Joanne Bauer and Chris Bierbrier traveled to Ghana in January! The goal of this trip was to deepen the partnership and gain a better understanding of the Association for the Development of People (ADEP) in the Paga-Navio and Navrongo Regions of Northern Ghana. As well, our visit was to see first hand the context in which ROUTES support is being used and to assess the viability of our work.
Donald Amuah, director of POSCOM, a women’s cooperative program under the auspices of ADEP and advisor to ROUTES was our guide as we set out to learn more about challenges in Northern Ghana, to meet cooperative representatives, and to gain a better understanding of how these community level women’s associations function in their villages.
Leaving Bolgatanga, the largest city in Northern Ghana, we travelled each day further north to meet members of POSCOM. The villages were agriculturally based communities awaiting the rainy season for planting to begin. Water was available only through community pumps. Electricity and plumbing were nonexistent. Although infrastructure resources were scarce, the people we met greeted us with warmth and deep pride and honor for their community.
It was apparent that the POSCOM program, which is partially funded by a micro-finance loan, was successful in helping to meet the needs of the women and their families in the community. Seasons are important in the lives of the people. There are mainly two seasons, rainy and dry. The rainy season lasts about four months. This period constitutes the growing period in which all the food for the year must be cultivated. Land holdings are small—about 2.5 acres per household. The main production technology is the hoe. This is subsistence farming. The people are never far from hunger. A flood such as occurred in 2007 can wipe out crops and destroy homes which quickly leads to starvation, illness and a complete loss of livelihood.
ROUTES has worked to help these cooperatives in the past by supporting irrigation, providing funds for seed and farming equipment as well as fees for irrigation. We will continue to support these efforts where needed.
As we travelled to these villages, we saw first hand the difficulty for families to attain funds for children to attain a secondary education. With Donald’s guidance we set out two years ago to sponsor students from Northern Ghana to attend secondary schools in Bolgatanga. This initiative is clearly the best way to fight the cycle of family poverty. With input from POSCOM council members, Donald and Paul Wugaa, teachers, Don Bosco Secondary School, and POSCOM advisors selected 25 students who now are the first members of their families to go beyond elementary education.
Indeed, a highlight of our visit was meeting the students! They greeted us in their school uniforms even though it was school break. Many students travelled several miles on foot to attend the event. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to speak with these teens and to hear their interest and wishes for the future. Without any doubts, the young adults would never have the chance to attend school without our help. Each student receives roughly between $250-$300 for the year. These funds pay for tuition, room and board and uniforms. Families must still help by providing food, transportation to Bolgatanga, and school supplies.
It was clear that ROUTES funds are being well used in this educational initiative and with the help of our support will continue.
Both the relationship with the POSCOM community and Donald’s guidance have been key to the success of this endeavor. These students were chosen based on ability, passion for further education and commitment to complete their programs. With Donald’s support ROUTES will be able to study the outcomes of this program to begin to develop a framework for further initiatives. Clearly, the importance of advisors on the ground is key to the success of ROUTES’ endeavors. It is with deep gratitude that we thank Donald for supporting ROUTES. As a small NGO we don’t have funds to support staff salaries and therefore would be limited to achieve the inroads we have made in Northern Ghana.
Thank you Donald and all those in Northern Ghana who help us to achieve our goals!