Rural Reality Check

June 25, 2010

People often ask me if I’ve experienced ‘culture shock’.  My answer has typically been ‘no’.  I suppose I expected life to be different, and thus didn’t have too much trouble adjusting to those differences.  I’ll write another time about cultural differences and how some differences have actually been weighing down on me.  For now, I want to talk about my first experience of ‘shock’.

I am currently living in Kpandai.  This is a town of several thousand, and a district capital.  There is electricity, water everywhere, and you can buy plenty of things like soap, ropes, etc. in the shops that line the main street.  Yes, there are the textbook thatched roofs, chickens running around, barefoot children, and lights go out often, but it is not considered to be a village.

A village typically has a smaller population.  There’s often no running water, no electricity, no clinic, no market day, etc. and difficulty accessing these aforementioned amenities.  I recently spent a week in a village in Nkanchina, near Kpandai.  I lived with the very gracious Asunke family.  I’d definitely seen villages before – my work takes me through them and the farmers I work with often live in villages so I meet them there – but I’d never spent more than one or two nights in one.

I was hoping to gain a better understanding of rural livelihoods.  More specifically, I wanted to understand the roles of women and men in households, analyze the income generating sources and vulnerabilities of the household, check out the connections between the production and processing levels and see if I could apply some of the fancy frameworks we learned in pre-departure training in Toronto to my experience in Nkanchina.  Some findings:

  1. Man, I Feel Like A Woman

It is not easy being a woman.  I was lucky in that my family actually allowed me to participate in daily activities like I had requested, but eventually I didn’t feel lucky.  I was up at 5 (a rooster crowed RIGHT beside my ear.  I was sleeping outside under my net, and I’m sure it did it on purpose).  We swept in and around the compound.  I tried, and failed, to start the fire up in the cooking house (an open room with a thatched roof) to reheat yesterdays’ leftovers for breakfast.

Eventually we ate, separately from the men in the family.  The mama was constantly interrupted by her 6 month old baby boy who was pretty greedy with his hunger.   Then the time came I had been anxiously waiting for – water fetching time.

  1. Water is SO Important

We (myself, 10 year old sister, and mama with baby on back) gathered some

At the Borehole Pumping for Water

buckets and giant (0.75m dia.) bowls to take to the water point.  After trekking about a kilometer at 6:30am on an extremely narrow path, we arrived at the borehole.  There were about 20 other women gathered there already.  We waited 20 minutes for the women in front of us to fill up their bowls with the water.  Our turn came and I pumped until our buckets were filled and my arm muscles screamed.  Women helped each other lift their bowls onto their heads, as my host mama did with me and my little bucket.

My Nkanchina Host Mama Carrying Water Back To the Compound

I tried to walk without holding the bucket, like all the other females could, but that was an instant fail.  I had to hold the bucket to my head, and even then, with every step some water splashed down my front.  The 1km trek felt much longer, and everyone called “Nsay Nchu!” (How is fetching water?).  My neck and arms were aching and I didn’t even have enough water for one bath in the bucket on my head. (Back to Womanhood)

Ready to collapse into exhaustion, my mama then strapped the little baby boy on my back (the traditional way – wrap a cloth around you and him…it’s actually very sturdy).  He immediately urinated, but my mama just laughed and indicated it was time to go to the farm – baby, urine and all.  Bucket on head, baby on back, seeds in hand, I headed the ~2km to the farm.  This was through dense brush on a sunny day.  The men were already there.  I was instructed to plant the vegetable seed (of which name I forget) into the yam mounds.  Bend over, make a small hole with your hands, place seed(s) in hole, cover hole with hand, stand up, move to next mound.  Each time I bent, the baby almost tumbled over my head.  The younger sister was foraging for firewood and shea nuts.

After several hours, drenched in baby pee and sweat, we headed back to the

Mparam showing off some sweet firewood collection ability

house to prepare lunch.  {My thoughts here: Are you kidding me?  Stirring TZed is hard labour!  I give up trying to understand rural livelihoods – treat me like a foreigner while I sit on this plastic chair, eat bread and drink Milo (tastes like chocolate milk..mmm).}  I stirred the TZed for a few minutes until the smoke inhalation and lack of energy set in, and let my mama continue while I chopped up okru leaves for the stew.  Okru leaves, when cut up, have the consistency of snot.

My sister went back to the farm (Q:  Why isn’t she in school?  A:  The teacher had gone to farm that day) while I opted to stay at the house and watch the baby.  During the afternoon we swept some more, fried some gari (it’s like shredded, fried cassava), and met with the other women to chat.  We then pounded fufu for dinner (yams are pounded to the consistency of mashed potatoes then formed into a ball to be dipped into a stew) and also did another round of water collection.  When darkness fell around 6 30, we sat on stools by the candle lantern and put the gari into small bags to be sold during Kpandai’s market day.  I fell asleep at 7:30.

  1. You Sweat for your Money

Life as a man was a bit different.  We still woke early, though we didn’t sweep or cook – we went straight to the farm.  This time I was planting rice, and then weeding a yam farm.  Weeding is exhausting.  I left the farm early and went back to the house to help prepare lunch (this was me as a woman again).  The men followed a few hours later.  In the early afternoon, they had finished.  The rest of the evening was spent resting and listening to the football match on the radio.

Income?  They make small-small from the gari bags, and the shea nuts and firewood that was collected.  They also buy large bags of sugar and re-package it into several smaller bags, making about 10 pesewas (~8 cents) profit per large bag. In addition, they keep most of their yam and cassava to eat, and sell the rest at the market.  They have a few fowls that lay eggs, and they can sell the new fowls, or keep them to lay more eggs.  They have a garden in their backyard where they get their vegetables (to eat, not sell).

Needless to say, after my week in the village, I was exhausted.  We spent every waking moment of every day either working extremely hard, or getting physically prepared to work extremely hard.  There is some fun of course – a lot of dancing and singing, a few local games, and every night about 20 children would come in the dark to greet me.  Of course we couldn’t converse because we didn’t speak each others’ language, but it was still nice.

I have so much more to say – about the people I met, the challenges they face, their resilience and dedication to bringing a better life for their children, but I know I’ve already lost your attention as this is a long post so I’ll just introduce you to one person.  Okumaran Asunke (the landlord/father I stayed with – he goes by Paul) was the only one who could speak English.  He ‘finished’ senior secondary school when he was 26.  That year, English was cancelled in their school, so no one could graduate, including himself.  He had every other course.  (What do you mean ‘English was cancelled’?  I tried to figure this out…they cancelled it after they wrote the exams and it didn’t show up on his transcript at all, meaning something went wrong with the teachings or examinations.  It’s possible the exams were leaked before they were written as this happens often.)

He wanted to do another year and get his English credit so he could graduate, but his father passed away that year and his mother fell ill (she is an amazing woman, an elder in the community, and typical proud grandma.  She cannot walk without her cane or stand upright but she sweeps better than I do).  Mr. Asunke was forced to work full days on the farm, and eventually had to marry because he couldn’t keep up with the house chores and the farm work, and there was also social pressure.  He had his little urinating machine 6 months ago, and though he really wants to go back to school, he doesn’t see how he’ll manage.   It has been 9 years since he ‘finished’ school.

When I was thanking him for his kind hospitality, he said he knew that my family would show him the same if he came to Canada.  I assured him this was true.  He then said “I will not be coming to Canada, but my son will be, so you will have to remember our family name, because he will come.”  And I hope he does.  Not to work, because his job in Ghana will be awesome, but maybe he’ll come to visit, just to understand the realities of westerners, and visit the white lady he peed on.

When I arrived back in Kpandai, I had my first experience of ‘shock’.  Not everyone greeted me, several people didn’t even glance my way!  Water lay in a pipe within 100 metres from my bedroom.  My bucket shower was taken in a small ‘room’ with a concrete floor instead of on top of some rocks, in a mud enclosure, and I could fill my bucket to the top without guilt.  I could buy orange juice and biscuits.  I could charge my phone.  I could USE my phone!  People could speak English.  There were motos whizzing by.  Kpandai had become luxurious.  I can’t imagine how I’ll feel being in Tamale.  Or Accra.  Or Canada.  I was so overwhelmed, I spent the next three hours sitting outside with my journal, trying to figure out how the slight economic growth that population centers are experiencing can filter to these relatively remote villages.


Are You Poor?

June 17, 2010

Some would say it’s a random, bold, self-explanatory, and rather packed question that a Canadian would ask a Ghanaian living in the North.

I was sitting with a few members of my host family – Jessica, Lazarus, and Miriam.  We were watching Brother Joefere play a game of football on a Saturday afternoon.  The sun was setting, my belly was full from my latest ball of starch, and I was feeling pretty content.  I no longer smell like sanitizer, bug spray, and sunscreen.  Now it’s more like sweat, cocoa butter, and Banku (my dinner).  The parts of my skin that see the sunlight are starting to darken, and my hands are becoming more callused.  I’ve been breathing Ghanaian air for 6 weeks now.

I had asked Brother Lazarus about birthday celebrations in Ghana, and in turn was required to tell him about Canada.  He was telling me how he no longer celebrates his birthday with inviting friends over and eating a large meal.  Instead, for the past few years, he’s searched out the poor in his community, and shared portions of his large birthday meal with them.  I was amazed.  I looked at Lazarus – he wore flip flops that were completely worn through at the soles, had a faded shirt with several holes, and was sporting the same dusty shorts that he wore every day since I’d arrived.  He’d worked since 4:30am that morning on his farm, just as he did every day, to try and make ends meet.   Granted, he had a cell phone and cleaned up well, but by comparison to what a 24-year-old in Canada has, I’d definitely consider him ‘poor’.  Hearing him say that he would sacrifice his birthday party to feed the ‘poor’ was pretty surprising, and beautiful.  Eventually I had to ask him “Do you consider yourself poor?”

He looked at me and with a smile, his (slightly re-written because I can’t remember word for word) reply was “I have food to eat every day.  I never go to bed hungry.  There is clean water for me to drink when I’m thirsty.  Our family is together and healthy right now.  No, I am not poor.  We don’t have any money or plenty of nice things and what and what*, but I am not poor.”  Since then, he has been introducing me to the poor people that he was referring to.  These are the people that are most vulnerable.  They may have some type of disability, or have lost most family members and are unable to care for themselves.  They are often elderly, or women.

Lazarus is very average in a town like Kpandai.  He is a viable farmer, with high strength and low vulnerability.  He does not consider himself poor, though he doesn’t have a cedi to his name.

MoFA currently has a project for emergency rice production.  A coupon of 12 Gh¢ is given to vulnerable farmers (women, and men over 50 years), and a coupon of 6 Gh¢ is given to viable farmers, like Lazarus.  I continue to ask myself the question – who should we really be trying to help?  Do we aim for those vulnerable farmers, the poorest of the poor?  Or do we go for viable people like Lazarus, who doesn’t consider himself poor, but is much more likely to be successful with any aid received?  If you give rice seeds to a viable farmer, they are likely to make much more out of it than a vulnerable farmer.  But will the inflow of money trickle to those who need it most?

The JFs were asked a question in pre-departure training in early May:  Would you give X amount of seeds and fertilizer to a large group of strong, dedicated male farmers, knowing they would be highly successful but wanted to buy a TV and pito (local beer), or would you give the inputs to a weaker group of elderly women, who want to spend the money on refurbishing the school?

I’ll post my thoughts on that question later, I didn’t want to influence any thoughts – I want you hear your idea first.   It’s impossible to know which decision will be best for the community development ten years from now.  And what does development even look like?  Is it increased $$ in peoples’ pockets?  Is it those women being able to have a choice if they want to go to school?  Is it the availability of malaria medication?  Is it the frequency of a smile?  I know plenty of people in developing countries that are very happy, and many people in developed countries that are miserable.

It was with nervous, awkward laughter that I explained my birthday celebration to Lazarus.  “Well, you see, I have food and drinks with most of my friends, and usually a dinner with my immediate family, one with Mike’s family, one with my extended family on my mom’s side, one with my extended dad’s side, one with just Mike and I, and then I open presents from all the above.  I sometimes consider myself pretty poor, as a student with high tuition.”  …Relativity is pretty powerful.  Maybe next year on my birthday I’ll hit up a soup kitchen or something instead.

** “what and what” is a common Ghanaian expression (meaning et cetera), along with “small-small” (meaning little bit)


Family Life

June 11, 2010

Hopefully if I paint a picture of my life at home, it’ll be easier for you to understand what a typical day for me in Kpandai might look like.

I live with the chief of Kpandai’s family – his name is Nana Atorsah.  It’s quite average compared to all the other homes around Kpandai (capital).  There is a tin roof, concrete floors and walls, and one lightbulb to light the compound floor when it gets dark around 6:30.  This light bulb provides light for cooking, cleaning, homework, chores, and sometimes eating if you eat later, and unfortunately is often out due to the unreliability of electricity in Ghana.   When that happens, the stars are absolutely incredible! Since it’s the chief’s family, we do have a borehole in the middle of our compound, so in that respect we’re lucky.  It isn’t always reliable though, so we often use our neighbours’ well.

My living situation is pretty unique in that there really isn’t a patriarch.  The chief, Nana, is always in Accra.  He has two wives here in Kpandai:  Madam Monica (Mama) and Madam Delfina.

Mama Monica is my host momma.  She helps teach me to cook, clean, makes me bathe twice a day, wakes me up if I sleep past 5 45am, yells at me if I don’t finish my ball of starch or if I come home late, etc.  She’s also a fantastic woman.  She watches over all the children (and there are a lot of them), goes to primary school (woo Mama Monica!), and owns a little shop selling school books.  She’s the chief’s first wife and is around 50.

Mama Delfina is like a cool aunt.  She speaks great English and loves joking around with me.  She is a primary school teacher during mornings and owns a bar where she works at night, so she isn’t around the house much.  She’s extremely intelligent so we can talk politics, history, etc.  She’s fun to hang out with. She’s the chief’s second wife and is around 45.  (I don’t have a pic of her, sorry!)

Brother Lazarus is 24.  He attended senior secondary school and wants to eventually become an accountant.  He works one of Kpandai’s local tractors during the day and works on his maize farm.  He has a small TV in his room so everyone gathers around to watch GhanaTV…especially when there’s a football match on.  He’s my main Nawuri teacher (Nawuri is one of the main languages spoken in Kpandai and is spoken by my family) and is the oldest male living in the compound, but he’s always joking around with the children.  Side Note:  Sarcasm is not recognized as humour in Ghana.  GhanaTV was on, and it said “GHANA NEWS” in bright yellow letters on a dark green screen.  That was displayed for about 8 minutes without change.  I joked, asking Lazarus what he was watching and he said “Ghana News” and I said jokingly, “Oh really?  I didn’t notice that.” and he then explained how Ghana is spelled and how news is spelled and pointed to the display on the television.  Anyway, Lazarus and I get into pretty deep conversations, and he’s also an awesome volleyball player.  He was also the one that convinced me to join the gospel choir at the church here in Kpandai.  He plays the drum, and I sway and clap between some Ghana mamas, pretending I know the words.

Sister Miriam (17) is Brother Lazarus’s niece – she came a few days ago and like me, can speak very limited Nawuri.  Definitely some solidarity there.  We watch Nigerian movies together, cook together, and chat.  Her English is pretty good.  She wants to be a surgeon or a bank manager.  I adore her.

Brother Joefere is 21 and is currently in senior secondary school.  He wants to become a surgeon, but so do all of his classmates that I’ve met, so there’ll be some competition there.  Med school is also very expensive.  I believe in him.  He’s super nice, always laughing and plays football really well.  I’m currently tutoring him and his friends in math which is both frustrating and rewarding.

Brother Paul is 23.  He just graduated from senior secondary school and is now a voluntary teacher for 1st graders in Kpandai.   He just got here this week so I don’t know much about him other than that.  He went to school in Tamale so he seems much more comfortable around me as a white person than my other family members did at first.

Sister Awafene Jessica is 5.  She’s in school, and is getting pretty awesome with her ABCs, especially with Paul helping her out.  I seriously love when I see Paul helping Jessica hammer out her ABCs on her chalk board by the tiny compound light.  Older brothers aren’t so keen to help all the time in Canada (except in my case of course…hey Dan.). Jessica is a firecracker with a ton of energy – I was sick of playing hackey sack after 4 hours with a dish towel  with her so when I bought a small soccer ball for us we became best friends.

Sister Irene is 9 and hopes to one day become a nurse.  Sister Rachael is 15, and is therefore responsible for helping with the cooking and cleaning the most, as she is the eldest girl.  Sister Janet is 11 and actually doesn’t live in our compound, but is there almost constantly because she’s an only child and gets pretty lonely.  Imbila is 4 and the only time I have ever seen her smile is when I took the picture below.  Everyone likes to joke that she is very serious all the time, my mama gets a huge kick out of it.

And last – Afia Boresah.  She’s 22, and can only stir TZ or Banku (main foods) for about 3 minutes until she becomes tired.  She can speak basic Nawuri – including greetings and responses.  She asks very strange questions, has a very sensitive stomach (and skin), and when she sweeps her room, sister Jessica usually has to come in and re-sweep because she manages to miss a ton of dirt.  Yes, this is me.  Afia Boresah is the name my family gave me – in Nawuri it means God’s Gift on Friday (I said I was born on a Friday but after double checking I realized I was wrong.  It was too late – it had stuck).

That is my family!  There are a few people that come and go that I see almost daily but did not include here.  I love spending time at home – whenever I have a bad day it’s such a great place for me to unwind.  I also learn a lot about cultural norms and Ghanaian living.  My brother Joefere left Kpandai to go to his village, Kabonwule, for a week, and when I passed through, I asked someone by the road side if they knew him.  About 2 minutes later, he came out from his family farm and I was so happy to see him!  It made me realize how much I already consider the Atorsah’s my family.  It’s going to be devastating leaving them!


For Every Fly

June 6, 2010

I wrote a poem, and after a few days of debating, I have decided to post it.  It was inspired by Duncan McNicholl’s project called “Perspectives of Poverty” which you can check out on his blog – he discusses that image of those “poor African children” that everyone in Canada sees on television and questions “How had these photos failed so spectacularly to capture the intelligence, the laughter, the resilience, and the capabilities of so many incredible people?” (PS Yes, Erin, I adore that quote, I’m also using it).

My poem starts off trying to contrast the poor you see on TV and the beauty that exists, but then I just ended up writing.  Enjoy.

For every fly, there is a flower,

For every tear, there are ten smiles.

Bottled minerals line the street,

For clean water, she walks the miles.

She learned the alphabet through a song,My Younger Host Sister

His parents can’t pay the school fee,

He’ll work the farm ‘til he has enough,

Women talk of love under a mango tree.

A football match has drawn a crowd,

FIFA World Cup says Ghana has gold,

A players’ father died last week,

Of what was thought to be a common cold.

For every fly, there is a flower,

For every tear, laughter rings,

The world may house tragedy,

But there is hope and Ghana sings.

The extended belly draws my eye,

Until the giggles bring me back,

Agogo counted up to 47 –

His new record in hacky sack.

She left her husband just last year,

She has a baby mouth to feed.

He wouldn’t let her attend school,

She now works in an office, feeling freed.

For every picture in the news,

Showing what poverty seems to be,

There are a million pictures left unseen,

Indicating social prosperity.

He made a decent profit from his yams,

His groundnuts perished without rain,

His heart beats to the drum of the earth,

His body aches from the physical strain.

Cell phones interrupt church service,

Motos whiz on potholed roads,

Sweat drips down a woman’s back,

On her head she carries loads.

A toddler cries in the distance,

Drowned out by a rooster’s crow,

The day has started before the sunlight,

Floors to clean and seeds to sow.

When I look out on Kpandai’s horizon,

My heart can feel the peoples’ song:

“God bless our homeland Ghana,

And make our country great and strong.”


All ‘Gingered’ Up

June 4, 2010

I hope all is well wherever you are while reading this!

Referring to the post title, in Ghana, to ‘ginger’ someone means to inspire them (I was not referring to the health remedy I mentioned in my last post, don’t worry).

Yesterday, I went to a farmer group meeting in Baduli, Kpandai with an AEA named John Kwame Nankwe.  We were meeting with a women’s soybean production group called Tilinentob – meaning “open each others’ eyes”.  Why was I there and what is an AEA?  Ah, the time has come for me to explain my job here in Ghana, before I can get to the meat, potatoes and hot sauce of my story.

My Job

EXPLICITLY:

Over 80% of Ghanaians are farmers, and primarily subsistence farmers (i.e. they try to produce enough to feed their families throughout the rainy and dry seasons, but often don’t go much beyond that to commercialize or make profit – for many reasons).

The government has a branch called MoFA – Ministry of Food and Agriculture.  MoFA exists at the National, Regional (ie Northern Region, Upper East, etc.) and District Level (ie Kpandai, Bole, etc.).  I’m working at the district level.  In order of hierarchy in my office, from the top down, there is a DDA (District Director of Agriculture), Agric Officers (of Extension, Crops, MIS, etc.), and Agric Extension Agents (AEAs).  This hierarchy definitely exists, you can even tell by the type of chair you sit in.  I am working at the officer level, and if I try to sit on a regular plastic chair, the DDA immediately insists I sit in a padded, ‘officer type’ chair.  There are times this makes my job easier and times it makes it more difficult.  It’s also interesting because I’m the only woman in my office and I’m the youngest, so if I were Ghanaian I’m sure my chair wouldn’t be so nice.

I work directly with all the AEAs in my district.  Their job is to provide services (education, information, inputs availability, opportunities) directly to farmers.  My job is to work with the AEAs to implement a new program created by MoFA with the assistance of EWB – it’s called Agriculture As A Business.

The farmers form groups in their communities.  The reasons for group formation include:

–           Making the life of an AEA easier/more effective – MoFA really pushes for group formation

–          Social capital – if there is an emergency, group members can help each other out

–          Sharing resources

–          More accessibility to loans, government assistance, etc.

–          And more… Feel free to brainstorm some up and post your comments

There are also definite downsides to the group idea.  If one member can’t repay their share of a loan, the rest of the group pays for it (literally and figuratively).  Also, there may be group members that don’t pull their weight.  Again, there are several more reasons that I’m exploring and I’d love your input!  (Does the idea of a farmer group remind you of a microcosm of a certain social structure?)

K back on track – AAB is a curriculum that works to strengthen groups, educate on understanding group finances, market planning, determining profit, etc.  The AEA facilitates a meeting with their farmer groups each week and presents a different topic relating to the curriculum.  I’ll give you an example:  one card is business planning.  A groundnut production group estimates their yield, determines how much they’ve spent on inputs (like fertilizer, seed, etc.), and assesses what their profit will be based on their chosen markets (i.e. what’s the difference in profit if you store your groundnuts and sell in August instead of June in Market A vs. Market B?).

IMPLICITLY:

People watch me.  It sounds weird and slightly creepy but it’s true nonetheless.  Therefore, I am in some ways representing all of Canada, if not the entire Western world at times.  As a result, I publicly wash my hands with soap before eating, ask for feedback after presentations, try to show my appreciation for valuing education, etc.  As a woman, I have opportunity there as well – I hope some of my actions are empowering to women around me without stepping on toes of the existing culture (this is a whole other can of worms… how far do you go to try and integrate?  Where is it my place to try to change something? It’s the way of the culture on one hand and you’re an outsider, on the other hand there are certain things you disagree with and can see are hindering ‘development’… and you’re here to make change! I can’t give this topic justice in brackets).

[My apologies to Canadians… a few Ghanaians are now under the impression that the staple crop in Canada is the hamburger and typical Canadian dancing includes the worm and the sprinkler.  It should also be noted that doing the worm on the floor of a dirt compound to the beat of an African drum with a cut knee may not be the wisest decision, though it will give you some street cred.]

Back to my story now that I’ve gone on an impossible-to-follow tangent.

I’m in Baduli, sitting alongside my AEA, Mr. John Kwame.  We’re meeting with a women’s soybean production group underneath a mango tree.  Many women have little babies suckling away.  We start the meeting with a prayer (as always, and we finish with a different prayer if there are two religions there).  We’re doing the first card of AAB which represents Group Strengths – the AEA will facilitate a discussion about the groups’ challenges, strengths, and develop a plan of how they can tackle these challenges.

The group had formed a few years ago and was very strong.  Their production rates were high, they had opened a bank account, and had a strong relationship with each other.  If one woman became pregnant and couldn’t work her farm, other members would help her out.  Then, along came an NGO with a big shiny project.  They promised the group a loan, among other things, and when the NGO pulled out, the group was left confused and disappointed.  As a result, the group disbanded and the bank account and group fell dormant.  I had asked a Ghanaian a few weeks ago if they thought there was such thing as a bad NGO or if NGO’s ever caused more harm than good, and their response was no.  This group would disagree with that.

Now in comes Mr. John Kwame!  He said to the group “If you walk down a narrow path in the road alone, and come across a large rock, you won’t get anywhere.  If you go as a group, you can move the giant rock, and move forward!”.  I actually fist pumped the air after this.  Not sure how that was perceived.

The group discussed their challenges (lack of initial capital, unequal levels of poverty among them make it difficult for some to pay group dues to the bank account, there is no love between them due to the NGO disappointment, lack of organization, limited tractor availability, no education therefore don’t know what steps to take to become stronger, etc.).  A unique challenge I would NEVER have thought of was that all 25 women in the group were married.  If one woman has a husband who is not good to her, and that woman chooses to divorce, that means she will leave Kpandai and therefore leave the group.  They then discussed a woman’s support group for those with abusive husbands.

Anyway, after discussing challenges, they discussed their action plan for moving forward and how they’d address their challenges.  They even discussed having a constitution for the group.  People were clapping, singing, and holding hands by the end of the meeting.  The group had reformed for this AAB meeting, discussed what happened with the NGO long ago, brought new ideas forward and ways to tackle their challenges, and I felt like if this is the only imprint I have here in Ghana, I’m still kind of happy.  This definitely gingered me up, but the question remains:  Did I need to be here for this to happen?

Side Note:  I haven’t had internet for a while so sorry for the delay in posting.  Definitely have a few posts coming up – one on my home life and one on my few days spent in a fishing village to meet with a maize group.