*A Snapshot of an amazing experience- RESEARCH IN SANKPALA, GHANA*
I walk now with a spirit of freshness and a sense of progress down life’s path; the excitement of the future and the good it holds, gives me strength and a clearer vision. I have had the most amazing experience of taking my first wobbly but eager steps towards ‘living the dream’- taking my interests far far beyond the confines of the classroom. And just like in those boring lectures day dreams, I have been somewhere over the rainbow!
It started of as a small, tender, fragile ‘to be nurtured’ thought. It was during my industrial placement. I was sitting at my desk, thinking hard about a final year project, in preparation for the start of term when the thought of basing my project on something that would envelope both my water and third world development interests occured to me.
To cut any long story (that I am very tempted to start writing) short, I had various conversations with staff members in my host company. I was very impressived because quite a number of people had worked in Africa and other developing nations. With advise from a Water Aid advisor and my supervisor, work on my project started on October 2, 2006. The project titled:
Modelling the impact of water intervention on household water stress.
Term one was probably one of the busiest and scariest term ever!! I looked up to courage, persistence for guidance.. as I worked to establish contacts in Ghana. Writing and reconstructing emails! Thinking to myself –‘oh no! that sounds a bit to forward…is that polite enough… or hmm I need to be more precise here… ahhh it does not sound interesting enough!’. Writing project plans..risk assessments and health and safety plans … applications for support funding!!!!... waiting anxiously for replies from EVERYONE!. It was a real race against time, very crazy! But then you can imagine the smiles, sighs of relief, the satisfaction and the feeling of achievement that I had.. when I checked my email inbox and there was an unread RE:Yewande Akinola- Project.. and of course if its content was favourable!
As it is done in Africa…..when a story is to be told, people sit under a tree .. round the story teller… and it goes something like this (my version translated to English!)
Storyteller : STORY STORY O!
Audience : STORY!!!!!
Storyteller: STORY STORY O!
If for some intriguing reason, my story was ever to make it to ‘under the great trees of AFRICA, my ‘imagination’ tells me it would sound something like this.
Storyteller: Once upon a time, there was a girl who went to Ghana- the Gold Coast for the first time. She went to collect data in a village ( as part of her research )in the northern region of Ghana, in the Central Gonja district, 14 kilometres from a town called TAMALE. The name of the community was Sankpala. The people there were of the Dagombe tribe and mainly spoke Dagbani. The data collected from Sankpala was to give the young lady, an understanding of the water behavioural patterns (e.g water consumption, water costs) in the region. This would allow for modifications to be made to a model designed to determine the water stress of a developing region and hence the required water intervention.
At this point, my ‘imagination’ says the storyteller will be struggling to keep his ‘once wide-eyed’ audience awake!... So back to real time!
I am going to start by narrating my experience and thoughts during the flight to Ghana; with no intention of any disrespect to the airline. It was an experience which I found incredibly amusing.
On my way to Ghana and I saw one of the World’s most beautiful views from an altitude. The breathtaking change from a land of greenery to a land bare, brown without trees and without any evidence of life. The seat in the Ghana airways aircraft was fine! I had a window seat! NICE. We were served rice.. or I chose rice and chicken.. not bad at all!! The bread roll was er…. very difficult to chew, which was disappointing because for some reason (definitely unknown to me), onboard bread rolls is something I look forward to during a flight!!!
I spent quite a number of hours trying to sleep, hoping that when I woke up we would be preparing to land!!! Hehehe! Jokess.. if only I knew!
Oh my word, the highlight of the journey was at the supposedly ‘end of the journey’! yeah @END??!!!
Drama struck! Believe me, the type you go to the cinema to watch. We arrived in accra (or above accra) at about 6 pm .. and started to prepare to land. We descended many metres.. and I was bursting out in excitement! Every cell in my body screaming GHANA GHANA GHANA !. After waiting what seemed endlessly to land, the captain came on to say we could not land in accra because there was a disabled aircraft on the runway. Apparently, it was going to take about 30mins to get it off the runway, and because we did not have enough fuel to hover, we were going to land in Benin Republic to refuel.
We went all the way to Benin republic another 20 – 30 mins flight only for the captain to come on and say we could not land in Benin Republic because there were too many planes on the runway!! My word! And we were going to try and land in Lome! That was the beginning of the more than 3hour wait in Lome and the drama.
We landed in Lome and a lady from the captain’s cabin came on to say it would only take quarter of an hour to refuel and we would be off! ........and that turned into 45 mins.. and she came on again and said the problem was that the fueling equipment in Lome was obsolete and it was going to be rectified immediately.
At this point the plane was going crazy! and very funny! Passengers were complaining and shouting! One man had lost it! He was convinced we were not being told the truth. It was soo funny! He said out very loudly, ‘I bought a ticket to Accra Ghana, and not Lome or Benin republic..and I am very worried that our next stop might be Afghanistan…ei.. what is all this rubbish!’. There was so much drama.. very upset people!.... shouting attempting to calm each other down! Someone even started to smoke on the plane! Absolute madness! Gosh! I just found it hilarious! I felt at one with the experience!! The height of unscripted entertainment! comedy! The queues for the toilet was worrying! I hoped and hoped I would not need to use it! Passengers were hungry and cranky.
Then a couple of passengers decided to form an investigation team…. and I guess.. investigate the situation! They went towards the cabin to find out exactly what was happening. They came back with some revealing information! Apparently, all we had heard was emmm yeah, not quite true! The problem was that the captain was not prepared to pay the inflated price the Fuel sellers gave. So all that story of the fax machine being obsolete and the refuelling equipment being obsolete..yeah, not quite true!
And so it immerged that a fellow passenger, someone who had paid for a seat on the plane, like the rest of us, saved the day!! I believe what happened was that he assessed the situation (the new revelation) and got in touch with his contacts in ‘high places’. He must have been quite influential because he made phone calls, went to speak to the crew and before we knew it, the plane was being re-fuelled.
Our 3 hour wait in Lome was over. At this time, My stomach muscles hurt from not being able to laugh out loud.
When we finally arrived in Accra, I was so relieved!..
Whooooooo.. coming out of the plane.. My dear friend- Humidity greeted me.. embraced me tightly .. and didn’t let go till I left Ghana..
But it was loved!!.. It is good to sweat.. very healthy.. Arriving in Ghana was BEAUTIFUL- Signs of AKWAABA (welcome) were all over the place..people willing help! For a reciprocative act of kindness of course …Oh I had that feeling… you know that feeling.. that feeling.. that time didn’t go as fast.. and I could walk with a slower pace… and I didn’t have to worry that the shops closed at 5pm or that I was going to miss the next bus…..… and I rejoiced at the fact that there were moments I could just stop ‘chill’ and just appreciate.
Driving to my accommodation, the straight roads, the odd pothole, road side shops, welcomed me back to Africa.
Okay! the trip to Tamale was interesting.. emmm how do I explain it? there are two main services (air services) to Tamale.. City links and Antrax.. cost about $275 return
I bought an Antrax ticket because Citylinks was not doing their Tamale trip that day but the Antrax aircraft was going through checks and so they used a City links aircraft instead. It was a small aircraft, but if you are almost like me and enjoy the thrills of a sometimes bumpy ride (amusement parts) lol… and you pray a lot, you would have thought it was fantastic.
The airport in Tamale was very simple. A runway and an open air structure- building.. no need whatsoever to waste money on anything fancy.
ARRIVAL AT TAMLE:
It was prearranged that when I arrived in Tamale, I would call the director of the NGO I was working with (
NGO New Energy, Tamale.. the director Mr. Sayibu Imoro) By the way, Mr. Imoro is one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I have come across. He had however warned me that the mobile phone service was not fantastic, and that if I tried to call when I got there.and there was no response, I should take a taxi to the office. When I arrived there I called him as planned but did not get any response. I walked out to the taxi rack but there were no taxis. As I tried to figure out what to do, I turned in the direction of a lady standing next to a car and asked her if she was waiting for a taxi.
Yewande: Excuse me, sorry are you waiting for a taxi..
Lady: oh no, I am not
After about a minute
Lady: Excuse me is your name Adibah?
Yewande : No… I am Yewande.
Lady: Oh I am sorry.. I am expecting a family member from England… her name is Adiba.
Yewande: Oh, hahahahah
After about 2 minutes, a man and two children came and started talking to the lady. And they turned to me:
Lady: Where are you going?
Yewande: I am going to Kumasi Road
Man: Where exactly on Kumasi road?
YEwande: I am going to the New Energy Office on Kumasi Road
The both looked at each other.
Man: Really! ..who are you going to see?
Yewande : I am going to Mr Imoro
Yewande: yes … do you know him?
At this point, they were both laughing, and expressing their appreciation of the beauty of harmony!
I was still in the dark
Lady: oh Mr Imoro is my Uncle.. I am his niece.. What a coincidence!
Yewande: Really! Wow.. that is amazing (I always use that word)!!! – laughing.. being ALSO very grateful for the reign of harmony.
Man: Oh if you give me a few minutes, I am just waiting to collect my wife and I would drop you there.
And after a few minutes.. I had the priviledge of a lift in an airconditioned 4X4 jeep to the New Energy Office. I have to mention though, the weather in Tamale is beautiful. Not as humid as Accra. I was a bit worried , you know, because a lot of people said ‘Ahhhh Tamale! why tamale? the weather is terrible, it is hot and dry.. you would need to use a lot of body cream, or buy their local shear butter. I did have to use body cream though!
I was pleasantly surprised when I got out of the plane because I was sure I was going to fry. My trick was to drink a lot of water and the different fanta flavours – generally keeping the liquid content high which ever way!! Worked for me!
We drove for about 25 minutes to the New Energy office, fantastic roads! I was welcomed very warmly!!!!!!! Mr Imoro asked his employees to help with my luggage and asked that I waited for him in one of the offices while he quickly attended to a couple of things. After a couple of minutes, he asked me to come into his office and we had a brief conversation (a briefing on my project and my requirements. I love AFRICA!)
After the briefing.. he called in his Chief Researcher (and hydrologist) and introduced him to me!!!It was soo cool
Mr. Imoro: yeah.. This is my chief researcher and hydrologist- Osman Saanoon. He would be working with you. He also introduced other staff members.
I feel like I am writing a book now! I have to describe Mr. Imoro, the director/ and programme coordinator of New Energy.. distinguished, exquisite but a simple man. Extremely hardworking and dedicated to the provision of better living standards. He was always busy.. updating himself on all the progress his employees were making on the different projects and taking the necessary progressive steps! Reviewing accounts.. hosting meetings etc… I learnt a lot from him.
Later on that day, Osman took me to my guest house and we later met up to finalise the detailed programme as Mr. Imoro wanted to see it first thing the next morning.. Who dare says there is a lack of efficiency in Ghana. Things work in Ghana!!!!!!!!
I spent the first night in a nice guest house but had to leave the next day because he wasn’t looking too good on my purse..I had a good meal of fried rice (although I couldn’t really chew.. tooth troubles)!!!!!
I tried to get some decent sleep on the first night but was so excited that I kept on waking up- to check the time and once time to switch off the airconditioning.
Finally it was time to get up. I got ready and waited for Osman. .. I was too excited to have breakfast!!! I had a glass of orange just after I checked out!!!!!! I felt like there was a new world before me-
- waiting to be explored. The thought of what was before me was elevating-new languages.. new cultures .. local food… the faces.
Fun days- Meeting the , the town assembly man, the watsan man- Mohammed, chief of Sankpala.
I got to the office before 9am, did my rounds- greeted everyone.. and went into an office to gather thoughts and documents- loads of papers and scribbles! Osman had to attend to some urgent matter that had popped up on a project and so Wumbei took over.
Wumbei, my HERO!!! I worked with him throughout the project. He spoke the language perfectly and was an expert at getting my message and questions across. He was very very patient… calm and dedicated!! Absolutely fantastic…
Meeting the chief of Sanpkala was an amazing and educational experience… the order.. protocols..culture, respect.. deeply and beautifully interwoven. The beauty of a daily routine and the fact that communication at the very basic level- word of mouth could be relied on, blew me away!!! We drove to the borehole the Watsan (water and sanitation) member was working on. Word of mouth and programme schedules helped us know he would be there. After speaking to him –mostly Wumbei.. and me smiling!!!! he got on his bicycle and asked us to follow. He went to look for the Assembly man.
We drove into the heart of the village and waited for a few minutes in front of a local pharmacy/clinic. It was not long when the very cheerful happy and smiley Assembly man arrived.
We chatted for a while- briefing him on the project.. more like Wumbei briefing him..as I didn’t have the language abilities!! .. After Wumbei was sure he understood, they decided we could go and see the chief of Sanpkala to ask for his permission to carry out research in the community We walked some 300metres to his compound and sat under a tree waiting for instructions to come in to his reception area. I have to say, it is tradition to take koala nuts as a gift when visiting the chief. We didn’t have koala nuts and so our gift was money. The chief was out building a hut. We were assured that he would be back soon and true to the word he was back soon.
We were invited into his reception… and the warmth of the reception was encouraging. As a lady I was required to kneel down to greet. There were elders of the village humbly sat around. The meeting started off with prayers and greetings and more greetings and more greetings. It was like, there was a competition for who could sustain the longest greeting. Greetings: antirea (sounds likes) naaa naaa naaa naaaa..antirea naaa naaa naaa naaa naaa (greetings)… and then introductions..
Wumbei is a master of the art of communication. He started of by talking about New Energy… and then talked a bit about me… and then about the youth of Africa… and cracked a few jokes…. and then about the wise people of Africa… and then about the encouragements we all need as humans and then about Africa’s development and then my research details.. and then about the women of Africa.. and then about the men of Africa. It was beautiful! The room was full of laughter, enthusiasm… hope!! and determination. The subject of clean water is amazing especially in the midst of people who more than anything appreciate its worth as a necessity of life
As part of work on the project, I worked very closely with the inhabitants of Sankpala. Collecting data on their water use, walking distance to sources, time taken. The women of Sankpala…. and the men were the best research team ever! They welcomed me very warmly. They gave their time,.... had the patience….showed the enthusiasm!..... and made me feel as one of them…PROUDLY a woman of Sankpala.
Wumbei and I and the coolest driver ever made daily trips into Sankpala.. to live the life, engaging mostly in dialogue with women at the sources and households. It was soo amazing! The order in the water supply and management scheme was fantastic .
Water in Sankpala
Sankpala has two functional water sources. One is a borehole with a hand pump facility and the other is a dug-out. A mechanised borehole facility at the time of the project was near completion and commissioning. The quality of the water from the borehole satisfies drinking water standards in the region.
The other source – attracts a lot more use than the borehole. It is about another 300metres away from the borehole. The water quality is bad as the source is shared with cattle. An earlier guinea worm eradication scheme has however introduced the use of filters in the village. Washing and Hygiene maintenance are common uses of the water from the dug-out.
While I was there, New Energy was working on a nearly completed Mechanised supply source.
The water behavioural pattern in Sanpkala includes exemptions from payments for some members of the community.
There is a carer at the borehole that monitors the fetching of water and collects payments for the fetched water.
His household is exempted from payments as compensation for his services.
Farmers on their way to the farms are allowed to fill up to 10 litre containers with water from the borehole.
Households headed by old womenusually send kids to the source to fetch water. The figure above is a picture that shows the yellow containers children use.
Since the community is close knit, the carer is familiar with the people that come to fetch water. He knows what households they come from.
LIVING IN TAMALE
I came out of Tamale looking forward to many more visits to come.
Even though I was cautious where I went, I was convinced of the safety of the town. My daily quests exploring the streets ranged from looking for a place to have dinner to getting supplies and looking for a fan ice man (ice- cream man). I was addicted to fan ice and Fanta. The different authentic flavours (Fanta Pineapple, Fanta Apple, Fanta Cocktail) got me hooked to the drink! My meals were delicious ! I enjoyed the treats of fried rice and wache (rice and beans) with the delicacy- guinea fowl!
I also spend a number of evenings sitting outside (within the guest house compound) talking about football!!
the day carer, Sule the night carer, the night watch and other co-habitants of the guesthouse) had the most enthusiastic and interesting conversations about African football and the English premiership matches !!!! bliss!
It was not always football though. We talked about articles in the papers, poliltics, and loads more!!!!! It was amazing! Every moment was a learning moment.!!!!
The guest house was very humble, not expensive…... which was very good for me! The electricity supply worked on a system of 3 nights on and one night off. Which was fantastic! None of the sporadic supply business. At least I knew what to expect each night. Water flowed from the taps (from storage tanks) and when there was no water in the overhead tank, Sammy was kind enough to fetch me a bucket from a reserve tank.
I loved every moment there. The simplicity of life, the people, the fact that huge water melons were sold just outside the guesthouse, the appreciation and availability of good healthy food, the sights of people singing and dancing (freely and skillfully) to music on the road sides won my heart FOREVER.