, having plenty of experience of living in rural parts of India. I tried to keep mosquitoes away. I applied mosquito repellent regularly. The famous Indian mosquito repellent Odomos is very commonly available here. I brought with me large packs of them by unnecessarily adding weight to my luggage. I tried to use protective nets while sleeping. I tried to remain healthy by eating well and exercising. I was taking anti malarial tablets regularly. I did not get the disease for 5 and half months.
It was working well when it was wet season and mosquitoes were common. When dry season started temperatures dropped down, mosquitoes stopped being seen in the air and I became relaxed. In the last month I stopped taking anti-malarial drugs after hearing their side effects especially on liver. I had already stopped using net and mosquito repellent. I did a long and tiring journey of south. I started to feel exhausted. I stopped my exercise. I had started to feel low. It caught me at the right stage when I was not physically and mentally able to fight it.
It was Christmas time and offices were not in the mood of working. I had not decided what I would do at that time. I was not feeling to travel anywhere when every other fellow volunteer friends were travelling to distant places. I had decided to travel to south just because there was nothing I could think of doing in that period. They had decided on big gathering of volunteers and party. It was going to be new experience all together, the Christmas celebrated by Western volunteers and to watch the street parties and Christmas parades by the local people in the city of Koforidua. I was having a gut feeling somehow that I would not be able to make it.
I started to get fever with headaches every night for two consecutive days. It became obvious that even though I did not wish to get it, It became obvious the malaria had got me. Third day I went to the clinic in Bolgatanga by collecting all of the energy which I was retaining. As my case paper book was being searched in the records room, I had to spend some time seating in the waiting room after which I got the entry to the doctor's room. The young lady doctor, after hearing about my symptoms, suggested me to get the test done. Fortunately it was available in the next room, and within half an hour the result was out. It was the moment of truth, the assistant in the laboratory came out with his natural smile (not vicious one) and declared that I had got malarial parasites in my blood.
Again I had to see the doctor, who gave prescriptions of drugs and some long list of advises which included plenty of rest (when you are having fever, you can't sleep), eating properly (I did not have any appetite for food) and taking medicines regularly (the anti-malarial drugs are known to make you dizzy throughout the day). It was going to be difficult. I collected the medicines from the counter. The ever smiling cashier lady helped me by facilitating the processes which is generally very lengthy for the locals. (the white man privilege). When I departed from the clinic, she smiled and said, “so next time”. I said to her, “but not with malaria for sure.” She laughed and I started walking towards the road.
Since I had came to Bolgatanga by organizing all of the energy left in the body I decided to do some other work. I went to bank, checked emails and cancelled my journey ticket. When I returned to Bongo, on my way to the house I met Madam Christy who works in my neighbouring office. She greeted me and said, “your T shirt looks nice on you but you don't. Why?” Having now confirmed at the clinic, I eagerly answered, “after you, it is my turn. I have got malaria.” She smiled and gave her elderly advice, “Eat plenty. Take rest. Remember God. You'll be fine in two days.”
By the time I returned to house, I was completely exhausted. The evening progressed and I knew it was going to be nightmare. I cooked some food and realized that my grocery stock had finished. No vegetables, no rice, no bread. I had forgotten to do shopping for the necessary food stuff when I was out. I lay on bed. After a while, the temperature of the body shot up and I started to shiver. I kept on shivering for almost three hours. I thought I would then die of shivering. It stopped somewhere in the night and I slept. In the morning when I woke up, I found myself relieved that I was still alive.
I did not have much energy to do anything. I called, Joshua, my colleague in the office and requested him to bring some food and grocery items from the market. He helped me with it and wished me fast recovery. My boss, came to visit me after hearing about Malaria and wished me the same. I tried to eat as much as I could as per the advises given to me. There was not much of fever that day. All around the town, every where they were playing gospel songs loudly and I remained in the bed hearing them.
On the fifth day of Malaria, I had to get up and start the chores because my clothes needed a wash. There was no water running from the tap today. I managed to wash the clothes using my stored water and spent rest of the day taking rest. There was no fever and headache and I was on my way of recovery.
There was little water left in the store in the next day and I found that somebody had locked my main water connection valve, due to which water could not flow through the taps in the house. It was quite frustrating to learn all that when I was not still able and willing to move outside the house. My neighbour helped me by contacting the person, who unlocked it in the evening but by that time the main water supply was turned off and I had to wait till the morning to flush my toilet and had to use the water sparingly for my bath and washing dishes.
How was your Christmas?” asked me everybody when I started going out from the house. I answered them, “Well, I did not experience Ghanaian Christmas but, I did experience Ghanaian Malaria”
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Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Fun with the Titles

18 December 2010

It was day of Azambene (local fire festival) and I was asking the lady who cleans the office about when the functions were going to start. She was busy and did not hear me. But the person who had came into the room heard it and called her loudly, “Cleaning, white man is asking you about Azambene.” He got her attention. She did not know the answer but in turn said to him, “Registry, you should know it, you are from Bongo as well. I don't know because I never get to attend that.” He did not know it. He called out loudly the person who was passing by, “Local Government, answer the Solemiya's (white man’s) question.” I got the assurance from 'Local Government' that he would inform me as soon as he got the 'Information'. This is how it gets here in the district assembly of Bongo. By information, he meant the officer from the Department of Information. Though it is government set up, people here are quite lively when it comes to interacting each other but somehow instead of calling the persons name, they like to call by the titles.

Many times when I am seating in the office alone with my boss not around, somebody pops in and asks me, “where is planning”, I have came to understand that the question means “where is planning officer” and I answer, “Planning is not there.”

Once I imagined a situation where following happened. 'Planning' is gone. There is no 'Budget'. 'Finance' is not coming. 'Registry' is stuck on the road. No 'Information' around. 'Accounts' might close. 'Stores' is out of stock. 'Chief' has not been seen for long. 'Local Government' does not know what to do. How the hell 'Community Development' is supposed to work and the 'Local Industries' are likely to get proposals?

Add officer or executive after each ‘title’ please!

That is the District Assembly. But it works somehow. And also gets going 'small small'. It is Ghana. Take it with a pinch of salt.