November 29, 2010

Must See Outer Bolgatanga, Upper East Region, Ghana

If you come to the Upper East Region of Ghana for a couple of days, you may wish to visit SWOPA: Sirigu Women's Organisation of Pottery and Art. The Sirigu story (the situation is very similar to that of the villages G-lish works with), courtesy of the SWOPA site:
Sirigu’s story is typical of farming villages in Northern Ghana; several years of intensive farming and poor rainfall has degraded the land to the extent that even subsistence farming is threatened. This is where the similarities end though; Sirigu village is also well known for its traditional architecture, basketry, pottery and wall designing. Faced with declining yields from farming, it became not only important to revive the traditional arts of the women of Sirigu but also to leverage it as an important source of income for the women for the upkeep of their families. Many children owe their education and healthcare to income generated from the handicrafts and traditional arts produced by the women of Sirigu.

A shot of design of external walls of hut in Sirigu. Image by Familia Bonnardeaux

At SWOPA you taste village life in the far northern Upper East Region and learn something of the culture, arts and crafts of the village and surrounding areas. And, for the budget-conscious, their prices are great. You can see the accommodation huts here. The Harmattan is in full swing here in the Upper East Region already so if you visit anytime from now until February you will appreciate the cool interior of the huts into which you can escape from the dust and heat during the day.

The peace and quiet at night is, well, a bit deafening; all you will hear is a chorus of electronic sounding insects and the odd lost goat.

We were accompanied by two foreign friends from overseas as well as three Ghanaians from the Eastern Region visiting this region for the first time on a big trip up north. They all said that the trip to Sirigu was the highlight of their entire trip, which is saying something! Something good, I believe. The Ghanaians were fascinated with the life of the village as well as how those of us living in this area can withstand the harsh, dry heat compared with the humid jungle climate of their region. Our Canadian friends echoed similar sentiments. Visiting Sirigu gives you a first-hand opportunity to feel that reality and know another Ghana altogether.

Costs: 15 GHC per night for a traditional, round hut painted in the SWOPA style with 2 single beds and inhouse bath and toilet. An entrance fee of 1.50 GHC is payable. If you tour the village, the price is 4.00 for non-Ghanaians and 2.00 for Ghanaians. There is a dorm with five single beds for 30 GHC total. The dorm is constructed in the traditional style of the area with steps leading up to a wide, flat, low-walled roof from which guests can gaze at the stars at night and sleep during the very hot season, if they like.

The major crafts produced in Sirigu for sale at very reasonable prices in the gallery at the centre include pottery, baskets and acrylics on canvas in traditional designs and style from the area.

A clay, glazed dish about the size of half a PC keyboard costs around 6 GHC. A short piece about the pottery here.
The colours of the pots are black with a geometrical design. The colour is made by putting the hot pots in a mixture of millet grass. These pots have round or flat bottoms and some have lids. The colour of the pot is earthen red with geometrical designs in black.

A typical mud home with roof designed to be slept on in hot season. A basket maker holding a basket typical of that area. Image by Baptiste Delbos.


Awesome chop bar. Image by Baptiste Delbos.

SWOPA is located about 40 minutes drive north-east from Bolgatanga: turn right at the Kandiga junction when heading north to Burkina on the highway from Bolga, SWOPA is another 17 kms along the dirt road from the junction. A bit tricky in the wet season, but not impossible, and easy in the dry season. You could also hire motorbikes from Tanga Tours for 20 GHC a day in Bolgatanga.

Meals are huge, delicious and prepared that day and cost 5 GHC per person. Call ahead and be sure to order drinks in advance as they need to order them from the local market.

A 40 minute taxi ride there (and 40 minutes return, same day, same driver) will cost around 35 GHC from Bolgatanga. Click here for a more extensive view of Sirigu-related images including the village, architecture, design and arts and crafts.

I also referenced another blogger's writing on Sirigu here in Two Excellent Ghana Blogs.

November 4, 2010

Seed Initiative Winners from Ghana

It's with much surprise and delight to post that G-lish Foundation, the organisation founded by my inspiring partner, Godwin Yidana, is one of the winners of this year's SEED Initiative Awards.
"The SEED Awards recognise inspiring social and environmental entrepreneurs whose businesses can help meet sustainable development challenges. By helping entrepreneurs to scale-up their activities, the SEED Initiative, which is hosted by UNEP, aims to boost local economies and tackle poverty, while promoting the sustainable use of resources and ecosystems."
The UNEP's full press release can be read here.

As the press release explains, the award seeks to recognise and support young organisations that focus on sustainable development. 

The winners receive support in the form of tailored workshop training in-country and via distance (remotely) to help them develop their business plans and find solutions to barriers to growth so that the orgs can break through whatever problems they're facing and continue their good work. 
"The prize they will receive from SEED is a package of individually-tailored support for their business. This includes access to relevant expertise and technical assistance, meeting new partners and building networks, developing business plans and identifying sources of finance. SEED will furthermore contribute towards meeting each winner's most immediate needs by contributing to a jointly developed support plan."
You can visit the G-lish facebook page and read more about their activities by clicking the link on the right of this page.  

The winners from Ghana are truly inspiring. The other winners are: 

Some of the winners from African and further afield that caught my eye are:

Kenya: EcoPost - Fencing Posts from Recycled Post-Consumer Waste Plastic

Burkina Faso: Manufacture and Popularization of Biomass Briquettes (when you see how many trees are cut down for charcoal for cooking fires you understand why an alternative source of fuel is so important).

Senegal: Micro Power Economy for Rural Electrification 

"The goal of this enterprise involving local partners from the private and microfinance sector is to set up a profitable rural power provider based on off-grid power system operation and the utilisation of renewable energy sources, such as wind-solar-diesel hybrid power systems."

China: SolSource

 You can check out all the winners at the 2010 Awards link.

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