Ghanaian Living: Samantha Canning

Sitting here at the SEND Ghana office in Tamale listening to the sounds of passing goats, motorbikes and people, is something surreal. I have been in Ghana for about a month and a half now and each day is different. Tamale has certainly not been predicable and I am loving it! Of course with anything there is a period of adjustment where you think to yourself, ‘what did I get myself into?’ But before long you realize this is exactly what you wanted and needed. The time passes and with each day you become a little more involved, dedicated, and accustomed to the differences

I arrived in Accra on May 2 and the following morning took a flight to Northern Ghana, Tamale. Accra is much too busy for me and when I arrived in Tamale I realized that it was going to be perfect.  Once I arrived I headed to the SEND office here where I met the staff who are so welcoming and friendly. My placement supervisor, Patience, and I immediately clicked, joked, and laughed, and I knew things would be great during my placement. SEND and VWB have been partnered since June 2016 and work together to improve nutrition and livelihoods of local smallholder farmers, all while addressing issues of gender equality. If you haven’t read about SEND-Ghana and their work, in particular in Northern Ghana, you should check out their website.

SEND GHANA office signs in Salaga

Last week I was in the field for presentations first travelling to Salaga and from there to Chamba each day. I was in the Chamba area for three days and I held 8 different community workshops on animal nutrition to community members. I arrived at my first community and I was invited to sit in under a huge, beautiful tree where I was shocked to see the number of people that were beginning to gather around me (and I will admit, I was a little nervous). We were expecting about 10-15 people and I ended up with well over 40. As we worked on finding a translator within the group, I started talking with them and my nerves began to disappear. Before long I felt like I was among old friends and through my presentation they were so attentive and interested in the knowledge that I could offer them. At the end of each meeting I like to ask the participants their challenges. By hearing these stories of local farmer’s experiences I gain knowledge to share with others -this has been the most interesting part for me. I especially encourage the women to share as they are the main caretakers for most of the animals, in particular poultry. I love to hear how they have come up with unique ways to increase the animals feed with things from their home, such as cassava flour. The days were long and hot but the experience is something that I will appreciate, treasure and never forget.

Workshop on Animal Nutrition in the community of Wudomiabra

During one of the workshops it began to get very windy and looked like rain was near. Let me put this into perspective; the farmers have been waiting for the long, overdue, rainy season. They were very nervous about whether the crops will have enough to be successful. As we were in the middle of the session it started pouring so we all packed up and ran into the nearby schoolhouse to continue our sessions, in the dark, as the power had gone out. We could barely be heard over the rain beating against the metal roof all while the local farmers were as interested as ever, so the loud rain did not hinder the presentation in the slightest.

After we finished a young man that I had met previously during another workshop the day before stood up to thank us for our efforts to better his community and because of our good wishes and messages for them, they were awarded the rain. This made me feel so very honored to have met these farmers, in particular this young man who despite all of his hardships, he is still so dedicated to succeeding and this is a lesson that I will carry with me. I can only hope to be half the person he is.

I have met so many interesting people since my arrival and I am sure that the list will continue to grow. I am looking forward to holding more workshops. Through each meeting I gain something as an individual, not only in terms of animal nutrition practices, but as well as personally. My goal through my work here has been to assist families to become more successful by diversifying into animal production as well as crop production, thereby increasing profits. Farmers are realizing that as the rains are becoming less predictable they cannot depend on just the crops so by adding animal rearing we can help increase available income. Although, rearing animals needs to be considered a business and therefore, some training is needed regarding the feeding of these animals to turn profits. Without proper care, the animals will not bring the benefits that we wish to see and the local farmers that I have discussed this with are very positive regarding the change on how they rear their animals.

I am so thankful for this wonderful experience, for VWB, SEND-Ghana and for all the work they have already completed and what is yet to come. I am so grateful to be a part of it! Stay tuned for my updates from Tamale.

Experiencing Ghana

Written by Lydie-Amy and Stephanie, participants in the Young Volunteer Program in Ghana working with SEND Ghana.

Dasiba! Good morning from Tamale, Ghana!

We find it hard to believe that we have spent almost a month in this beautiful country.  After spending a couple of days in Accra, the nation’s capital, we took a short flight up to Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region.  Upon our arrival, we had a warm welcome from the staff at SEND-Ghana, our partner organization.  Patience Ayamba, the Program Officer of the Eastern Corridor region has been invaluable to us as we started to settle in.

SEND-Ghana is a non-governmental organization whose mission is to promote good governance and gender equality through advocacy, policy awareness, and extension services. After almost 20 years of operation, SEND-Ghana has a variety of projects from promoting free maternal healthcare to helping resolve conflicts between communities though peace mediators.  They have projects in gender equality, maternal health, education, responsible governance and much more.  We were humbled to learn of SEND-Ghana’s success stories and their cooperative and integrated development framework.  We are just beginning to understand the complexity of social development issues, and it is a great privilege to be working with them this summer.

Lydie-Amy preparing for the workshop at the SEND-Ghana office in Tamale

One of their initiatives is the Policy Advocacy Program that helps to raise citizen’s awareness about politics and the impact it has on their daily lives. The goal is to advocate for good governance that promotes transparency and accountability. We were fortunate to be invited to attend the Regional Consultative Forum on the 2019 budget, hosted by SEND-Ghana.  The purpose of the conference was to allow citizens, community and industry representatives the opportunity to review government policies and provide input into the budget for next year’s initiatives.  Following presentations by ministry officials and an open question period, participants were divided into groups based on their sector of expertise: Agriculture, Health, Education and Social Protection. The objective was to identify the main issues in each sector, and suggest possible solutions that could be addressed in the government budget.  It was inspirational to observe the conference participants engage in passionate discussion, and to learn about the current challenges faced by the Agriculture sector.

Attendees of the forum listening to a presentation by a ministry representative

Another of SEND-Ghana’s programs is the Livelihood Security Program that aims to improve food security in the Northern Region of Ghana.  In this region, the success of smallholder crop production is vulnerable to climate change due to the long dry season and dependence on rain fed irrigation.  However, animals are well-adapted to the grasslands and arid climate of the area.  By empowering farmers with technical knowledge, we hope they will be able to diversify their income from crops and increase their profits with animal production.

We are excited to be working alongside our supervisor, Dr. Joseph Ansong Danquah, at the Training of Trainers’ workshops.  The goal of these 3-day sessions is to train community agriculture volunteers and extension officers on the benefits of animal production and good animal husbandry techniques.  After these informative sessions, participants will be able to speak with local communities so they can pass this knowledge to smallholder farmers.  We assisted with Dr. Danquah’s presentation and spoke about the benefits and the different types of housing for poultry and small ruminants.  Our favorite part of the workshop was meeting with farmers in the communities and listening to their success stories and current challenges.

Stephanie explaining to workshop participants the benefits of providing housing for animals


A presentation on animal husbandry to farmers at the Sabonjida community

After experiencing an initial adjustment period, we are now enjoying the vibrant Ghanaian culture: sampling local dishes, exploring the local markets, and learning a few words of the local language, Dagbani.  We are grateful for this incredible learning opportunity and are looking forward to what the next couple of months will bring!

Communications Work in Ghana

I’m Karissa Gall and I’m not a veterinarian. Rather, I’m working as a communications specialist in the Sakumono office of SEND GHANA, a partner of VWB. SEND GHANA is a policy research and advocacy civil society organization with capacity-building projects that broadly focus on addressing issues of inequality and government accountability. On the ground, the organization’s projects are numerous and wide-reaching in both topic matter and geography, from fostering northern food security through food cooperatives to HIV/AIDS advocacy to national budget analysis. Have you ever heard someone bemoan the slow pace of business in Africa? That’s not a thing at SEND GHANA.

Street view of the SEND GHANA Sakumono office

Like many busy non-governmental organizations operating on limited budgets, producing good quality, consistent communications has been a challenge for SEND GHANA. Big program costs like transportation, booking event spaces, etc. are put before communications costs, which can become a bit of an afterthought. However, staff here realize the importance of comms in spreading key messages on a large scale, and sharing successes to earn funding from government and donors for future projects.

A big part of my job is creating a strategy that will engrain communications in project activities, so that comms can be done efficiently when it comes to cost and time. I’m starting by creating a communications strategy for a cocoa advocacy project. Not because chocolate fixes everything… rather, the project is currently in its preliminary stages and the timing makes sense. Once complete, the cocoa advocacy communications strategy will be used as a model for ongoing and future projects at SEND.

I’m also consulting with SEND GHANA’s brilliant IT guy on the migration of the website from Joomla to WordPress, which will make current comms processes easier and enable new online story-telling forms.

When I’m not working on the communications strategy or website migration, I assist with the day-to-day comms activities of the organization, attending planning meetings and programs, and capturing video, audio, photos and information to produce materials for social media and the website. I’m mentoring the communications assistant here in everything I do so that he will be able to sustain improved communications for SEND GHANA after my placement is complete.

Communications assistant Benedict Mensah and Karissa at NHARCON (National HIV & AIDS Research Conference)

He has already taken over responsibility of a few new processes, such as media monitoring through Google Alerts and Google Sheets, and maintaining a new #FOSTERINGFriday social media campaign that I created an infographic template for in order to share the successes of the food security project. When we’re not creating hashtags for official SEND GHANA communications, we’re creating them for our own inside jokes. #fortuneteller

I’m looking forward to sharing more updates with you soon! In the meantime, check out a couple of my first forays into so-called iPhoneography – producing multimedia with an iPhone in the absence of other audio/visual equipment.

Have A Say, Ghana

Why 2%?

Greetings from Ghana

By Betty Baba

Gender Advisor

It has been two months since I arrived in Ghana. I can’t believe the time has gone so fast! I expected differently, considering my tight three month schedule. But I’m so thrilled to share my experience, 18 years after my last visit to Ghana.

There is lots to tell about my arrival, settlement, what I think about the country, the life style and my experience as a gender consultant. I arrived in Accra (Kotoka International Airport) very late in the evening. I was received by the Chief Executive Officer of SEND WEST AFRICA, Mr. Siapha Kamara and the Human Resources Manager and accompanied to a hotel where I spent the next two days. On the third day my apartment was ready for me. The following week, I attended the Board meeting and as you can see from the photo below, the majority of the Board members are men.

From left:  Administrative Assistant, 2 Drivers, and the Security Man

Meeting with Mr. Siapha kamara,  CEO of SEND WEST AFRICA

Ghana, what is it like?

I am living close to the Sakumono intersection  and the Nungua  Barrier Road, a part of the Accra Tema Beach Road. The Sakumono Road is very  narrow and always congested. There are no speed ramps, rumble strips – nothing for demarcation. It’s not well protected for commuters, motorists  and pedestrians. Safety is NOT assured and one has to be watchful before crossing the street.

Sakumono Road – Nungua Intersection


My new abode is in a residential area and a “stone’s throw” to my office.

I have not experienced either water or electricity shortages in my new place. In my last place, I had to purchase extra buckets and extra water containers in case of water shortages. The only discomfort I experience now is coping with a noisy environment, the mosquitoes and washing my  clothes by hand, which is really very hard .

I prefer the local markets in the center of Accra, where I can buy vegetables and fruits, meat, fish, kitchen pots and pans…

Some of the imported commodities such as chocolate, cheese, French bread, wines, yogurt, mustard, ice cream, oysters… are extremely expensive.

A Ghanaian woman exhibits her ornaments in a local Trade Fair.

The Cuisine

Along the side roads, in the local restaurants, servers are always happy to help you with the food of your choice = that is extremely palatable. In addition to all these delicious, prepared street foods, you can also buy fresh foodstuffs of your choice; plantains, cassavas, papayas, red beans and rice, bananas. These are abundant and inexpensive – 50 cents for 5.

 My   work  

I participated in several staff meetings scheduled on Mondays. During the sessions a review of the previous week’s activities are presented and up-coming event plans are discussed.

My task as a Gender Advisor is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the organization since the last three gender audits, assess the management systems and procedures in terms of whether or not they create an enabling and equitable environment for both women and men staff, and to make suggestions for improvement on the policies and  strategic plans for the year 2020.

Men dominate staff meetings

Poultry Farming in Ghana

Geoffrey Akabua is the Integrated Animal Health Specialist volunteer in Ghana. His work as a VWB/VSF-CANADA volunteer with GAPNET (Ghana Poultry Network) began in Ghana on October 15, 2016 and will end within the next few months.

Geoffrey has been working directly with smallholder farmers in the various communities across Ghana but has also been training veterinary technicians on laboratory poultry disease diagnostics, something GAPNET appreciates particularly because of the limited laboratory support in country. Of late, the number of trained technicians has been dwindling and the remaining ones are located far away from each other.

In all, 48 veterinary technicians and veterinary students, 26 women and 22 men, have been intensively trained in laboratory poultry disease diagnosis, gross pathological diagnosis (necropsy) of common poultry diseases both theoretical and practical.

This activity is of huge relevance since the veterinary technicians are located relatively close to the farmers. As a result of this farmers rely on them for technical assistance.

It has been observed after the training program that the knowledge of the technicians on poultry diseases diagnosis has improved tremendously based on comments from the farmers.


A week in Salaga, Ghana

We’ve had an absolutely wonderful last week of work in Salaga. We spent four mornings helping the Salaga veterinary officers, alongside several other veterinary students, quarantine and process 300 sheep for one of their animal distribution programs.


This was our first time working with sheep in a veterinary capacity and we were able to learn lots from our fellow veterinary officers and students, including sheep handling techniques and some treatments for local diseases.


Over the span of a week we ear tagged the sheep for identification purposes, treated and monitored any sick sheep and vaccinated the herd for Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), which is a common viral disease in the area. We were also able to tag along and help with the sheep distribution in one of the communities. It was great to see all the smiling faces as people received their new sheep.

In addition to the excitement of working with the sheep, we were also fortunate to be invited to the wedding reception of one of our coworkers, Taaha. Our local seamstress made sure that we each had a beautiful Ghanaian style dress to wear for the occasion. This was a good thing because we were asked to get up and dance for the newlyweds in front of everyone! It is a common practice that the wedding guests dance for the newly married couple, and if you like the dancing you are supposed to throw money over the dancers heads, which is then collected for the bride and groom. We had a lovely afternoon learning more about Ghanaian culture.



As we prepare to head back to Canada we would like to extend a HUGE thank you to all the amazing staff we have encountered at SEND-GHANA. They have taught us so much over the past three months and have made our time here memorable and fun. We will miss them all tremendously!
And thank you, readers, for taking the time to follow these posts. We hope that you have enjoyed following along and that you learned something about Ghana and international development.


Working and exploring in Ghana

By Olivia Bos and Natalie Chow

Time is flying by and we cannot believe that we only have one more month left in the beautiful country of Ghana. The past few weeks have been busy ones, as we have continued to speak in schools and to Family Based Farming Cooperative groups in the East Gonja District on the importance of good animal care and housing. We have spoken to approximately 1200 people in this district so far –Incredible!! Next week we will travel out of the East Gonja District to four of the surrounding districts to talk to their farmer groups about animal housing. We are looking forward to meeting with new people and seeing more of Ghana.


Olivia and puppy cropped

Olivia holding a puppy she found at a restaurant (because everyone loves baby animals!)

As Canada was celebrating its 150th birthday on July 1st, Ghana was celebrating Ghana Republic day. We decided to take advantage of the long weekend to do some animal related exploring. We spent the weekend at Mole National Park and did some safari tours. The views and scenery were spectacular, and being able to see the animals in their natural habitat was breathtaking. It’s not everyday that you wake up, roll out of bed, and see a family of elephants before breakfast. Or get chased by monkeys on the way back to your hotel room… In addition to elephants and monkeys, we were also able to see a few different species of antelope, warthogs, baboons, a mongoose, a giant stork, crocodiles, rabbits, civet cats and many species of birds and reptiles. On our journey home from Mole National Park we stopped in the small town of Larabanga to visit their famous mud and stick mosque. It was built in 1421 A.D. and is one of the oldest mosques in Africa. We hope you enjoy these snapshots from our adventures!”


Olivia and Natalie talking to a very enthusiastic Family Based Farming Cooperative Group in Yakubupe about animal housing. Pastor John was the community volunteer translator seen standing beside us in the centre.


Photo taken after our session in the Yakubupe community

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Olivia and Natalie teaching and interacting with the children in the local schools of the East Gonja District.

cropped croc

Olivia, Natalie and Patience Ayamba, our awesome in-country supervisor with SEND, standing behind an African crocodile while on our weekend away. A little too close for comfort!

cropped cob

Our guide called this species of antelope a “cob”, they’re everywhere in Mole National Park.

elephants small

We were fortunate enough to be able to watch some elephants eating their breakfast one morning. They are such amazing creatures!


Pretty happy and excited arriving back safe and sound from our last safari tour. A lady from Colorado joined us as well as our guide, Abdallah.

boat small

A small river running close by to Mole National Park. Our guides took us on a tour down river to try to spot birds, monkeys, and reptiles.

That’s all for now!

Olivia and Natalie



Finding inspiration in northern Ghana

With Martha Small

Volunteers Natalie Chow (left) and Olivia Bos (Right) with Martha Kumah.

We are pleased to introduce Martha Kumah! Martha attended our three-day animal production Training of trainers (TOT) workshop from June 1st to 3rd 2017 in the Kpandi district of the Northern region of Ghana. She is married with five (5) children and stays in “Kabonwule” a community in the Kpandai district. Her enthusiasm during the training sessions stood out, she was constantly putting up her hand to participate and asked questions despite looking after her small daughter Grace.

Martha even led the participants in a rousing energizer after lunch. We admired how she was able to show up early, participate effectively and look after her child all at the same time. There was something special and inspiring about her. After some casual conversation and giving her a brief knitting tutorial (which she was fascinated by and got the hang of very quickly), we learned more about Martha’s story.

Martha has been raising animals for over 15 years and now has a herd of 25 goats and about 20 chickens. Like many others in this district, she uses her animals for meat, eggs and as gifts for special occasions.When the family needs quick cash, her animals fetch a good price at the market, with a female goat selling for about GH?300.00 ($100 CD).
Over the three days, Martha learned about the benefits of providing animal housing and hopes to soon build housing for her animals. She will also be vigilant in providing fresh, clean drinking water for the goats and chickens. Martha is a great example for her community of a woman who is able to raise animals and run a household.

She is now excited to put what she has learned into practice in hopes of improving her animal production. Martha is thrilled with the training and plans to go to her community and actively share her knowledge on animal production with them!

with Samuel small

Natalie and Olivia with Samuel Agongo.

Samuel Agongo is one of the few individuals in the Kpandai district who considers animal production a business. We got to know Samuel through our SEND GHANA supervisor who mentioned that Samuel owned a farm and she praised it for how well kept it was. We were instantly curious since not many people in this area raise animals in any manner other than free-range/extensive system.

We went to visit his farm and began to learn more about his background. Samuel said he started his semi-intensive poultry and pig farm in Kpandai in 2014. Over the past few years it has grown and flourished into a profitable business. He currently has 1000 laying hens, and was expecting another 3000 shortly, in addition to having about 30 pigs and a small herd of sheep. According to Samuel, he became interested in animal production after watching his father raise animals and 1000 guinea fowl while he was in high school. He had a background in agriculture coupled with a degree in crop science before starting his animal production.

poultry barn small

Samuel has built an excellent poutry barn.

pigs small

Happy, healthy pigs.

He grows yam, cassava, soya beans and maize crops on 11 acres of land in order to feed his animals. Samuel provides an excellent example of the benefits of appropriate housing, good animal husbandry, herd vaccination and using manure as a natural fertilizer for crops. He is a strong believer in the importance of vaccines and believes that more farmers should make this investment for their herds. Samuel faced many challenges when starting out, some of which included high capital investment in buying land, fencing the land, getting electricity to the farm, and constructing the housing. He says that it took about three years before he finally started to make profit. His farm is currently doing very well and he is seeing the fruits of his investments in animal production. Samuel Agongo is a pioneer of good animal production in his area, and we hope that he can inspire others to start investing more in this business.

Below:  Cropland with the poultry barn in the background.

farm small

Surveys are easy…on paper.

September 16-18
It’s Sunday morning and the team has assembled at the MOFA Office for a brief strategy discussion before we return to Chang for the first of four village consultations. Despite our best efforts we know our survey tool has not been road-tested and that today would be a learning experience. This is where the rubber hits the road (or dirt path) so to speak.

Our original plan: eight of us will survey 10 – 12 farmers each. Luckily, Francis speaks up and advises we should pass out the surveys and gauge who can complete it on their own and who needs direct support in terms of basic literacy and translation.  It’s a better plan given the amount of detail we are after — i.e. years of experience with guinea fowl, husbandry practice, housing conditions, nutrition and watering, mortality of keets, of mature birds, birds for consumption, birds for market, contribution to household income, marketing, division of labour. We want to know details specific to the women as a key project focus is the potential to increase the role of women in enhanced guinea fowl production. Last, but not least, our base line data must identify socio-economic indicators that will underpin the program evaluation. It’s a tall order and Trace and I are a little nervous about such an undertaking but our Ghanaian friends are fearless and determined. We pile into two trucks and make our way to the village.

The Upper West region is made up of both Muslim and Christian families and in every case, “God is Great”. We arrive just as Sunday mass is wrapping up in the Catholic church. As we pull into the village a harmonious cacophony of voices and drums rises up from behind a green curtain of crops: guinea corn, corn and okra. It’s really a beautiful scene and full of paradox. On one hand, we are in one of the poorest regions in Africa where many people live on less than $1 a day and yet it’s the end of the rainy season and there is a bountiful harvest, everything appears so lush, the community appears healthy (people and animals) and everywhere are smiles and hearty laughter. The town water source (a manual pump) is gushing clean water pumped by children seemingly anxious to show their good fortune (and their strength) to the visitors.  It’s difficult to imagine what this scene looks like in February, well after the rainy season when cassava and yam are the principle diet, everything is parched and brown and many families survive on one meal per day.

Eventually farmers emerge from behind the crop curtain, from a series of footpaths that converge at the community meeting place: a huge shade tree at the village centre. Priscilla and Ben address the group. We learn that each meeting begins with a ritual address starting with Priscilla greeting the group which signals a coordinated response from the farmers and ends with a single clap. And now it is time to get down to business. They explain that the project is under way and we must establish some basic facts about their relationship to guinea fowl production. Ben explains the plan: if you can read and write you should complete the survey and then you are free to leave. However, it would be nice if those people could stay to help others by writing and/or translating. Since interest is very high among the group no one leaves, making our job much easier.

At first I find myself on the periphery, somewhat shy to jump in with the interviews. Luckily there are pencils to sharpen so I busy myself with the sharpener. I look up to see ten or so young smiling and curious faces watching me pull pencils and sharpeners from my knapsack so it quickly becomes a game with the children taking turns with four pencil sharpeners and about 50 pencils. By the end of this exercise I have lost my inhibitions and am now aware there are a good number of farmers who could use my help. The first man I speak to, his English is good but reading and writing not so much. We finish his survey and then he helps me by interpreting for several others who don’t speak, read or write English. One of the profile questions asks for level of education. I find it amazing that those who had no formal education at all show no sign of stigma or shame about their lack of schooling. As we go through the balance of the questions it is clear that everyone in the group is very educated in terms of crops, livestock and home economics. This forces me to rethink a deep cultural bias. It’s a great moment for me and after three hours we have completed all 87 surveys. We wrap up the afternoon with a visit to the home of project co-founder Isaac Luginaah’s father and family and they present us with a colossal bag of sun-dried groundnuts (peanuts in the shell). Just as we are ready to climb back into the trucks we are beckoned to another community meeting place — a kind of pito bar under another huge shade tree and we are given another round of the local brew. This time Trace and I know the term “small small” and our portions are more manageable.

On the ride back to town, we make a stop at a catholic guest house. It reminds me of the picnic rest stops that used to be common along Ontario highways….except they serve bottled beer (Club and Star) and fire roasted guinea fowl. We decide to debrief over some much needed refreshment. The consensus is that while the day went well, the survey is too long and the wording and format of the questions too difficult. Trace, drawing on her MPH training, guides us through the survey revision and we work well into the dark of the evening. William, our driver, pulls the truck around and shines it’s headlights so we can complete our work. Zak, the young and intrepid project coordinator, and Dr. Trace take our heavily edited survey to an Internet cafe and print shop in Wa and persuade the owner to open up and stay open late so we are ready for an early start. Tomorrow we are planning to complete community consultations in two more villages: Nator and Sombo.

It’s the crack of dawn on Monday morning and we have a big day ahead. With a revised survey in hand we are heading first to the village of Nator. The revisions to the survey are significant. Gone is the woman-only section – the intention was to get a quantifiable picture of the work women are doing in terms of household duties, verses child care,  crop and husbandry work or market related work. The women in Chang looked puzzled and even laughed at the idea that they should estimate time spent on these various tasks. What was clear was that all of the above duties were seen to and one responsibility rolled into the next. Today we are using identical surveys for both the men and the women.

The Nator meeting starts in much the same way as in Chang with a welcome ritual started by Priscilla with the reply of welcome chanted back in unison by about 30 farmers.  The meeting takes place in the village market place and shortly after arriving a heavy rainstorm forces our group onto a platform in the middle of the market – surrounded by instantly forming rivers of rainwater, coursing through the market stalls.  In this meeting I speak with three farmers who shared the experience of losing 100% of their birds at approximately four weeks of age…all within the same 24 hour period. They describe how upsetting this is. Guinea fowl are important for family nutrition, for revenue and for celebrations and rituals. The farmers are scared that something very wrong is happening over which they have no control. We discuss the goals of the project and how the coop and extension services aim to establish a reliable supply of healthy keets. The interview process is going to help understand what must change in order to control illness and mortality so that keets grow to a healthy market weight.

In turn, each farmer describes how they obtain eggs — ideally from their own guinea hens or from other village farmers. In many cases eggs are given or lent. A number of farmers tell how they take two-week old eggs and bath them in cold water for 15 minutes to see if they wiggle. This is how they determine which eggs are likely to hatch. The non-wigglers are consumed. The wigglers are returned to the brood chickens which serve as surrogate mothers for the hatching process. Guinea fowl hens do not sit on their own eggs as they are inclined to damage or eat them. The dominant diet for keets and older birds is maize, augmented with guinea corn and occasionally termites for protein. Termite hills are an impressive feature on the landscape in the Upper West with towering sand mounds looking like the inspiration for Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

The meeting in Nator is a much smoother consultation, but this time with only 3 women participating. The revisions to the survey have really improved the process. We wrap up with a farewell chant and then we are presented with a dozen guinea fowl eggs for our own consumption — a most precious gift. With our eggs in hand we head back to town for lunch at Mummy’s Kitchen where they agree to prepare our eggs for us. I have an order of jollaf rice, roast chicken and a few boiled guinea fowl eggs on the side. The eggs, much like the meat, has a slightly stronger flavor and texture than chicken eggs – delicious!

After lunch we are off to Sombo, which is a very different community from Chang and Nator in so far as it sits on a main road with plenty of traffic passing through and a more visible and highly branded commercial sector of vendors. One thing that really stands out in Ghana from north to south is the amount of visible branding by cell phone companies MNT, Glo, and Vodaphone. Phone card vendors are on every corner and corporate colors adorn all manner of buildings, shacks, fences…you name it. Every available inch of brand-able space has been claimed if not by the mobile companies then by Nestlé or another global corporation. My CSR interests are peaked as I wonder what benefit local people derive from this corporate presence. One of the questions on our survey is: do you have a mobile phone and if so, how many. Without exception, everyone we spoke to has at least one mobile in his or her household and there is pretty consistent cell coverage from north to south in Ghana. It will be interesting to see how mobile technology might support the agricultural extension goals of the project when we get a little further along.

The Sombo meeting takes place in and around the schoolhouse and runs even more smoothly than this morning’s meeting in Nator. Surveys are easy…when you practice!

It is interesting to note the greeting ritual in Sombo has a slight variation to the previous greetings. For in Sombo – there is almost a hand-jive clapping that takes place and ends abruptly in complete unison – followed by warm laughter. I think about all the meetings I have attended over my career in universities and hospitals that could have benefited by such a group expression of interest and intention.

Sombo is different for another important reason: guinea fowl are clearly visible throughout the community, pecking and playing. And, there is a variety of colours and many adult birds to be seen.

At the end of another successful farmer consultation we are invited for “water” but the day had been long and we are eager to get back to Wa – we promise we will stay longer next time.


Our final consultation is in the village of Charia, in the district of Wa West. Charia is a village in the Wa West region and not as far away. Farmers in Charia are more likely to vend their birds at the market in Wa.

Our meeting takes place under the meeting tree with approximately 30 farmers of which 10 are women. It goes very quickly giving credence to the idea that practice makes perfect. At the end of the meeting we are asked to partake in the “water/beer” ritual only this time we are lead to a “spot” which is Ghanaian for “bar” behind a beaded curtain in a small courtyard. The village leader for the project is the proprietor of the spot and seems very pleased and proud to share his pub with new visitors.

In each of the communities we leave a variety of small gifts from Canada to the delight of participants: school supplies and frisbees for children, towels, dish towels and soap for elders. In each consultation we have a draw of the participants and gave away Canadian t-shirts. These are positive gestures warmly received by the community.

– Stephen Woeller

After one round of pints it’s time to head back to Priscilla’s home for lunch and to debrief and to make plans for organizing a data frame, inputting data and outputting a report for analysis.


The community consultations have added to the valuable data and samples collected by the 2 teams of Canadian veterinary students who participated in our VWB-VSF student program in the summer of 2010 and 2011.  They have also been an introduction to us of our most important project partners – the hard working, knowledgeable, men and women farmers and their families who have put their faith in the project as a means to improve their livelihoods.  One final question we asked in the survey, we often introduced it as “the big question”, asked the respondent to identify what will be different in their household and/or village when there are many more guinea fowl to market.  The most popular responses were sending children to school (even though elementary school is free, uniforms and supplies are not and any education beyond currently has a fee), getting medical attention for family members, generally taking better care of their family and reinvesting capital into their own farms through expanding livestock holdings, acquiring more land or renting/purchasing automated equipment.  We were a bit baffled that food security wasn’t more of a theme as this is one of the major objectives or our project – but later in discussions with other development workers in Accra we realize that food security is like needing to breathe to be alive – it’s a forgone conclusion that access to a better, healthy, consistent supply of nutrition is a top priority for the villagers.


Tomorrow we will leave Wa and head east to Tamale before heading back to Accra in anticipation of our return to Toronto early next week.  Before we go, we will be having breakfast with Dr. Sylvester Galaa from UDS Wa to update him on our time in and around Wa and to make plans to meet with the lead/funding agencies on our return to Accra – he is hoping to join us as he will be in the city for a meeting on Monday.


But tonight, we will have one more amazing meal of roasted guinea fowl, spaghetti and vegetables with our hard-working consultation team – one more thing struck off the life list, eating spaghetti without utensils!


New Vocabulary – Ansuma, Abiesong, “small,small”

September 15

After a good night’s rest we reconvened with the team at the MOFA municipal office to revise the questionnaire.  Questions about gender roles in keeping and marketing guinea fowl as well as household demographic and economic indicators were added.  We were feeling ambitious and reached our contact in Chang to arrange to meet the village project leaders and project participant farmers at 1PM at the meeting place.  Copying and stapling surveys and grabbing lunch delayed us more than expected and by the time we arrived at the meeting place (a large shade tree in the centre of the community) the farmers had gone back to work – with the good rains this year, there is much farm work to be done this time of year.  Word quickly spread that we had arrived and farmers and children started trickling in.  There are roughly 500 people living in Chang – you wouldn’t know it as, this time of year, you can’t see the houses and compounds through the tall maize plants.  We watch the children pump water from the village pump and fill large basins to take back to their homes – it takes 5 or 6 helpers to lift the basin but even the young girls can manage to carry the loads themselves on their heads, barely spilling a drop as they walk the foot paths and disappear into the maize plants.

I’ve been practicing my greetings in dagaare – people are pleased when you can say good morning “Ansuma” and reply to, well, just about any question, that all is fine “Abiesong”. We were officially welcomed as new visitors to the village by being offered water. It is customary to refuse the water but accept the locally made pito, a fermented sour mash made from guinea corn.  We were handed local bowls, which are about the size of half a large coconut shell and, being the first 2 visitors offered, one of the older village girls emptied an entire pot full of pito into each of our bowls, filling them to the brim.  It wasn’t until the rest of the team had their drinks poured that we realized you could just take a small amount!  It is also customary to drink all that you have been given, but the village elders let us off the hook this time and allowed us to share with some of the farmers.  Next time, we will know to ask for “small, small” when the pito is poured!

As it was getting late in the afternoon, we collected the names of the 87 men and women farmers who would be participating in the project from this village, as well as the names of our 4 co-op leaders for Chang and made arrangement to return the following morning after the church service was finished to conduct our questionnaire.  We said our goodbyes and headed down the dusty red dirt road back to Wa.