Out and about with TradeAID
I recently took part in some “participatory development”. This is development jargon for consultation, the idea being that if you want to give money to people, you should ask them how it should be spent, instead of making a decision from London/Washington etc.
On this occasion a government initiative, the Ghana Social Opportunity Project (GSOP), was applying for a grant from the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF), to fund support for income-generating activities in rural communities in the region. A Japanese employee of the World Bank would submit the application on behalf of GSOP.
TradeAID was in attendance as they already support some of the rural communities being consulted. There was a delay to the start of proceedings as many had to travel quite far on limited means, and the organiser mentioned that perhaps next time, they would go to the communities (to be a bit more “participatory”). However everyone, including me (who travelled 5 mins in a taxi paid for by someone else) was reimbursed for their travel expenses (I tried to protest), and provided with a mid-morning snack and lunch (I decided not to protest).
The main topic for discussion was improving incomes from agriculture. Mr World Bank suggested processing mangoes into dried mango snacks. Which in fact does happen locally, but it was agreed that improving the packaging could increase its value by making it a more attractive product for consumers. Another crop of the region is shea nuts, which are picked by hand. The farmers explained that as the trees are owned communally, at harvest time pickers get up at around 3am to pick as many nuts as possible. It’s dark, there’s no lighting and they are at risk from snake bites. If the proposal is successful they will receive funding to improve these conditions.
Another event TradeAID was invited to was the 25th anniversary celebration of the local radio station (which made the online press here and here). URA is a public radio station owned and run by the state broadcaster the Ghanian Broadcasting Corporation. TradeAID runs a bi-weekly programme at the station which hosts an expert to discuss a matter of public interest such as micro-finance or an aspect of agriculture, and listeners are invited to call in with their comments.
Speeches by ministers, chiefs and station staff were interspersed with performances from various dance groups. And the opportunity was seized to raise 2000 cedi (~£670) for a generator for the station. Currently power cuts result in the station being off-air for unpredictable periods of time…
So up jumped the station’s Marketing Manager, dressed in the sharpest suit I’ve seen in Bolga, to cajole the required money out of people. He did a good job and it was a generous audience as it seemed like the total was raised. It was testament to Ghana’s famed freedom of political speech that once one political party had made a pledge, the marketing guy could joke that the others now had to step up. The umbrella guy is finding it particularly funny: see video here.