Thursday, May 25, 2006

Working with MoFA

Working with the office here for the past...almost 2 weeks now, has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I've experience days of inefficiency and frustration, but at times found myself to have been more productive in one hour than in the previous few days. It's all about timing - who's around, and if they're available when you need to speak to them; but mostly, it's been about fitting myself into existing schedules and having everything planned out for myself well in advance! This is mostly because I've noticed that not everyone comes into work everyday. Even in the time I've been here, there are still some co-workers that I haven't had the pleasure to meet, let alone relax with and chat for a while.

I've had a chance to get to know a few key members of the MoFA staff: the Director, Dr. Sallah; the Deputy Director, Mr. Ahmed Adam (who under the new structure is actual the DAO of Extension - that's District Agricultural Officer of Extension); Mr. Mills, the DAO of MIS (Management Information Systems); and Mr. S.K. Fiatuho, the Veterinary DAO. We've discussed
- Their backgrounds: what kind of schooling they've received, how long they've been with MoFa
- Their work: what projects they focus on, who reports back to them, their day to day responsibilities
- and personal information as well.

I find that I learn the most when we just have an informal discussion. I was thoroughly impressed at the extent of knowledge they each possess about agriculture and their respective positions. For instance, Mr. Ahmed Adam (who is also my counterpart while I am working here), received his education in Agriculture, focusing on Extension. This means he has a background in adult education, facilitation skills, etc. Seeing as he is also responsible for training most of the AEA's, these skills are also passed on to the frontline workers!

Since adult education and facilitation was one of the things I'm here to work on, I'm extremely excited to be working with Mr. Ahmed throughout the summer. And his contagious enthusiasm for learning, and working with me every step of the way makes me confident that my efforts will be continued on even after I've left. It's so thrilling to know that my actions are being taken seriously, and that with Mr. Ahmed's help, I'll be able to have a real impact here at the office. And not only that, with all the training I've had in AE (adult education) and whatnot, I'm sure that in some respects I'll be the one learning from Mr. Ahmed!

I've been a bit out of touch lately - sorry! So the above was actually written a while back and saved as a draft. Since then, I've had more opportunities to see how the staff at the office interact with each other, and gotten a better grasp on the structure and dynamic of the DADU (District Agricultural Development Unit). Much of this knowledge has been gained from just speaking with individuals, attending meetings on all levels, and going through the many reports compiled monthly, quarterly or annually.

The project, as outlined by Robin (our long term volunteer) for the pilot project done in Yendi a few months ago, focuses on 3 main areas that I discussed in the MoFA blog entry. In a nutshell, there is in-office consulting, re-activating the District Food Security Network (DFSN) and facilitating workshops on adult education and RBM (results-based management) to help build capacity. While I've done a bit of consulting - and identified which areas consulting would be the most sustainable - I've mostly been focusing my time lately on the DFSN. This would be because the first meeting is being held this coming Wed., June 21. I can't tell you how excited I am!! Mostly, I've been visiting a number of GOs, NGOs, FBOs, CBOs...etc. to invite them, and discuss food security issues. There will be a whole food security blog after the meeting, so stay tuned!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

My Wonderful Family

As I've possibly already mentioned, I'm staying in Tolon with a family. The villages here are made up of compound houses. These are comprised of a number of separate rooms, joined by a wall on the perimeter, and the rooms exit into the central courtyard area that has a single entrance to the exterior. The walls are all made of clay/mud/cement, covered in plaster and then painted. The ceilings have corrugated metal paneling on top of raftes, covered by straw and mud - I'm not sure if that is for aesthetics or practical purposes; but either way, the rain clangs horribly when it pours. Seeing as the rainy season is starting, it's been raining quite a bit here.

The head of the household is Alhaji Mahama Asumah; he used to have the title Afa-Asumah, which many people still know him by. However, since he has travelled to Mecca, the title has changed from "Afa" to "Alhaji". It took me the longest time to get that straight! Alhaji used to be an Agricultural Extension Agent at MoFA, which is how I came to stay with his family. He is a very well-educated man and we have interesting discussions about Ghanaian politics, the challenges that the district farmers face, the local culture...well, practically everything! He is very open to questions, and seems to genuinely enjoy teaching me about Ghanaian life. Also, he is my Dagbani teacher. We have spent quite a few hours with him teaching me new words, and me struggling with the proper pronunciation of them. Slowly but surely...

Alhaji is married to three wonderful women! Amama, Mariama and Ayi (in that order, Amama being the senior wife). Then there are the children and other relatives - of whom there are too many to even recount! I've learned about 85% of their names and family connections. Amama has 4 children, 3 of whom no longer reside in the household. Her youngest, Nana, turns 20 on May 20th (there are no birthday celebrations here, but I supposed that's only practical with the amount of people to a household!). While I'm totally thrilled to have begun to understand the family structure, I'm sure it will be quite boring to read.

More interesting, is the family dynamic. The wives cook dinner (I'm never around for lunch except on the weekends, but I think it mostly consists of heated leftovers from the night before). They have a rotation where each wife cooks 2 evenings - I believe that the woman who cooked dinner, has the opportunity to spend the night with the husband in his room. The women each have their own rooms that they sleep in with their children and any cousins. For instance, Amama's brother's daughter, Karima, was attending school in Tolon and therefore she stays in Amama's room. Similarly, Mariama's sister, Sahada, and her baby, Rahma, stay in Mariama's room.

Which brings up another interesting custom. For the first 1 or 2 children born to a woman, she returns to her family's house without her husband. There she remains until the child is 2 or 3 years old and the husband calls for her to return. However, for the 3rd child and any child afterwards, she will remain with her husband. Alhaji had a first wife who he divorced; however, the second-born of that marriage is Amadu, and he lives in the compound as well with his wife, Fusina (she's pregnant and due any day!!) and their 2 daughters, Rehana and Rahima. For both her first children, Fusina returned home but for the child on the way, she will stay in the Asumah household. (And I know it is terrible to favour children, but I must confess that 4-year-old Rahima is possibly my favourite).

Alhaji understands the importance of education, so although he married 3 illiterate wives, he sends all of his children to school. They are adorable strolling off together in the morning with their matching uniforms (which cost a good 25-30 000 cedis apiece - so much for "free" primary education. With all the associated fees for uniforms, shoes and books, there is still a fairly high percentage of families who cannot afford to send their children to primary school, let alone secondary school! And from Senior Secondary school, maximum 10% go on to higher education of any kind). Haha, so there's my little rant concerning the utter impossibility of reaching the development millenium goal of free primary education, especially by 2015 - and Ghana is considered to be one of the developing countries making the best progress.

I've heard it is not uncommon for literate men to marry illiterate women here; which makes sense owing to the slight discrepency in the percentage of men and women who have received an education. If a family can only afford to send one child to school, it is more likely to be a son. However, I think this causes some issues within the marriage- mostly because the illiterate wives do not necessarily understand the importance of receiving an education. Whereas we put such an emphasis on schoolwork and learning, the daughters are at the beck-and-call of their mother's until they are older (learning to cook, wash, etc.); and the sons spend much time in the field, particularly during the rainy season. I think Alhaji would prefer to make studying a top priority for the children, but that would interfere with the wives' responsibilities to oversee the upbringing of the children. Although, that's just an opinion. And some of the children do make a lot of time to devote to their studies, so it could purely be on an individual basis.

There are still so many customs and traditions that seem so contrary to everything I've grown up with. For instance, the women do all the cooking and washing...but they believe it is their responsibility. It is not that the men force them to do it, but it seems almost like they are born to believe they are inferior to men (taught by the community, both men and women). Coming for a world riddled with feminism and equal rights, it is quite an adjustment to now live in a community where women are inferior. I suppose it is only fortunate that being a "Saliminga", a foreigner, I don't fit in with the natural heirarchy of the community - while I am still a women (the constant marriage proposals can attest to the fact), I am seen first as a Westerner.

Beyond simply trying to understand the family dynamic, I've also been trying to find my place in the family. I've been making an effort to bond with the women, but it's sometimes just easier to sit and talk with Alhaji. Seeing as Amama, Mariama and Ayi are illiterate, they've never really learned English. They speak a bit, but much of the time we find it difficult to communicate our exact meanings. Although, I must say that my gestures have become much more creative! Most of the time though, some of the children are around and they can always translate for me. So besides having Alhaji as a teacher, I've been learning Dagbani from the entire family! Sometimes I learn so much that it becomes too difficult to remember all the phrases - so each day I've been trying out new ones. We all have a good laugh at my initial attempts at pronouncing the words. However, I've found this to be one of the most accomodating places to learn a new language - everyone is so impressed with the little I speak and are very excited that I am even trying to speak the language in the first place.

I've managed to bond a bit with the women by having them teach me to cook (mostly TZ and braa). But I find that they've been cooking all their lives and their hands are much less susceptible to heat - so some of the things they do, I just physically can't. Such as, Mariama will just pick up a metal pot that's been sitting on burning coals for over an hour, with her bare hands and not even flinch. I, on the other hand, still get burned when I touch the end of the ladle that was sitting in the pot for 10 minutes. It's slow slow learning. I also insist on doing my own wash, and Khadija (one of the daughters) has been showing me the proper way to do it. Everything the women do standing (sometime they sit); but mostly, they stand and bend at the waist. Just cooking and washing are a work-out! Although, that might just be a testament to how out of shape I am. Well, not for long!

Showering is an adventure - I enter the little stall equipped with my brush, soap and half a bucket of water. When it's been raining, the air gets quite cool (relative to the intense heat, that is), and the water is cold. So we've been heating our water over the coals a bit before washing. In less than 2 weeks I've already become somewhat acclimatized to the heat!

But back to family-bonding. So above is how I've been spending time with the women. I also dance with Mariama as she sings. It consists of some bouncing around, and bumping hips at regular intervals. Everyone got so excited the first time the Saliminga danced! But now, we'll dance a few times a day. I've been spending some time drawing with the young children. They love the varieties of pencils I've brought with, and we all sit down around my sketchbook and draw together on one page. The women around my age and I just talk, cook, buy cloth. I've spent quite a bit of time with Khadija, Karima and Nana, and they really are such delightful company!

I've also been spending some time with the boys around my age, and a bit younger - Jina (nickname for Mohammed) is 18, and we play volleyball with the local boys. I'm really impressed with how well they play! But I've definately managed to hold my own in the games, and I'm proud to say that I'm one of the few who can successfully serve overhand. I think it makes the whole game more enjoyable because I know that they aren't just letting me play because I'm a foreigner (well, I suppose to some extent they are because I've never seen any of the local girls join in the games). I've also played football (aka. soccer) with some of the men of the community, and Ahamed who stays in our house (he's one of the sons of the neighbouring chiefs, and I believe that I'm staying in the room that used to belong to him; he now sleeps with 2 of the other boys). Wow, are they ever FAST! I have some issues just keeping up with the pace, especially since I'm definately not used to exerting myself in this kind of heat. But it could have been worse, and I've been invited to play in future games. I'm really looking forward to watching the World Cup with them, especially when Ghana plays Italy on the 12th! (Everyone reading this should watch the game!!)

But my favourite bonding experiences are in the evenings. Everything is very quiet and mellow; looking up you can see a magnificent display of stars, despite the horrid glow of the fluorescent lighting (electricity being both a blessing and a curse). But much of the time, we'll sit around a giant tub of ground nuts and converse for hours while shelling them by hand (you should see the calluses I've developed just from shelling nuts!). It's extremely relaxing to just absorb yourself in the conversation and monotonous activity. Oh, but the stars are just so beautiful! Sometimes I'll even just lie on a bench and stare up at them, and the kids will come and play with my hair (they really seem to love it, and I can't wait for it to grow longer - I've heard that hair grows very quickly here). Within the scarce time that I've been here, I already feel like part of the family and I think that they've begun to accept me as such, as opposed to a temporary guest.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Accra to Tamale to Tolon

Accra is the capital city, located in the Southern Region and where we spent literally one night. From there we took a state bus up to Tamale - a ride that takes on average 12 hours. So just to give you a taste of Ghanaian time, it took us about 14.5 hours (not to mention leaving 3 hours late, although that was due to some maintenance issues). The ride was quite enjoyable, with A/C and entertainment in the form of Nigerian movies - which are hilarious! Somewhat overly dramatic, but with very vibrant colours!

We also made a few pit stops along the way, most having booths set up with women selling everything including fried yams, meat pies, an assortment of fruit, kabobs (although I don't think that's what they're called here), and bread. There are quite a few kinds of bread: butter bread (which is so delicious!), sugar bread, tea bread, brown bread, bagel bread.....etc. That's been one of the strangest things to have to adjust to! There is so much starch in the diet here, in the forms of bread, rice, cassava...and I need to make a concious effort to ensure that I'm getting enough protein and leafy greens.

The landscape we drove by was absolutely stunning! While some of it was farmland, where we could see fields upon fields of maize, much of the view was of a lush, thriving tropical rainforest. I had been under the misconception that most of Ghana was a fairly barren desert type of climate. Even though it is much hotter in the north, there is still a lot of growth and the land is much greener than I'd initially anticipated. However, I have arrived at the beginning of the rainy season, so I cannot say what it is like at the peak of the dry season. On route, we also bought some fresh maize from women passing by the bus - it tasted a lot different to the corn we get back home (much starchier, of course!).

Tamale is the capital of the Northern Region, with a population of approx. 100 000 people. During the day there is a constant flow of people, either on the sideway areas that are partitioned off from the road or just the mass amounts of cabs, tro-tros, motorbikes. And everywhere on the side of the road are vendors selling food, water, units for mobile phones. My overall impression was that that city is perpetually bustling - but not at the rapid pace that is so common in North America. Everyone finds the time to greet each other. It is such a refreshing change from the feeling I would get walking downtown Toronto or Montreal, of everyone being in a rush, racing to make a meeting or appt.

In the morning, we met with the RADU (Regional Agricutural Development Unit), who collaborates the efforts of the various district offices in the Northern Region. It was interesting seeing how the RADU operates, their projects, their mission statement and objectives, and especially to hear what they thought of our placements. It is extremely encouraging to know that we are welcomed here and that our efforts are invited; I hate to think of how much more difficult it would be trying to work with people who are unreceptive - not that I've met a single unreceptive individual so far! I also got the feeling that everyone would be extremely open to sharing their knowledge with us, since there is still so much to be learned, about MoFA and agriculture in this region.

Walking around the town afterwards, I met some newfound friendst that I very much hope to keep in touch with - apparently when you ask for directions, someone will go out of their way to escort you to where you need to be (no matter how long it takes). But asking how to find the tro-tro station, I accidentally picked up a guide for the afternoon! Seidu was kind enough to show me around - we passed the Central Mosque in the middle of the town. I've heard from other volunteers that if you ever get lost, just to find the central mosque and you can get your bearings. It's beautiful! Three storeys high, pink with green turrets topped with onion-domes and a large central white onion-dome, supporting the muslim moon and star. We also perused some of the market areas, took a walk through the tro-tro station and visited the centre of national culture.

The tro-tro station, called Abaobu station, is packed with tro-tros leaving for various destinations. Throughout are men, women and children selling food, weaved mats, and cloth ("chin chini") to make clothing. And the centre for national culture is comprised of a large building that can be rented out for plays, celebrations, weddings, etc.; it is surrounded by a variety of shops selling local paintings, jewelry, cards. The paintings were absolutely gorgeous, capturing various aspects of Ghanaian life, from farming and processing, to celebrations and dancing. There were some other beautiful depictions of the Baobab tree - which can be extremely old an grow to a size such that 30 people could link arms around it.

After spending the night in the Christian Guest house, the 12 MoFA volunteers that I'd travelled up to Tamale with dispersed to their respective districts, in order to meet their families and co-workers. I hopped on a tro-tro heading to Tolon, for the 40 or so minute drive. The ride costs 5000 cedis (approximately $0.70 CA) - it's strange paying for anything in the thousands, but here the smallest coin is 50 cedis, and the conversion rateis 7000 cedis to $1.00.

It was interesting to see the urban giving way to the rural landscape (which coincided with the road going from paved to unpaved). Finally, we were passing small villages and fields. We arrived at the Tolon "station", somewhat like a market area in the village. When I asked for directions to the Agric. office, I was taken to the home of the family I would be living with (I originally thought that everyone in the village knew where I'd be staying; but I later found out from Alhaji Asumah, the head of the household, that his home is sometimes referred to as the Agric. house. Next time I'll have to remember to be more clear about my destination!). However, everything worked out for the best and the District Director (Dr. Edmund Sallah) came to meet me at the house.

I spent my first day at work with the Director. I briefly met the office staff, before being whisked away to accompany Director Sallah to Kumbungu (the other largest village in the district- hence the name Tolon/Kumbungu District). There we met with a number of the Agricultural Extension Agents who were experiencing difficulties accessing loans for the farmer groups - it's part of one of the programs, called FABS (Food and Agriculture Budgetary Support), where the AEA's help organize these farmer groups, establish an executive and constitution, arrange for them to get credit from the bank, and then monitor the progress to ensure that the loans can be repaid. It was extremely educating to speak with the AEA's about their opinions on the major challenges facing the farmers in their communities and the projects that they've been working on. I'm really looking forward to spending more time with them on an individual basis and getting a chance to see the work they do in the field!

The evening I had my first opportunity to meet with my family!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

First Impressions

We landed in Accra in the evening, were met by some of the long term OV's at the airport, and then continued on to check into the hotel for the night. We took advantage of our one night in Accra to explore a little - walking along one of the main streets, I was surprised at how many people were out selling food and merchandise (much of which I recognized as North American products). The food ranged from rice, eggs, roasted yams and plantains to fish or meat stews (in red palm oil) and maize. I settled on some rice, fish and a deep fried hard boiled egg - which I most definately recommend!

Next we walked through the tro-tro stop. Tro-tros are the local buses, which are actually more like vans, with more windows and seats. They don't have set schedules, but rather leave whenever they are full. Apparently, the tro-tro station is the number one place to be harrassed (friendly harrassment, that is). From left and right there are people yelling out destinations to ask if you are going there; there are constant exclamations of "Obruni!" (meaning foreigner/white person); and the more courageous approach to ask where you are from, and where you are going. I was very relieved to find that in Accra many people spoke English - especially since my knowledge of Twi is comprised of precisely 2 words: Obruni, and Madasi (thank you). However, when just walking around we were hardly approached by anyone to have any extended conversation beyond a quick greeting - with the exception of a musician we met. He was very interested to know where we were all from because he had travelled around the world (the States, Canada, the UK) with his band: the African Pan Continental Orchestra. He plays wind instruments for them, and was urging us to join him at the Culture Centre - unfortunately we were leaving first the thing the next morning for a 12 hour or so bus ride up to Tamale.

Being the capital city of Ghana, I wasn't sure what to expect of Accra - it was noiser and busier than I would have anticipated, and more light pollution as well. Star gazing would have to wait until I moved to a more rural area. It was also interesting to see the mass amounts of advertising everywhere! Advertisements for Guiness, SUV's, food products (i.e. Fan Milk)...they made very useful temporary landmarks.

The hotel we stayed at was quite small, with 3 floors of 7 rooms each. It had running water and A/C, which was both a blessing and a curse. At first it was refreshing to step out of the heat, but I had never expected that my first night in Ghana I would be unable to sleep because I was too cold! And sleeping 4 people to a bed (a very large bed) left few covers to compensate. Ah well, chalk it up to a first experience and possibly the last, for I don't expect to have A/C again throughout the summer.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Joys of Travelling

Oh how I love travelling for 21 hours straight! Truth be told, I actually enjoyed the ride. It was my first time flying with such a large group of people, 23 of us in total. On the flight from Toronto to Amsterdam I spent half the time sleeping and the other half learning Dagbani, the local Ghanaian language in the Northern Region. Elisa and I kept testing ourselves using cue cards. But alas, it was only to arrive in Ghana to discover that at least half of our pronunciation was completely off. It was enjoyable nevertheless, and we did learn at least 25 phrases.

We had a six hour layover in Amsterdam, which I've heard is the airport to be in because of all the exciting things to do - this is especially so when we were told that it would be "grossly negligent" to enter Amsterdam, where we don't have insurance coverage. So we traipsed about, searching for a frisbee, and happened upon a mini-art gallery inside the airport. Naturally we were compelled to explore. They had some very beautiful oil paintings, done by artists that I didn't recognize - one in particular was a giant fruit platter, detailing a succulant bunch of green grapes. Needless to say, I've been craving grapes ever since. I don't even know if you can find grapes anywhere in Ghana.

After singing along to Ben's guitar for a while, in a sectioned off area of the airport - from which we were promptly evicted - some of us decided to "enter Amsterdam". Technically, we didn't actually leave the airport, but rather passed through customs and explored the mall on the other side. We found a terrace area, outdoors, that overlooked the runway and sang, danced...did some random aerobics for a while. It was a gorgeous day!

After our little outdoor adventure, we finished off our visit with a picnic on the airport floor comprised of peanut butter, cheese and bread. Then we headed back to board for the next flight to Accra, Ghana. I can now say that I have been to Amsterdam and I have the stamps in my passport to prove it! Although, I think I will need to go back at some point for a more extensive visit.

Then on to Accra - how can I even begin to describe what it was like to fly over the Sahara desert, and knowing that this is real - I am really going to live in Ghana for 4 months. The desert is so vast, so expansive - with sweeping winds blowing the sand so harshly that it could be seen from thousands of kilometers up. And this vast, empty land - along with miles upon miles of ocean - will be separating me from the things I know and am comfortable with. It was simultaneously one of the most exciting and terrifying moments of my life! Although, excitement ruled out in the end.

And then we landed in Accra. But that is another post.

Training - aka. being on the wrong end of a fire hose

Training...where to even start?! When being subjected to so much new information, it's extremely difficult to keep from floundering while trying to retain as much as possible. Thankfully, much of it was written down.

Upon arriving at the house we would be staying in for our week of training, my initial thoughts were: 'This is going to hold 28 or so people?' It was a small townhouse situated somewhere between Chinatown and little Portugal (near Kensington Market!). After meeting my fellow volunteers for a second time, my doubts were gone - and rightly so, for there wasn't a single dispute, controversy or complaint that I heard in the entire duration of our stay. And how could there be with such an amazing group of accepting, intelligent, motivated individuals?

Training itself took place on the University of Toronto campus. Over the course of 6 days we covered everything from
- the root definiton of Development
- to how to be a successful agent of change
- to our hopes, fears and objectives for the summer
- to working on facilitation skills
- to cross-cultural communication and learning the dos and don'ts of Ghanaian culture
- to safety and security
- to gender roles
- to nutrition
- to the levels of impact
- to capacity building
- to Participatory Rural Appraisal
- to the basics of agriculture....etc.
After having started the week with my various doubts concerning my inadequate knowledge base (especially since I knew nothing about agriculture), I finally began to feel more at ease with what I had to offer the placement. Throughout the week, we kept a record of our A-Ha! moments - so just to share a few of mine:

1. When entering a new phase in life and being confronted by the unknown on many levels, it is natural to have doubts and fears. I also learned how comforting it is to share those thoughts and feelings with with others in the same transition phase, and how it is not uncommon to find that many of those fears and hopes are not uniquely yours.

2. During some of the training exercises with other JF's, it was interesting to see: firstly, how different some of our own values were even having grown up in similar cultures; and secondly, to see how easily someone's ideas could change in an open, tolerant conversation where each person expressed the 'whys' behind their opinions. Hopefully overseas I'll develop close, trusting relationships in which I'll be able to have such discussions.

3. Something I've known but have never conciously thought about when preparing presentations, activities - how important feedback is. I think that is one of the things I love most about EWB - that they are constantly trying to get feedback and improve themselves and the organization. There's a lot to be learned from them on an individual level as well - the National Office staff are some of the best facilitators and analytical thinkers I've ever met. It was truly a pleasure.

4. After a case study we did on the Friday, I think for the first time I felt truly competent about going overseas and being able to have an impact. You'll never know what you can accomplish until you try!

And besides the learning and training aspect, during that week I developed some meaningful friendships with very incredible people that I hope to maintain. Without even leaving for Ghana, I'd already had an absolutely awesome experience!

About Me and MoFA

First off, let me start with a little background information into the relationship between EWB and MoFA: Last summer, Alyssa and Navid (two Junior Fellows) did preliminary research into the workings of MoFA, and then Robin (a current long-term OV) extended the collaboration by developing the "Capacity Exchange Project". Based on a trial project done in Yendi, EWB decided to expand the project to other interested Northern districts. So, this summer there are 12 volunteers who will be working in the Northern Region of Ghana with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Ok, so what exactly does "Capacity Exchange Project" mean? Well, it's an exchange of knowledge! I'll be learning about Ghanaian culture, rural life, agriculture and the challenges faced in the rural communities of my district. In exchange, I'll be contributing in 3 ways:

1. Working with the Agricultural Extension Agents (AEA's) to increase effectiveness in their demonstrations to the farmers. As well, working with them to implement the principles of RBM (Results based Management) in how they plan and monitor their activities.
2. There are a number of stakeholders in Food Security in each district, such as NGO's and GO's. I will be helping establish or revitalize a sustainable District Food Security Network (DFSN), by surveying the stakeholders and facilitating initial meetings.
3.Working with the District Office staff on using the tools they have, and providing my input on how to use various Microsoft Office programs, report writing, constructing surveys and proposals, etc.

Those are the three main aspects of the work I'll be doing this summer - but it's not enough to simply teach what I know and leave; I'll be using a participatory approach to ensure that the skills taught and methods learned will be used after my placement is over.

But then again, I'm getting way ahead of myself! The first thing I need to do is learn. So, the village I'm situated in is called Tolon. It is located about 40 minutes West of Tamale (that's 40 minutes by tro-tro). Tolon is one of the main villages of the Tolon/Kumbungu District. There I will be staying with a family - the head of the household is Mr. Afasuma; he is a retired AEA from the district. He lives with his 3 wives and very many children and grandchildren! It's going to be very interesting trying to fit in with so different a family dynamic to my own - having only one sister. But from what I've heard, Ghanaians are the friendliest people you will ever meet!

Trial Blog

I'm a bit new to this online diary/blog trend, and I just wanted to post this first one to make sure that everything's working alright. More to follow!