Water and stuff

I’m writing this hoping that the internet connection on my phone will hold out long enough for me to upload it. It’s a peaceful night in Gyetiase (pronounced jyeh-tee-yah-seh); the goats have gone to bed but the crickets have woken up. Someone’s nattering in Twi on the front porch of the eye clinic that is currently my home. It doesn’t matter that I don’t understand a word, I’m still listening to the conversation. Earlier today I saw a cat catch a lizard, dashing off to hide in a pile of bricks with a vivid black, orange and red tail protruding from its mouth.

While H was away on her first week with MVP, I spent a week in blissful comfort in Kumasi, staying at the Four Villages Inn. I enjoyed French toast, home-made sausages and real coffee for breakfast, languished with air conditioning and Al Jazeera, took a few short trips into the city to explore, hung out with Chris the owner, and felt a bit bad for H staying in a hotel with mice for company and actually having to do some work.

Now I’m out of Kumasi as well, north-east of the city in the village of Gyetiase. This is my second week here with Ashanti Development and I’ve already met several local officials, inspected some drainage, taken an interest in lavatories, become familiar with water pumps and been offered three daughter’s hands in marriage.

Leaving Kumasi, the shacks and buildings on the roadside gradually fall away until the road opens up into a lush green expanse of forest and hills. The tro-tros (shared minibuses) and taxis are emblazoned with all manner of phrases, usually painted across the rear window in yellow: ‘Who Jah Bless’, ‘God Is God’, ‘Respect The Police’, and for some reason ‘I Don’t Like Bad Soup’.

Gyetiase looks across towards Mampong, a small market town. The people here are farmers. They farm cocoa, plantain, bananas, pineapples, cassava, yam, oranges, cocoyam, groundnuts, mangos, maize, avocados and coconuts. There’s logging, legal and illegal, great muddy tracks carved into the forest by gigantic trucks carrying leviathan trunks on their bowed backs. A farmer’s income is in the region of 5 Cedis per day (just over £2), and depending on the size of their farm, produce will go to feed themselves and their families.

In Gyetiase and several other communities in the area, Ashanti Development have worked with local people to set up systems for water and sanitation. Wells, boreholes and springs have been developed along with sanitation action plans, latrines for households instead of filthy shared latrines, and perhaps most importantly a focus on engaging and mobilising communities. I’ve had a fascinating couple of weeks, and gained an understanding of just how much more work needs to be done in this area, with dozens and dozens more communities in varying stages of development and with varying levels of need. It looks like I will be working on water and sanitation, education, tree planting, ICT and whatever else comes along.

When I completed my environment and development diploma with the OU I was left thinking “well that all seemed to be about water”. Now I’m here, I’ve seen that it is – or at least that’s where it seems to start.

More as soon as I can. I have photos, video and sound recordings to upload but for the moment if this blog entry makes it online it’ll be a miracle.