During January and February of 1998 I visited several non-governmental development organisations in Ghana on behalf of the British charities Future In Our Hands (FIOH/UK) and Plant A Tree In Africa (PATIA). The purpose of the visit was to view and assess the activities of these NGOs and report back to FIOH/UK and PATIA.
The organisations I visited were:
Future In Our Hands, Ghana. Based in and operating in and around Accra.
The Namalteng Integrated Development Programme (NIDEP). Based and operating in the rural area southeast of Bolgatanga, Upper Eastern Region.
The Atuba-Agumishe Community Livestock and Crop Farmers Association. Based in Bawku, Upper Eastern Region and operating in and around the villages of Atuba and Agumishe a few miles outside Bawku.
The Mustard Seed Foundation, headquartered in Accra, but operating in the village of Bamboi, Northern Region.
Future In Our Hands, Ghana, is currently involved in two projects:
FIOH/Teshie Baptist Technical Institute
Dress Making Class
FIOH in conjunction with the Baptist church in Teshie is running a vocational technical training institute. The institute runs courses in dress making, tailoring, secretarial skills, accountancy, carpentry and masonry. These are four year courses and end in examinations giving nationally recognised qualifications.
The institute aims to provide practical training to young people to enable them to learn a skill that will later provide them with an income. It targets people from the poorest areas of Accra in order to give them the means to escape illegal, unsavoury, or menial forms of earning a living.
Many of the young women there had resorted to part time prostitution in order to make ends meet before joining the institute.
FIOH Model & Demonstration Farm
FIOH has acquired 50 acres of land near a village a few miles outside of Accra. The intention is to create a model & demonstration farm on this land, using and teaching the concepts of bio-intensive gardening and permaculture. This is being done to teach Ghanaians better methods of agriculture than the shifting cultivation ("slash and burn") used in most of the country today.
FIOH also plans a number of sub-projects for the farm including:
- milking goats for milk, butter, and cheese,
- raising bees for honey and wax for candle production,
- starting a tree nursery,
- encouraging tree planting.
The area to the southeast of Bolgatanga, the regional capital of the Upper Eastern Region of Ghana, is the home of the Tallensi people. The Tallensi Traditional Area is mostly open savanna, characterised by a large tree every two or three hundred metres with the land almost totally in use for the subsistence farming of grains. The Tallensi people live in "compound houses" dotted around the savanna. These are a collection of round, straw thatched, mud huts with their outer walls joined together to form an enclosing compound.
Inside a compound
Each nuclear family in the compound house will farm about one or two acres, typically planted with cereals. The farming (wet) season runs for about four months of the year. During this period they will, hopefully, grow enough to get two or three large sacks of grain. One will be sold for typically ¢50,000 (~£13.30, $21.80) and the rest eaten during the remaining eight months of the year when it is too dry to grow anything.
During the dry season they have a pretty easy time, labour wise, with only the animals (mostly goats and chickens) to take care of and occasional house maintenance to occupy them.
This four months on eight months off sounds pretty idyllic, but as the year continues they enter what is called the "lean season", when the food stores from the last harvest run low and they have to go down to one meal a day or less.
The Namalteng Integrated Development Programme (NIDEP) is a local non-governmental organisation, founded and run by Tallensi, that works to improve the situation of the people of the area. NIDEP concentrates on two development areas: tree planting and education.
NIDEP Tree Planting Projects
NIDEP has tree planting projects at many villages in the area. NIDEP has a "formula" which it uses in starting these projects. The formula is, briefly:
- one year education programme on the benefits of trees,
- getting the community to donate land, typically 2 hectares (5 acres),
- motivating the community to work voluntarily on the plantation,
- providing seedlings and tools,
The Tallensi have no tradition of planting trees. This is due in part to a lack of historical need, as the area was forested a couple of generations ago and forests renewed naturally, obviating the need to plant trees. There is also much superstition and taboo against the idea of planting trees, as local beliefs state that trees represent spirits and it would be bad to interfere with the natural course of the spiritual world.
Workers at a teak plantation
NIDEP tries to overcome these beliefs and general environmental ignorance by constantly visiting and giving educational presentations to targeted villages.
Once the villagers are converted the next step is to get land allocated. This is usually given by the chief of the village, or occasionally by an elderly farmer, on a "community use" basis. The community is then organised to create and maintain the plantation. The work of planting and taking care of the trees is almost always done by the women, who work voluntarily. NIDEP will try, if money is available, to provide tools for the planting process, and it organises the provision of seedlings.
After planting NIDEP provides no further assistance, other than advise. The community will water, weed, prune, keep off animals, and otherwise take care of the trees on their own. The entire project is done on a community-works-community-benefits basis. The community provides the land and the workers, and the benefits of harvesting, or profits for cash crops, are shared by the community.
NIDEP promotes the planting of "economic" trees. I.e. trees that will help the community economically as well as environmentally. Most of the plantations I saw were either of Cassiaw albesia or Teak. NIDEP is also promoting the planting of Cashew, Mango, Guava, Papaya (Pawpaw), Dowa-dowa and Shea.
Other NIDEP Projects
NIDEP has facilitated a number of other projects. These include:
- a boarding school for 40 deaf and/or dumb children,
- three kindergardens and primary schools, totaling 400-500 children,
- a junior secondary school (ages 11-15) with 130 children,
- promoting tree planting at schools,
- promoting vegetable gardens,
A local infants school
The situation in the area with infants and primary schools is particularly dire. The educational facilities, where existent, are crude and basic. In particular some infants and primary schools are held in a grass hut or under a grass canopy constructed in the shade of a tree with a single blackboard being the only educational equipment.
NIDEP is working to replace these with proper school buildings.
NIDEP is also promoting tree planting around schools. Children are allocated a tree each and given prizes or "points" if their tree does well. There are several motivations for this: getting children into tree planting at an early age, providing shade around the schools, and, later, giving the school an income when the fruits or trees themselves are harvested. NIDEP is also encouraging children to start vegetable gardens.
The twin villages of Atuba and Agumishe are in a rural area about 20 miles outside of Bawku. The Atuba-Agumishe Community Livestock and Crop Farmers Association was started as an agricultural cooperative and continues to function as one.
Women working on the plantation
It's main purpose is that of a farming credit union, making loans in seeds and livestock. Members pay dues which are used to purchase seeds and animals which are then loaned out. Repayment is in kind or in cash. When the association lends out seeds -- typically millet, groundnut, rice, or soy bean -- it asks for the loan to be repaid in seeds when the harvest is in. When it lends out livestock (goats and cattle) for breeding repayment consists of the return of the animal plus one chicken!
The association is also involved in tree planting. It has two nurseries and two plantations in the Atuba-Agumishe area, one of 3 acres, one of 5 acres. About 11,000 trees, consisting of Teak, Neem, Cassiaw albesia, and Mango, have been planted on these plots over the last 3 years, at an increasing rate. These plots are community land and the women that plant and take care of the trees work voluntarily on the understanding that they will reap the benefits.
The nurseries have produced a total of 24,000 seedlings in the last two years. Many of these have been used for the association's own plantations, but many have also been given out to schools and other community groups, to promote tree planting activities in a much larger area.
Mr. Nuhoho, Mustard Seed co-founder, tending a cashew tree
The Mustard Seed Foundation is an NGO whose prime objective is the building and running of orphanages and schools for orphans and other deprived children. It plans to build at least one orphanage and school with a vocational training centre in each of Ghana's ten regions by 2020. Additionally, it plans to provide medical, food, and clothing assistance to other needy children, and to build and run youth oriented community centres. Mustard Seed also wants to promote aforestation and environmental awareness.
At the moment the Mustard Seed is sponsoring 16 orphaned or deserted children. Having placed them with foster families it is providing financial support for their basic needs. In September it will be starting the construction of a community centre on the site of the first planned school/orphanage in Bamboi.
The Mustard Seed wishes to be self sufficient and independent of donations for its long term goals. In order to achieve financial freedom it has chosen to plant Cashew trees to provide it with a long term and ongoing income. To achieve this it has started a cashew plantation just outside Bamboi.
The Mustard Seed has been given 48 hectares (120 acres) of land near Bamboi by the paramount chief of the area for the cashew farm. It has also been given a plot of land in the village for the community centre/school/orphanage. The Mustard Seed has already planted 8 hectares (20 acres) and plans to plant 1000 trees (10 hectares, 25 acres) a year for the next four years (including 1998).
The Mustard Seed Foundation has correctly understood that, while getting any funding is difficult, it is relatively easier to get one-off capital funding (e.g. to build a school or orphanage) and much more difficult to get year- in-year-out ongoing expense funding (e.g. pay the staff, feed the children, etc.).
So, in order not to be dependent on any charity in future, they have resisted the temptation of raising money for buildings, instead deciding to use what capital contributions they can get now to provide the foundation with an income for many years to come in order to fund their community development activities. Additionally their chosen method will help Bamboi, and the other areas they operate in in future, not only socially, but also environmentally and economically.
Both Future In Our Hands, UK (Charity Commision Number: 1047953),
and Plant A Tree In Africa (CCN: 295731) can be contacted at: