May 26, 2009

So, I was traveling along a dirt road in a trotro

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read So, I was traveling along a dirt road in a trotro there.

So, I was traveling along a dirt road in a trotro (falling apart mini bus) way up north and decided to capture the feet hanging over the edge of the roof. The only thing surprising about this is that there were not more feet. It's not uncommon for a dozen men to be catching a ride on the roof with the goats and chickens and whatever else makes it up there. The beautiful thing is that the driver will slow down for these guys waiting along the side of the road for the next vehicle and allow them to hitch a ride on the roof for free...and they hop off when they past their destination...lots of shouting and catching up goes on up there. I tried it once...

The Hugging Tree

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read The Hugging Tree there.

That's what I call it anyway--that one at the top. I noticed it while watching the football. There are some amazing Boabab trees in this area. In fact, one of them is considered a God which means I'm not allowed to photograph it. Fair enough. There was a goat nailed to it last week--a sacrifice. It is huge and old and you just want to make a house in the branches and go to sleep--if it weren't for the goat...and mosquitoes... Fortunately, many of its brothers and sisters are just as huge and awesome. Virtually every second tree is a Boabab and they're hanging about every fifty metres or so, everywhere...

May 13, 2009

Local Kids

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Local Kids there.

"Snap me" is a phrase that will follow you wherever children and your camera intersect. Usually I have a hard time photographing people up close; I feel like I'm invading their space and privacy, particularly knowing many Ghanaians don't like to be photographed. So, I don't hide my camera when I'm out to take photos and I wait to be invited to photograph people. If I'm not invited, I don't zoom in, but rather stick to scenes of an impersonal nature. Some people I know have no qualms photographing people but after asking permission to do so. So, while I was watching the local Barca versus Chelsea match, when the kids asked to be "snapped" I snapped away. I'll print them for the kids and give the photos as gifts--Ghanaians love to have their own photos. Here are some wonderful photos from the kids around home this week...have you ever seen a cooler kid than the one in the hat at the top? Way too cool for this town!

"Barca" vs "Chelsea"

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read "Barca" vs "Chelsea" there.

Or so they were calling it over on the football field which is just down the dirt track from the funeral festivities...

Funeral in Bolgatanga

The funeral behind our house on Sunday...

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Funeral in Bolgatanga there.

You can see why kids look forward to funerals...
Funerals are the glue of the community, as odd as it may seem to those who are used to sombre, one hour affairs. The funerals in the Upper East Region rage for a week. I woke to the sounds of Beyonce blaring from loudspeakers at 6 was just getting going for another day...and then drumming on all sides all day. You can see some groups drumming on the roof of a local mud-brick home.
The rainy season is supposed to have started weeks ago, but there has hardly been a drop. There is a belief that drumming keeps the rain away and there are quite a few angry locals calling for a ban on drumming and, by extension, funerals, so that the rains will come and they can plant.

Fair Trade Labeling

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Fair Trade Labeling there.

So, how does this labeling business work?

"Fair Trade Certified" label (Transfair USA) and

Max Havelaar (Europe) and

“Fairtrade Mark” (Fairtrade Foundation UK) all meet the criteria established by FLO—Fairtrade Labelling Organisation—the body charged with overseeing fair-trade labeling worldwide. FLO’s efforts were designed to certify commodities like tea, coffee, sugar, etc, that have a widespread impact the lives of developing world producers. FLO has established common fair trade principles, procedures and specific certification requirements for commodities worldwide.

The Fair Trade Mark is an initiative of the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK. The Fairtrade Foundation is the licencing body for FLO in the UK.

The Fairtrade Mark is only attached to certain types of products: food and, more recently, cotton. If a food product in the UK claims to be fair trade it should carry the mark. If it doesn’t, it’s possible the producer has not applied to use the mark—it costs money to go through the application process and small producers can find it tough to get the money together—or that they do not wish to be subject to the scrutiny that certification necessitates. The former is understandable; the latter is a concern. As a consumer you must make a decision about whether to trust unlabeled “fair trade” commodities.

Actually, update from the Fairtrade Foundtion site:

"Over 4,500 products have been licensed to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark including coffee, tea, herbal teas, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas, grapes, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, apples, pears, plums, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, satsumas, clementines, mandarins, lychees, coconuts, dried fruit, juices, smoothies, biscuits, cakes & snacks, honey, jams & preserves, chutney & sauces, rice, quinoa, herbs & spices, seeds, nuts & nut oil, wines, beers, rum, confectionary, muesli, cereal bars, yoghurt, ice-cream, flowers, sports balls, sugar body scrub and cotton products including clothing, homeware, cloth toys, cotton wool and olive oil."

In the USA, TransFair’s Fair Trade Certified logo adheres to FLO’s standards—just for commodities.

So, how do craft, fashion or jewellery producing organisations claim to be fair trade?

Non-commodity producing, fair trade organisations do have options. They can apply to be certified as a “fair trade ORGANISATION”. This ensures that the organisation that works with craft, jewellery, textiles, fashion, and other non-commodities producers adheres to fair-trade standards set by the monitoring and certifying organisations. The certifying process is strict, lengthy and expensive. The standards, which are best explained at the World Fair Trade Organisation's site, include: payment terms, prices paid, environmental practices, health and safety, sustainable trading relationships, gender equity, transparency, accountability, and capacity building.

In the US, the certifying body is the Fair Trade Federation. For the rest of the world (and US producers that seek it, such as Global Mamas) the WFTO is it. The WFTO to organisation certification what FLO is to product certification. The WFTO also works closely with FLO.

The hand-made products themselves produced by the fair trade organisations are not certified. This is because the individual products, unlike commodities, cannot be certified. It is comparatively easy (which does not diminish the challenges associated with this process) to establish agreed upon worldwide standards for a commodity like tea compared to, say, handmade craft products—there are literally hundreds of thousands of different hand-made products and it is impossible for any organisation to set comparable standards by which to certify every single product. What matters is that consumers can be confident that businesses or NGOs that are members of either the FTF, FF, or WFTO operate according to Fair Trade criteria thruoghout the value chain.

May 8, 2009

Cost of living and travel in numbers

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Cost of living and travel in numbers there.

The exchange rate is approximately 1 Ghana Cedi = US$0.55. 100 Pesewas = 1 Ghana Cedi. (Like cents to the dollar...took me a while to work that one out.) US$1 = about 1.15-20 Cedis. It is fluctuating a lot at the moment so double check when you have to do the sums

375 ml bottle of Coke/Fanta/Sprite 40-45 pesewas
500 ml sachet of water 5 pesewas
500 ml bottle of water 50 pesewas
Bottle of Star or other local beers 1-1.20 Cedis
bowl of rice, egg, beans and stew on the street: 50 pesewas-1 Cedi
1 Grilled plantain on street 20 pesewas
1 bowl of fufu on street with some kind of meat 1 Cedi
Chicken and fried rice in "chop" bar 3-5 Cedis
Pizza in Accra or major city 10 Cedis
Cup of coffee at cafe in Accra 3 Cedis
Small tin of milk 90 pesewas
Packet of Lipton tea (about 20 bags) 1 Cedi
Small tin of Nescafe 1 Cedi (if you like real coffee you must buy it in Accra Mall 4-8 Cedis)
Packet of spaghetti 60 pesewas
Cup of rice 50 pesewas--depending on type of rice

You can buy all sorts of western products at petrol/gas stations all over Ghana, including toiletries, drinks and chocolate.

Share taxi between towns in most parts of Ghana 40-80 pesewas
Charter taxi across Accra from, say, airport to Kaneshie 4-5 Cedis (but not in an official airport taxi, you have to walk down to the road and haggle).
Official airport taxis cost about 8-10 Cedis at least, anywhere (I always walked to the street and haggled). Never ever pay more than 10.

Cheap backpacker room 5-10 Cedis
Mid-range room 10-30 Cedis
Expensive 40 Cedis plus

Visit to the local doctor 2-5 Cedis
Blood test 2-5 Cedis
Visit to well-known clinics in Accra 10-30 Cedis
Packet of doxycycline (anti malarials) that you can buy over the counter in any pharmacy in Ghana: 1 Cedi for about 10 tabs.

You might also want to read 15 Facts About Ghana in which I comment about the old currency and how it is still quoted by most street sellers.

Cost of living in pictures

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Cost of living in pictures there.

I took a few photos after a recent trip to the market to help illustrate what you can buy for your Cedi. The total cost of all items in the photo above was 15.70 Cedis or somewhere in the range of $US14.00.

The exchange rate is approximately 1 Ghana Cedi = US$0.85. US$1 = about 1.15-20 Cedis. It is fluctuating a lot at the moment so double check when you have to do the sums.

Now, what follows is the value of 1 Ghana Cedi: what many people earn in a day.

Two plantains, tomatoes, an egg and some spinach.

A mango

Four tomatoes, an egg, pasta

A bunch of bananas

Now, what comes next is what you can buy on the minimum wage in Ghana: 2.65 Cedis a day.

And this, which kind of put things in perspective.

Cost of living in figures, following.

May 4, 2009

Godwin talks: cross-cultural relationships--food!

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Godwin talks: cross-cultural relationships--food! there.

Godwin talks again...

Over the next few weeks I want to talk about cross-cultural relationships: enjoying all its goodies and battling all its challenges. Some of the challenges I experienced were expected. For example, I had to strain my ear at the early stages to understand what my sweetheart was talking about and watching movies that I wasn’t used to, like The Big Lebowski. But one of the things I wasn’t expecting was the plethora of food I would have to eat.

I used not to eat cheese because I had the idea that cheese was made from spoilt milk and was not good for human consumption, but as I speak now cheese is one of my favourite foods. Nowadays, if you give me pasta without cheese it’s like giving me kenke without stew or shitoh. (Ed: I can’t believe anyone thinks Kenke is fit for human consumption but, like, that’s just my opinion man).

My girlfriend took me to a Lebanese restaurant in Accra. I was really looking forward to having delicious fried rice and chicken, the “foreign” meal that is popular among young Ghanaians. But I saw strange names of food on the menu that made me more confused than I was hungry. So I decided my sweetheart should make the choice. We had mint tea and that was the first time in my life to have it. It was an eye opener because mint grows wild in my part of the country in the rainy season and it’s only used to repel mosquitoes and other troublesome insects. Little did I know that this smelly herb could turn out great tea and settle an upset stomach. I really enjoyed the mint tea.

Just as I was readying myself for the sumptuous meal, the waiter appeared and put on our table a massive communion bread. I thought to myself: “Oh, has my angel seen my death and therefore decided to offer me my last supper like Jesus had with his disciples by ordering communion?” Out of surprise, I looked in her eyes and asked, “Honey, what is this?” And she told me, “Lebanese bread.” And I asked, “Do people eat bread for dinner?” I thought I couldn’t eat it. That is what you get when you get into cross-cultural relationships. I decided to have an open mind. “You have to go for this!” I told myself.

At the end of the day, I ate my last supper, but I did not die. I really enjoyed the hommus and the cooked beef. I didn’t know there was any food like Lebanese bread that people enjoy and it was quite a sumptuous meal if you have all the little things that go with it.

If you’re thinking of getting into a cross cultural relationship, you will eat strange foods you’ve never seen or heard of before. That goes for my sweetheart. She eats almost all Ghanaian food except Kenke. It could be fun and exciting. So, in all this, what is needed is an open mind. Until next time…I’m going to heat some leftover pasta—with cheese!
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