Nothing beats a friendly face on arrival at an airport in a new country. And there are few faces friendlier than Ernest’s! As I was taking an internal flight the next day Ernest and his wife Monica, who I was very excited to meet for the first time, had kindly offered me a bed for the night at their home in Accra. They collected me from the airport, an hour after meeting another SOAS alumni, Umo! The SOAS development world is small!
It was difficult to form an impression of Accra, driving through at night, but I hope to spend some more time here later on. At 9pm it was hot and humid, Ernest reassured me it would be less humid in the north, but, hotter…! One landmark however, was impossible to miss! The Presidential Palace.
The next morning a small plane took me to Tamale in just over an hour, affording me some great views of the landscape from above, including the enormous Lake Volta, the largest reservoir by surface area in the world, 8,502 km2 to be precise.
I was met at Tamale airport by my new boss Nicholas, director of the NGO I would be working for, TradeAID Integrated. They support people employed in agriculture to improve their incomes through training, financial services and increased market access. I would be working mostly on market access. More info later I’m sure!
After lunch in Tamale and my first Ghanaian dish, Jollof (tasty!), we drove the three hours to Bolgatanga. The land we passed through was flat, with just a few hills closer to Bolga. It is mostly low scrub, with some areas cultivated for crops such as millet and sorghum. Most of the trees still standing are shea – the nuts are processed by hand for shea butter which is used for cooking and can be further processed for cosmetics. This crop holds a lot of potential for the agricultural economies of West Africa – more to come!
We arrived in Bolga after the sun had set and during a power cut. We turned off a 4-lane main road around the town, down a smaller tarmaced road, and then onto a red dirt track, on the corner of which is the office. Luckily when we were met by another colleague with the keys to my place, he had also helpfully brought candles! Later the power came back on, and I was very grateful for the ceiling fan! The place I am staying in is just a 10 minute walk from the office. It was initially planned as a government-run hotel but was not completed due to lack of funds. The completed rooms are now rented out.
The next day I went to the office and met the rest of the staff and learnt about the projects they each work on. I look forward to getting involved 🙂