The only day out of Accra during our stay. Started with omelet and beans of course but nothing about the rest of the day was ordinary.
We traveled to a small village about 3 hours from Accra in a mini-van arranged by Ibriham. The village turned out to be the one where his grandparents had grown up though he was born in Accra because his parents moved out. The trip was expected to have taken 90 minutes but the three hour trip seemed entirely to be expected given the roads. We stopped a couple of times on the way, once to look at a bamboo furniture place on the side of the road. But the real find was sisal.
David noticed a container brimming over with a hairy looking pale yellow material in front of a plumbing supply store set back from a wide road under construction (the road to Kumasi). It was sisal fiber and is apparently used for insulation by plumbers. They prefer the loose fiber and the bundle was tied up in a sisal rope that was just what we had been hoping to find. The plumber gave us the rope as he doesn’t use it.
The trip took us through many small towns that were lined with stalls and stores selling all manner of goods and the roads patrolled by women selling food and water bags from supplies carried on their heads. Men sell belts and auto accessories and carry them on their waist or over their arms; not their heads. Pretty clear gender division. There were some bicycle stores, motor cycle places and tire repair shops.
The village was about 5 km off the main road down a very rough road with some steep sections. It had a tiny store and a farm merchant building of some type that I never exactly understood. All of the dwellings were small mud construction with tin roofs. No water, no power. Children were everywhere, a number of women but few men. This struck me as a surprisingly poor place given proximity to Accra. On first impression it is poorer than Sauri, the Millennium Village in western Kenya.
We showed the bike to the chief of the village, as well as some of the local farmers and got the enthusiastic reception that we are now getting accustomed to. It starts to rain hard and we all move inside the veranda section of one of the houses. People just seem to expect the rain will stop and it does after twenty minutes or so and we go outside and give rides on the bike to farmers and kids.
The purpose of the trip was to see the local setting of bamboo and we trekked down a long single-track trail to what turned out to be a grove of bamboo in a small ravine. It does not grow in fields but rather in somewhat isolated groves within fields of different crops like maize. The individual stands were very tall, perhaps thirty feet or more. Not much of it seemed to have been cut previously. This particular grove does not seem to have been routinely harvested. We cut several long sections and carry it out. The only
other highlight was a visit to the palm wine distillery where very large quantities of the liquid were fermenting in rusty barrels. Heavy rain again while we get under a tin roof over the distillery.
In returning we pass by the school; an open sided building with rows of desks and a chalk board but no signs of any teaching materials (perhaps they are kept away somewhere). Apparently the children go to the village school through primary school and then to the nearby town after that.
Given the isolation of the village there was quite a bit of vehicular traffic including the inevitable taxis. Apparently small trucks come to collection points where they get loaded with farm products. They produce maize, cassava and several types of beans. All is rain fed but apparently that is not limiting factor. They get drinking water from community wells but have to carry water to the village itself from the wells. The distance is not so large; not more than half a mile.
The trip back took hours due to traffic hold ups. There are no alternate rotes in the countryside and you just have to suffer the delays. At one point the driver decided to drive down the wrong side of the road for about a mile. A little alarming especially as the cars in line had little interest in letting us back in. Major trucks and busses mix with small cars and vans. The delay looks like it may have something to do with road repair or construction but its hard to get a clear sense of the cause.
The level of poverty in the village was striking. Later we learned from Hanifa and Akosua that there are plenty of places even very close to and even within Accra that are quite similar. Ghana’s growth rate is high but many people seem to be left out.