Akwaaba (“Welcome” in Twi) from Accra; Ghana’s capital city. With a metropolitan population of 4.3 million people Accra is a bustling city constantly on the go. Living in Accra is to be constantly surrounded by heat and humidity, as well as the smells of people’s perfume, street food stalls, and diesel fumes that allow vehicles to continue driving even during flood conditions. We arrived during the beginning of the rainy season, so humidity is high, and rain is becoming almost a daily occurrence; sometimes gentle and warm, sometimes torrential and dangerous.
We’ve arrived and are all living together like one big family in our Barbie dreamhouse pink house in Kpeshie, a suburb of Accra. We will be spending half of our time here in Accra, with the remainder spent in rural Northern Ghana with one group in Yua and the other in Sirigu. The amenities in Accra are better than any of us were expecting with our own kitchen, plenty of bathrooms, and lots of overhead fans to help keep us cool. Two of our group (Heather Bauman and Madison Russel) have been in Africa previously and so had a better idea of what to expect, while the others (Heather Ellis and Mark Rossi) have not traveled outside North America or Europe.
We spent our first days getting Ghanaian phone numbers, groceries, trying local food, and going to beaches. We also got to meet our wonderful neighbour, Jennifer Agazere, and seeing some culturally significant landmarks while we tried to acclimatize to the heat. Some of the first places we visited were Independence square, the museum for Ghana’s founder Kwame Nkrumah, and the local artists market. We learned much about Ghana’s independence from Britain, which they gained in 1957, a brief 2 years before Newfoundland became part of Canada. We are also doing our best to support small crafters in the local economy, visiting markets to buy food and purchase gifts for our loved ones back home.
We are here to help small rural subsistence farmers increase their animals’ health and wellbeing by counselling in animal nutrition, importance of vaccination and deworming protocols, and appropriate housing. We can then troubleshoot the issues they face with limited resources, remote locations, and using only locally available materials that are environmentally friendly. This should have the trickle-down affect of increasing the production value of their animals, which will help raise the level of their families’ nutrition and their income. We hope this will increase the local populations and environmental health in the area as well. Since women are more likely to be the owners or poultry, and those that care for most of the small farmers livestock, we assist in empowering women in their communities. We are going to achieve this by running educational workshops, working with farmers one on one to troubleshoot issues, working with local women’s groups, and providing free vaccination and deworming to local animals.
We are working with the Ghanaian Poultry Network (GAPNET) run by Ghana veterinarian Dr. Anthony Nsoh Akunzule, and organization that runs educational workshops and seminars to help farmers learn how to get the most out of their animals. Our local supervisor is Dr. Geoffrey Akabua, a veterinarian that has practiced both in Canada and Ghana and a great go-between for the differences between veterinary practice in Canada and Ghana. Gloria Essel, and employee of GAPNET and a fast friend, has been helping us get settled in our new home for the next three months. She is making sure we know where to get groceries and supplies, helping us plan weekend entertainment, and showing us culturally significant landmarks around southern Ghana. She has taken us to things such as Elmina Castle, a dark reminder of the history of the slave trade in West Africa, Boti waterfalls, and the Kakum National Park and the famous Canopy Walk which is 40 metres above the forest floor.