Margaret Shao in Peace Corps Ghana.

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Margaret Shao in Peace Corps Ghana

Margaret Shao in Peace Corps Ghana

Margaret Shao -

Peace Corps Ghana.

26 August 1999 - About three weeks before leaving for training.

"I've met three people from a PC database who are also going to Ghana. One girl, Rosa, is from Los Angeles and she has a CCFI assignment too. She's been working in the television business in LA but her family lives in Michigan. Small world. One guy, Billy Register is from DC and is doing SBE and Angela is assigned to water sanitation."

"Well, I'm saying all my goodbyes now and getting treated out to wonderful meals and good wishes. I've been very aware lately as I pull out ice cubes from the freezer or turn on the warm water faucet in the shower how great it is to have these things. But, easy enough to give up for the next two years.

"I've been reading over Dan's web page and I'm really impressed with his observations. I'm reading the same material over and over (that you sent me) and lately I seem to be retaining more of the issues that some of the nursery manager /sites present."

25 September 1999 - Just arrived in Ghana.

"Well I'm so happy to be here in Accra. It's been such a warm welcome here and everyone has been so awesome and wonderful. Today we are on a scavenger hunt through Accra to get us familiar with riding tro-tros and asking people for directions. A nice computer engineer student at one our stops has kindly let us on the internet to write some email so I wanted a chance to let you know everything is great!! Long flight from NY to Amsterdam to Accra, something like 30 hours of travel but it was worth it. 44 trainees in this group and there is a cluster of women, about 6 of us who are in our mid to late 30's. It's a great group. I met Ann Chan and everyone went to a local bar, Mr. Ree's for Star and Club beer. "

13 October 1999 - In training

The staging was really quite brief from 2:00 pm to 6:30 p..m. the first day. I was very impressed with the breadth of experience and wide diversity of the training class. During ice breaker introductions, I found out 3 other people also brought seaweed! I wasn't the only one. There's a cluster of women my age - 32 to 40 years old. There's about 6 or 7 of us so we've got a little support group going (mostly drinking on top of the roof of the training center in saltpond after classes before we have to go home to our homestay).

We had been on the move for about 32 hours without much substantial sleep but we were met at the airport by Leonard Floyd, our Peace Corp Director, as well as several Peace Corps staff. We met a couple of volunteers as well.

We were loaded onto a couple of buses to our hotel. Secaps which was really nice. Bungalows with thatched roofs. When we arrived about 30 or more PCV's were there to welcome us! It was terrific welcome. We got rooms, ate a little dinner and is tradition, we were taken to a local beer joint called Mr. Ree's where Star and Club beer are on top. Willy Heist was there and gave me a hug. It was nice to see a familiar face. His hair has grown out quite a bit. I'd call it an afro (I know - not politically correct). So I met some forestry volunteers and it all was a bit of a daze with my mind and body deprived of sleep but I went to bed feeling very welcome into Ghana.

The next day was a mellow day at Peace Corps headquarters in Ghana. Got fitted for bicycles (I hear we are getting TREK 820's), had more vaccinations and immunizations, put our valuables in a safe as well as meet with our assistant Peace Corps Directors (APCD's).

So that evening was the reception for the PCT's at the US Ambassador's residence. Wow what a party. Kay Robinson was our gracious hostess and we had a chance to meet some of our Ghanaian counterparts. I met Mildred Taylor, head of ADRA, which is the agency that partly administers the CCFI Nurseries and some NGO representatives. It was very nice, good food, cold drinks (with ice!) And beautiful surroundings.

My homestay family is Mr. & Mrs. Mosood Johnson, a Moslem family with 2 teenage children who are awaiting entry into Senior Secondary School based on their test results. I have my own room. I'd call them middle-class. Mr. Johnson is a retired teacher, school board executive, while his wife Hajura is still teaching. They have been very friendly and they have lots of relatives nearby so I'm visiting or being visited by aunts, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc. It's very nice when the little kids come around. They are fascinated by my mini tape recorder and sing me lots of songs so they can hear themselves on tape. They don't have any running water, so its bucket baths. At homestay, I've gotten to eat all kinds of Ghanaian food. The most typical and favorite food is fufu, made from pounded cassova and plaintain shaped into the size of softballs which you eat with ground nut (peanut) soup. I like it. It reminds me of nicchi, which is Japanese pounded rice. I've had boiled plaintains, cocoa yams, banku (fermented cassava and yam dough) yam fufu, snails - they are huge pink and purple snails the size of baseballs! I didn't like the snails. I've had a lot of rice and chicken, fish stews ll cooked in a spicy tomato base. Very spicy but I like it. I feel I've fully been initiated to Ghana with a mild case of gastro-intestinal diarrhea (I think it was the snails), but I am fine now. Unfortunately, a lot of trainees have gotten sick but the PC medical staff has been great. My homestay is ending on Friday with a dinner for the host families given by Peace Corps. My host family loves video and we have videos every night, such as True Lies, Action films, Nigerian films - everyone comes to watch.

I'm going to the Upper East Region to a nursery in Kandiga. It's 16 miles from region capitol of Bolgatanga. I'm replacing Jared Buono who fortunately was one of the PCV trainers at Saltpond, so I got to know him.

I think the North will be challenging. Harmattan ends in January and February. Temps up to 120 but also very beautiful landscapes and the people up north are even friendlier and more welcoming. The southern nurseries produce lots of seedling but they truly aren't self sustaining because the 30,.000 seedlings they produce and distribute are brought by ADRA farmers subsidized by USAid money. That money runs out at the end of 2000 and it order to be self sustaining, they have to find new farmer clients or secondary income. North the nurseries only produce a tenth the number of seedlings, but in a sense will be more realistic nursery that will not be so heavily reliant on ADRA/USAid money.

The Ghana PC Env. Training Group.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about tech training. I think its been really good. We've had a lot of field trips. We've seen 2 nurseries and one more this week. So we have an idea of what ours will possibly be like. Gomar Main Nursery built a grasscutter house where they are raising grasscutters for meat/secondary income. We've also met a community that received seedlings and saw farms that had planted cassia for a woodlot and cashew trees. Cashews, citrus, seems to be favorite seedlings in the South. We've had vegetable production soil, agro-forestry extension workshops, but he best so far has been a field trip to Kakun Forest Reserve. It's tropical rain forest with a canopy walk suspended around 7 tree platforms with these rope bridges. That was so fantastic and seemed like a successful eco-tourism project that USAid helped establish.

30 November 1999

I was sworn in as a volunteer on Friday, November 27 and I'm making my way to my site. I went to the Kumasi sub-office for two days and visited a new eco-tourism site that Billy Register from my training class is working on. It's a mountain with a great view of the Ashanti region. It's a series of escarpments that would appeal to nature lovers, outdoorsy hikers. The village near the mountain was Nsuta and getting back to Kumasi we took a car from Nsuta to Mampong. In Mampong we got a tro-tro to Kumasi. We had to wait for the tro-tro to fill up before we left. A man came on with his newly acquired grass-cutter. I guess he had it killed so it wouldn't run around the tro-tro so it was dripping a bit of blood from its rodent incisors on to the tro-tro floor. I found out it was a good price at 7000 cedis. I asked him if he had brought it on alive if he would have had to pay the fare for it as another passenger. He didn't get the joke. I'm now in the Tamale sub-office typing up this report on their computer and last night Dan Bergert and Willy Heist rolled in from Burkina Faso. They're finishing up a trip they made up to Mali and Burkina. It was a Michigan Tech reunion of sorts. They are well and making their way back to Accra. Willy is going back to his village and Dan will be flying to Germany and then the US.

Eighteen of us were headed to the Upper East region (nine Peace Corps Trainees and nine Counter Parts) so luckily Peace Corps in Accra bought our STC (State Transport Company - equivalent to Greyhound) tickets. We needed to catch the daily 9:00 am bus to Bolgatanga, 800 km away. After arriving in Accra and sluggishly moving through the morning traffic we arrived in the STC station and check in went smoothly. We drove through the Brong-Ahafo region, which is lush green/humid tropical rain forest. It is the part of the forest belt of Ghana with up to 200 mm of rain / year. The bus stops about every two hours for a fifteen-minute rest stop. Amazing how fast Ghanaians can eat a softball size of fufu (pounded cassava and plantain starch staple of Ghana) and groundnut soup during a bus rest stop. The most exciting stop up north was at the vegetable / fruit stand. People were buying plantains, yams and pineapples - last chance to buy southern produce before heading into the drier climate of the North.

The bus was then loaded with 50 kilo bags of yams, huge stalks of plantains and more passengers so we were packed in. The only hint there was any free floor space was when a yam was rolling around under your seat. I don't know if STC has a policy on bringing livestock on board but we didn't have any goats or chickens. It took 13 hours to drive from Accra to Bolga. It wasn't too bad but I don't imagine I'll be heading to Accra more than I have to, even if I have a craving for a good Chinese meal or ice cream. We arrived in Bolgatanaga (Bolga for short) at 10pm and we go a taxi to take us 16 miles to Kandiga. Ten miles on paved road and at Kandiga junction there is a great big sign for the tree nursery.

My job will be to phase over the nursery so that it is no longer relying on USAID funds. Beginning in December, our funding will be cut by a third and by June 200, we will no longer be receiving any money from USAID through ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the Ghanaian administrator for the USAID money). Our goal is to get the nursery to be self-sustaining. Besides tree seedling sales, income is generated by dry season gardening. We have a permanent water supply from the huge reservoir that was dammed up more than five years ago. The nursery has a valve and irrigation channel with which we grow. Another way of increasing income is increasing our inventory of grafted mangos. The mangos native to the north do not produce a marketable fruit, so we are grafting a couple of the more popular varieties to the local rootstock. The most difficult thing for that enterprise is finding good budwood / scions for grafting.

Relaxation time outside of training has been good. We went to Cape Coast Castle, site of many slave-trading operations. It's quite horrible. The castle contains dungeons where hundreds of slaves were kept at one time when awaiting slave ships. An awful, gross inhumanity that is contrasted to the quarters of the governor who lived above the dungeon in splendor, overlooking this spectacular coastline of Cape Coast. Another diversion was created by a trainee Jim, from San Francisco, who took it upon himself to clean up the beach next to the trainee center. Many people free-range (use the beach as a toilet) so Jim decided to have a beach clean-up in order to have a beach-party. He organized three video nights where everyone paid 200-300 cedis (=10 cents) to watch videos. He collected about 5000 cedis which paid for small boys and a foreman to create a stone lined path and clean up part of the beach so we could have a volleyball game. We played US Vs Ghana and had food and beverages catered by a local woman, Mama Ethel, who owns the California Bar, and we had a regular beach party.

Map of Kadinga Nursery.

31 December 1999

My village is great and I have a couple of projects in the New Year that I want to work on with my Community Tree Nursery. Grafting mangos, trying to start a rabbit raising business, and aquaculture in a small fish pond that is dug but needs to be lined (want to raise tilapia to sell in the market so if anyone has any info please let me know).

Jared Buono and Margaret with a grafted mango.

I've been at site for one month and my day revolves around going to the nursery for a few hours in the morning working now with the dry season garden (tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, soy beans) which is irrigated from the reservoir and irrigation channels that were built and established by previous volunteers. So the rest of the time is building friendships in the village by visiting the market (every three days where you can buy some produce, lots of millet, groundnuts)and hanging out with some of the chop bar (Ghana equivalent of fast food which usually is rice balls and some type of meat soup usually goat) ladies, one of whom has adopted me into her family. I also spend time just trying to get some other projects going, elementary school is only 2 rooms with 210 students so I helped write a grant proposal to build onto that. I'm very much just gettting used to everything. I've been fetching my own water at the borehole 200 meters away, wash my clothes at the borehole, and just cooking and the day flies by. It's the Harmattan season now with sometime fierce winds and the sky is full of dust and sand but it's nice because the evening and nights are cool which is refreshing. I even need to wear sweats when I wake up in the morning.

25 January 2000

I¹ve been to going to "work" everyday at the nursery. I want to get familiar with the routine and what is going on, get to know the workers. The nursery had been without a volunteer for about a month but they were doing fine. The harvest of millet and groundnuts have been in now for over a month and people are starting dry season projects like repairs on their houses from the previous year¹s rain (which were quite severe bringing about a certain number of deaths, cholera outbreak, and the property damage). Other activities also include dry season gardening. Unlike the nursery with easy access to the large reservoir via a valve and concrete irrigation channel, most dry season gardens are small and watered by hand from hand dug wells. There are two large agricultural areas that have concentrated dry season gardens. One area is in Pwalugu, a town 13 miles south of Bolga towards Tamale on the White Volta. Several small farms operate along the banks of the White Volta. There is also an old tomato processing plant that is located there waiting to be bought and machinery updated. Rumors are that someone or company is waiting to buy it when the price comes down. That would definitely boost local industry providing some employment as well as a market for dry season gardeners (including Kandiga Community Nursery). The other large agricultural area is the Tonno Dam Irrigation project which is west of Navrong (about 20-25 miles from Kandiga). I¹d like to investigate what¹s going on at both of these sites. Tonno dam has tilapia fish and maybe our source once we get our fish pond done. As for lining the fish pond I talked with other volunteers and Dusty (also from Michigan, downstate) had just gone to Songhai Center in Benin. It¹s an exceptional place, demonstration farm of agroforestry principles that the last few Peace Corps In-Service Training have taken place. He asked about my dilemma and they suggested clay also buy layered with wet cloths (like flour sacks) as a way of lining our pond. That will our project for the upcoming quarter, perhaps before the big crush of polybag filling/seedling germination begins. The first two weekends after I arrived at site were filled with harvest and farm festivals. The first weekend in December is Farmer Day and President JJ Rawlings came to Bolgatanga to support and praise the work of the farmers. In all the villages they had their own celebrations which basically is a chance to visit with neighbors, collect donations for projects (like church building funds) when people are flush with a little money from harvests, and celebrate with food (koosi, a deep fried bean flour doughnut without the hole) and drink (plenty of akpeteshie and pito which is brewed from millet, did I say plenty?). So a big celebration the first weekend and I got a chance to meet some of the local politicians including Clothilda Amengo-etego, the Chief District Executive (an appointed position by the president, one for each District). She also happens to be the senior sister of the chief of my village. She is quite powerful, smart, influential so I know she will help me if I need her help. The second weekend was Agroforestry Day hosted by Kandiga¹s Tree Planter¹s Association. This association has been meeting for the last 16 years and they have planted trees and helped with some soil erosion bund building but from what I can see it¹s more of a social group (it originated with funding from an NGO which has sinced pulled out as has the momentum of the association). However, they put on a good celebration which the chief as well as local dignitaries attended. The local radio station, Bolgatanga radio FM 89.6, came and Alex, the radio talent recorde many of the speeches and described the events. So I heard later that my little speech in Gurune made it on the next days "Morning Tidbits". So most of the people in town tuned into their radios know who I am but I¹m just beginning the process of meeting the people in my village.

Making banka.

The landscape [around my village] is shrubby, sparsely forested grassland which has been well farmed over with millet and groundnuts but spotted with large trees like dawa-dawa and my personal favorite, baobab trees. I remember first seeing the baobabs in Kenya and during the dry season they lose all their leaves and they have this strange branching umbrella like form which goes well with the Kenyan fable that when God was creating the world he got angry at man, I can¹t quite remember the reason, probably for man being stupid. God picked up the baobab tree in anger and threw it back into the ground with roots sticking up. Most of the houses are these family compounds made of mud and manure (sienna red comes to mind for the color) structures with little courtyards where the goats, guinea fowl, sheep, cows, chickens live and then there¹s a low wall you climb over into the human habitation area and rooms.

The last three PCV¹s have all been men and gender roles in Ghanaian society don¹t expect men to do these things. So they have been more than willing to do those things for me but, being kind of independent and stubborn, right now I fetch my own water and wash my clothes and cook for myself but gladly accept their supplemental help and all invitations for dinner. I know I will tire of fetching water and will hire some small boy or girl to do it but for now I¹m enjoying the novel experience of it all. The borehole pump is about 200 yards away (some women fetch up to 5 gallons of water in their headpans and walk 700 or 800 yards away). I need about two buckets a day so it hasn¹t been too bad yet and my arms are getting strong (not trying to do the head carrying, girls and boys as soon as they are walking start carrying small bowls and pans on their head and progressively get bigger and heavier ­ I walked the other day, 2 1/2 miles pushing a wheelbarrow full of tomatoes following my worker Nsomah with an 80 lb headpan of tomatoes on her head to the truck from Accra that buys tomatoes). I¹m working at the nursery which is digging beds with a hand hoe, pulling up water from a well with a bucket and rope, hacking trees with cutlass, and pounding cow manure into powder with a hammer.

Making fufu.

An aside about gender roles. The community committee and nursery gave me a welcoming ceremony with chicken light soup and pito. However, there is only one woman nursery worker and one woman member of the committee. The worker, Nsomah could not come so Victoria of the committee and I prepared the light soup (killing, plucking, cutting up chickens), serving, then cleaning up for the 12 men attending my welcoming ceremony. So funny, I¹m the guest of honor and I had to do all the work because I am a woman. Victoria was kept away during part of the ceremony so I was up and down serving pito. We'll have to work on that before my going away party.

14 February 2000

Today was a difficult day in that one of my workers at the nursery died last Friday and the rest of the workers and I went to his house today to sympathise with his family. Tanko Atanga was his name and he was a hard-worker and well liked. Even the cause of his death is a lesson in cultural differences. He had been ill for about a week, his teenage son came to the nursery as a substitute worker for him. We stopped by his house on the Wednesday before he died and he seemed shaky but didn¹t know how severe his illness was. The general consensus is that he had pneumonia but some people in the village think his elder brother who was jealous of him poisoned him, another theory is that a quack doctor "herbalisit" misdiagnosed his condition and didn¹t give him the appropriate medicine. Won¹t ever really know what the cause of death is but it¹s a difficult situation to be faced with. We all went to mourn which includes loud wailing for several minutes, initially it seems contrived crying but soon the emotions kick in and the real weeping and wailing takes place( I didn¹t participate I sat to the side of the house being a stranger). Then, we brought a gallon of akpeteshie (local hard spirits I¹ve heard it¹s similar to everclear) and cola nuts as offerings to the family. I guess the drink and cola nuts is to help them through the mourning.

15 May, 2000

I have just returned from the Forestry IST (In-Service Training) that took place from May 8-12 in Saltpond in the Central Region. If you remember Saltpond was the site of our 9 week PST(pre-service training). It was a bit surreal, feeling as if we actually haven't spent 6 months at our respective sites, that it was all a dream and we were still at PST.

Since my last quarterly report I have traveled to two conferences. The first conference I attended was the Annual CCFI Conference held in Tamale in the Northern Region March 28-30. I attended the 3-day conference with my extensionist, Daniel Adelipore. It was attended by PCV's and a member of the nursery staff (usually the foreman, extensionist, or a member of the community committee) representing the 34 nurseries in the CCFI family. About a quarter of the nurseries have already phased over (no longer receiving financial or food aid from ADRA-USAID) and the Ghanaian foreman and managers of the phased-over nurseries also attended. All of the ADRA(Adventist Development and Relief Agency) staff working on the CCFI nurseries attended as well as some of the staff of the collaborating agencies like MOFA (Ministry of Food and Agriculture), FORIG (Forestry Research Institute of Ghana), and Ghana Forestry Department.

The agenda of the meeting focused on Phase Over, which will be complete by September 2001. That is the deadline or final phase when the nurseries will no longer receive aid. The nurseries in Northern Ghana were established earlier than the southern nurseries so many of the northern nurseries have already experienced whether the nurseries are self-sustaining. Sessions included writing a constitution for the nurseries, financial management, production targets, out planting scenarios, extension, secondary income projects, and innovations. Some of the nurseries have been assimilated into their districts so that it is supported by the district assemblies. Many of the nurseries want to remain "private" so that they do not get enmeshed into the local politics and bureaucracy of local district governments. It was my first chance to see representatives from all the nurseries from all over Ghana. The final session were "incentives" to keep up the good work by giving awards like best extension to community, best community involvement, largest production by a nursery, etc. with the best all around nursery. Kandiga did not win but we did get honorable mention for good record-keeping. An auditor had come to all the nurseries to summarize the fiscal year (Oct. 1 1998-Sept.. 30 1999).

The other conference I attended was the IST that I mentioned above. It was just technical training and the emphasis also for this training were phase-over and self-sustainability with a little diversity and GYD (Gender and Youth Development) thrown in. It was facilitated by Aba Sey (our APCD-Associate Peace Corps Director) and Vincent Djarbeng, Agroforestry Specialist for ADRA. We had a good session on organic farming led by Mr. Newton Amaglo of Ghana Organic Network. He gave us a good overview of the importance of organic farming and he was giving out Mucune prurience seeds as a green manure to plant. We'll try that out in the nursery. He also had seeds for Moringa olefeira which he says is a good treed providing animal fodder. We may try to plant that around our fish pond. Any additional info you may have on either of these species would be great. We also had a session on cashew nut processing. Ghana Forestry department is pushing cashew as an agroforestry tree but most farmers don't have enough land to have a cashew orchard so they produce only small amounts of cashews. ADRA is trying to set up small coops for processing and also buying agents so that farmers can actually sell their cashews. It's very labor intensive and a long process. The skin on my fingers are still peeling from the CSNL found in the shells when you crack them open. Peace Corps is also sponsoring and focusing more attention on AIDS/HIV education so we also had a session on that. Next year they will have one or two positions for third year extending volunteers to be AIDS education trainers/coordinators

We had interesting field trips including a women's group that is self-sustaining running a batik and tie dye workshop and store, a school teacher who raises sheep, goats, turkey, grasscutters, layers (chickens) in a very small yard. Intensive production but kept really clean and all the animals seem very healthy. She makes good money selling the animals. Beekeeping and product processing was also a good field trip. Our nursery isn't interested in bees because all my workers are afraid. We had one bee box but we have since sold it off since no one wants to get within 10 feet of the bee box. However, other nurseries are doing well with this project. Overall I was remotivated and reenergized to get our nursery to self-sustainability.

The projects at the nursery that I may have mentioned before in the previous report are to start a rabbitry and stock fish pond to supplement our income. The fish pond has been on hold since our water supply and the high temps and evaporation haven't allowed us to keep water in the pond. I tried on small scale lining some small ponds with clay layered with plastic but they didn't hold water. We can't afford to make a fully lined concrete pond so we are considering finding good size rocks to use as bricks and mortar with concrete. That won't be as costly. The rabbitry is on hold due rabbit availability. I checked out a New Zealand initiated rabbitry but they only had 6 rabbits and were not selling until they had a few litters to increase their inventory. There are bush rabbits but too skinny for meat production. So my other option is to go to the veterinary college in Pong-Tamale, about 3 hours by tro-tro from Bolga. I'll go into more detail regarding the nursery under site section.

Well, all I can say is it's really hot. My candles are wilt over so they look like candy canes. All the disposable single use Thermadot thermometers that tell temperature by heat sensitive dots they gave us in our med kits are all spoiled since it has been well over 106 degrees. I'm surviving by drinking lots and lots of water and not doing an awful lot in the middle of the day. At least there are plenty of mangos to eat to pass the time and plenty of books to read. I've read over 30 books since being at site. Reading seems to be the best thing to do and least likely to overheat myself in the middle of the day. At the end of the day at dusk it cools enough so that I can do my chores around the house like laundry, etc and then it gets dark and I read some more. There was one big rain storm just before I left so we are expecting the rains to come in June.

As for the nursery we have been busy most of March and April filling our polysacs with soil. Our seedling production target for this year is 9000 tree seedlings. We want 3000 mango trees with the majority being rootstock for next year's grafting. 2000 Cassia, 2000 Albizia, and 3000 cashew. About 80 percent of the trees will go to the five communities around Kandiga that have been selected by ADRA. Each community has 24 farmers who will plant the trees. Each farmer will receive 45 trees to plant on their farms. This is tied to the food aid they receive so right now ADRA wants a planting survival rate (to be determined but 50% seems to be batted around) from the farmers or else they will not receive food aid. The rest of the trees we will try to sell to traditional farmers. We seem to have a big market for grafted mangos from the regional capital, Bolgatanga. Those are our most expensive seedlings we sell and most of the farmers around us can't afford it but plenty of people in Bolgatanga can and want to buy grafted mango so we want to increase our marketing towards Bolgatanga.

I started a numeracy class at the nursery twice a week. Three of the nursery workers have never attended school and even holding a pen to write with is a new experience. So I have been doing this for a month and doing very basic exercises like practicing writing their numbers and simple addition. We play games like BINGO and CONCENTRATION just to get them use to seeing numbers. The goal is that the workers can cross-check each other when it come to the simple record keeping involved with running the nursery. A ledger book with entries for expenses and tree sales and other income (tomato sales, wood sales).

During this last quarter I was surprised by two visits by art teacher PCV's on their Easter break. They just showed up at my door because my village is listed somewhere among their teaching material as a good site for traditional house painting decoration. Unfortunately I didn't know they were coming but as it all worked out and I got to participate in doing some of the traditional painting. We first plaster the mud brick walls with mud and manure to give a smooth finish. We also did relief of coiled snakes, a tree, and an airplane and gave the wall a lot of texture. We then painted using paint made from ground up black stone, white stone and red stone. I didn't see the whole procedure but what started as a way to protect the walls from the rains has turned into a decorative art. A book by Margaret Courtney Clark called "African Canvas" really is a beautiful art photograph book that documents this. So the painting is done only by women and turns into quite a social event. I can't believe they do this in the dry season when it's so hot but no farming is going on and the rains would wash away the paint so it really is the only time to do it. Now, some of the houses are painted using coal tar mixed with kerosene to make the geometric patterns painted using feathers or rags as brushes. I hope I can send you photos of the paintings next time.

Mango season has come and gone. The local mango is really small and sweet but very stringy and fibrous. The grafted mangos are huge with tiny pits and very little fibers. But they also cost about 10 times more than the local mango. So my diet still consists of rice, pasta, tomatoes, and tuna fish. When I don't cook for myself I eat at the market or else at people's home so I get a chance to eat the millet porridge (tissat), kenkey (made with maize that looks like a big tamale), and rice balls. Not much variety and I do miss leafy green vegetables. I am planning to start my veggie garden in the rainy season. I'm also lucky to get some great packages from the US with dried squid, dried shitaake mushrooms, top ramen, dried miso soup, beef jerky, cranberries so I'm doing really well as far as food.

Since I've been in Accra I've been in indulging in ice coffees with ice cream, pizza, Vietnamese food, and last night we went to a very nice hotel called the Labadi Beach Hotel. They have a dinner buffet that on Monday nights is half-priced. 30,000 cedis which is a lot for a PCV allowance but works out to about US $7. It was so good with roast pork, 5 different salads, potatoes, gravy, carrots, green vegetables. Needless to say the 10 other volunteers I went with inhaled the offerings buffet table. It's good to splurge once in a while.

I found a Tae Kwon Do club in Bolgatanga that I have started practicing with. It's all Ghanaian and the black belt is great advertisement for youth development since he started TKD at Bolgatanga as a small boy and now volunteers his time 6 mornings a week training all the kids. We did a demonstration at the 6th of March parade (Ghana's Independence Day) and it was lots of fun.

Observing wildlife.

1 August 2000 (In mid-July Margaret returned to the US for minor surgery.)

I'm flying out today on Lufthansa via Frankfurt. I should arrive Wednesday, 6pm and stay in Accra one or two days until I go back to site. Unfortunately I'm loaded down (I travelled light coming to DC) but t-shirts are 4 for $10 and there are lots of people in the village I want to bring something back for. Also I've got lots of seaweed but that doesn't take much space.

I don't know if I told you that when I flew from Accra I got on the wrong plane. They only have two boarding gates at Kotoka airport with half a dozen flights leaving at the same time. Well I thought I heard the boarding call for KLM flight to Amsterdam. The gates are really just bus stops for the bus to take you to the plane on the tarmac so after showing my boarding pass to at least two people boarding the bus and plane I was all settled into my seat when the pilot announced that he was happy we joined him tonight on this flight to Lagos! I asked the flight attendant if that was a stopover before the final destination of Amsterdam and she said no. I ran off the plane onto the tarmac and was looking all over for the right plane. Of course I had tucked my boarding pass somewhere inconvenient and I couldn't find it so after a brief panic I found my way to the right plane with the help of some of the ground crew. Now on my Lufthansa flight, we actually are stopping off in Lagos.

15 December 2000.

Somehow it feels like Xmas. The Harmattan winds have come early and there is lots of dust in the air making for hazy days and star less nights while the wind is bringing temperatures down and it's cool and nippy in the mornings. The velvety pendant fruits are hanging down from the leafless branches of the baobab trees resembling something like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. The general elections took place December 7 and polling stations were everywhere: as I was riding along during election day I saw plenty of people lined up to vote at schools and some polling stations were under great big baobab trees. Even if you can't read or write you can still vote with a voter ID card with your picture and your thumbprint, then a poll worker helps you with your ballot. Ghanaians keep questioning me on why Americans can't decide who the president of the US is, when we've been practicing democracy for so long.

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Story Source: Michigan Technicanl University

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ghana; Agroforestry; PCVs in the Field - Ghana



By GODFRED ( - on Tuesday, June 12, 2007 - 2:45 pm: Edit Post

I Believe it is our responsibility to help make this world a better place .This could be achieved through volunteerism,that is why it is my heart-desire to be a part of you. I hope to heare favourably from you. Thank you

By jimandlouise ( on Friday, April 18, 2008 - 1:52 pm: Edit Post

We are returned PCV's from Ghana (72-74). Our daughter is a PCV currently in Niger. We are flying into Accra in early June (08) and plan to work our way up to Niger. We would like to visit our old site at Sefwi Wiawso. Does anyone know if there are PCV's there now and how to get in touch with them? Also we would like to know some good quality, non 5 star hotels or hostiles along the way. Thanks.

By martin mbui ( on Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 8:19 am: Edit Post

Am kenya citizen having nursary cotaning grafted mangoes and other fruit like avocado orange apples grips and others .Am looking for anybody or any NGO to buy them.

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