At the Elimina castle Jan 29

Blog post 1/29

Hello blog readers! We continue to write to you from Accra. We are nearing our day of departure but continue to enjoy every second of our time here in Ghana.

Today we started off eating breakfast served by the pink hostel. Along side the hostel cat, we enjoyed our meal outdoors among the company of each other.

We departed the hostel to Cape Coast in our trusty Toyota coaster.

First we started off our day at the Elimina castle. It was a white fort-like complex on elevated land overlooking the ocean. Accompanied by a guide, Alex, we visited various parts of the castle. The castle is the oldest and largest of the three castles located in West Africa. The others are Christianborg and the Cape Coast castles. It was created by Portuguese pioneers in the 14th century. These early settlers had the intentions for trade and to spread of Christianity. The discovery of the New World in the 15th century and suggestions by Friar Francisco de Las Casas, Africans became the most appropriate to work the plantations in the New World.

Demands fit African labor opened up the trans Atlantic slave trade. This event brought many changes to the use of the castle. A majority of the ground floor of the castle was turned into a dungeon that acted as a holding area for slaves until they go through the infamous “Gate of no Return” for the journey to the New World.

They also had their church on the ground floor as well. Those that survived the period of time until the ships were ready were deemed fit.

In the 16th century, the Dutch overtook the Portuguese and the castle continued to expand.

We were ushered into small dungeons. According to the guide approximately 600 male slaves and 400 female slaves occupied the spaces at a time.

The walls in the dimly lit cells were covered in age stone. A blotted green layer covered on what seemed to be a painted surface and was present in most of the holding areas. Holes in the walls were present and it was apparent that these were used to shackle the slaves in place.

We were told that the female slaves that were in those dungeons were often victims of sexual assault. Those who did not comply were often subjected to forms of punishment that were used to set an example to other slaves striking fear in their hearts on hopes of obedience.

After passing through multiple tiny entrances within a dungeon, we ultimately arrived at the gate of no return. It was here where slaves would depart the castle only to make it to a boat that would mark the beginning of their journey across the Atlantic.

The condemned cell where recalcitrant slaves were imprisoned until death laid it’s icy hands on them.

Questions that came up from this tour includes the following. What’s the relationship of the local community to the castle? We were informed that local patronage is very poor. How many students are educated on these past atrocities committee bybman against man? Are the stories told by the tourist board only told to satisfy the emotional curiosity of the foreigner or people from the African Diaspora? In any case we noted these and other silences still hindering the study of slavery in Africa.

As hunger creeped in we settled for a restaurant within the cultural center of Cape Coast. We enjoyed traditional Ghanaian dishes that were familiar thanks to earlier meals in the month including our beloved Jallof rice, fried rice, meat sauce, banku, tilapia and red fish.

We then relocated to the Cape Coast castle and briefly toured the outside before diving in the coastal city’s market.

With the ocean less than a mile away we witnessed the importance of fishing in this city. Fishing nets were found everywhere. This was quite a change in scenery being used to the structure of the markets in Tamale.

The group ended the night after a 3 hour drive back to the capital, Accra. Traffic really got us this time.

By Alex, Kosey, and Oscar

Out of Tamale Jan 26

We started the day bright and early, meeting up at 5 a.m. and leaving Tamale at 6 a.m. We headed on our way to Kumasi, stopping a few times for fruit and a bathroom break. Although the drive was six hours, it seemed to go by pretty quickly and before we knew it, we had arrived in the second largest city in Ghana.

Our last night in Tamale. At the dinner place.

Arrival at Davellen Hotel in Kumasi.

Our first stop was a big lunch at the Engineering Guest House of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. It is the second largest university in Ghana with over 40,000 students. It was founded by Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. The university offers both undergrad and graduate programs in science and technology and has recently expanded to include more areas of study.

Checking out the Kwame Nkrumah University of Sceince and Technology after the lecture.

After lunch, we received a lecture on Islam in Ghana by Dr. Yunus Dumbe. He informed us of the religious demographics of Ghana, with Christianity being the predominant religion, however people of different religions coexist without conflict. He continued by explaining the processes of Islamization and Africanization. Africanization is essentially the rooting of faith in African culture. Islamization is the process of introducing Islamic faith into a community. He described two of the different ways of doing this: one being the colonial intervention and the other being migration, most commonly from neighboring countries. Northern Muslims are considered indigenous to Ghana whereas Muslims in the south are mostly migrants.

He then went on to break down the differences of Islamic faith within different regions in Northern Ghana. He began with the Gonja region. The main motivation for spreading the Islamic faith within the region was for spiritual prowess to expand the kingdom. Because of this, it was deeply intertwined with the class system of the Gonja people. This involved three divisions: The Gbanya (rulers), The Nyamase (pagan commoners), The Karama (local Muslims).

Next he explained the Dagbon region and the Ashanti region. Islam in Dagbon has its foundation in the institutionalization of Muslim leadership. Essentially, the intertwining of the political and religious spheres. Islam in the Ashanti region started in the late 16-17th century and was concentrated in specific communities. It has since expanded throughout the region. Muslim merchant clerics first came for trade but continued the Asante conquest in the north, fighting to expand the Muslim empire. They recruited Muslims for administrative work in the royal palace. Before ending his lecture, he briefly touched on the Revivalist Movement.

We left the university and went to the Davellen hotel. We had a few hours to relax before getting pizza in town.

At the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi Jan 26

After a wonderful night stay at our hotel in Kumasi we had oatmeal and egg bread for breakfast along with our favorite drink milo, to go along with it. We packed up and loaded the bus and headed off to Manhyia Palace. Here we watched a short video on the culture and traditions of the Asante people. The palace, now a museum, was very big and well kept. It was presented to the Asnatehene Prempe I upon his return from his 28 years in wxile. First imprisoned at the Elimina castle, taken to Sierra Leone and fit to Sychelles Islands. We were guided through the palace and were shown many artifacts, many of which are still in use. For example, a few of the talking drums were still in use as well as the palanquin (used to carry the king to places because walking was said not to be king like).

Anyway, through questioning we noticed that the talking drums are not originally Asante but borrowed from Dagbon, neighbors to the north. The talking drums are native to Dagbon and used as substitute language. Annually, the Dagbon linguist recount the history, origin and formative challenges the state of Dagon encountered over the years. It is through the talking drums the Dagombas store their collective memories and history. Another question raised issues over whether the palanquin was original to Asante or European.

We were given information about many of the traditions of the Asante. One of the important traditions was that the golden stool was conjured from heaven by Okomfo Anokye, the chief priest. It symbolized the soil and unity of the Asante people. to the king. The British demand for the still was to lead to the Yaa Asantewa war of 1900. It was also very interesting to find out that the Asante people are ruled by both a king and a queen. They believe that it is important to have both a male and a female in power so that the king is able to understand the issues and complaints of the males and the queen is able to address those of the females. They are not married and have their own spouse(s). The next generation of power is then derived from the queen’s side of the family, so none of the King’s lineage can become royal. We finished our tour and headed back to the bus where we were greeted by a group of peacocks. Pictures are not allowed inside the museum. The following pictures were taken in the yard.


We headed to the cultural center where we were able to do some shopping. Everyone was able to find something to bring back to the United States. After our shopping we bought some cut up pineapple and mango before we headed to lunch.

We ate lunch at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology where we had lunch the day before. After 2 hours we finally hit the road for Accra.

Everyone took bets on when we would arrive at the Pink Hostel. It was an uneventful drive to Accra, until Kosey spotted a suitcase hanging off the bus. We made an emergency stop on the side of the road to fix the falling luggage and resecured the loose ones.

We ate bread with butter, and mango. We headed to bed after an exhausting trip and a few early mornings.

We have a free day to roam Accra tomorrow, Jan 28. On Jan 29, we head out to Elimina castle,  the oldest, largest and one of the three in West Africa,  all in Ghana.

Last day in Tamale: Cultural Display Jan 24

Blog post for Jan 24. Cultural display

This morning we were surprised with good news! Our very own Laura Lyke was accepted into two grad schools! Congratulations Laura!

We started out the day again at the usual breakfast place. The combination of the assorted food has since been our staple and has not yet gotten old.

Since today is our last day in Tamale, we paid a quick visit to Abdulai’s mother, Hajia Adisah, to drop off some towels, and bid her goodbye. A few of us remained in the bus. Jonny somehow managed to get his hair braided by Maddie. It surprisingly looked great!

Youth Home 

Upon arriving at the Tamale Youth Home, we were ushered over to the nearby handicraft store where different articles of clothing and various items were hanging outside the shop. Although the youth that worked at this shop were not paid, they were compensated through learning necessary skills through hands on experience. A few of us bought bags, headbands, and other articles of clothing.

After shopping we watched a local cultural performance of drums and dancing. From the very start you could see the level of engagement from the performers. Each of the performers seemed to be completely immersed in their dances. The smiles from them were never ending.

Soon the performers were asking for some audience participation. In small groups we each attempted different dance moves while being taught on the spot!


After the performance we learned that the dances were about harvest, rain, and friends. It is believed that if you surround yourself with friends the devil cannot get you. We also learned that because Dagbani is a tonal language, the drums are meant to act as a substitute language by “talking” through the sounds and beats created by the drummer.

We then had our lunch and headed back to the hotel. A few of us grabbed aloe juice and ice cream from a nearby gas station. We ended the night by eating all together with Abdulai, Jazee, Fauzia, and Olaf in the common area of the hotel.

Alex, Gail, Emma

The Archive and Tourist Board

The Archives and Tourist Board

Last night was the big Vikings game and many of us stayed up to watch them play. We were pretty disappointed by the loss and gave in to going to bed in the middle of the 4th quarter. But, we were excited to see Professor Olaf Holt in the morning, who is a computer science professor. He’s Prof. Iddrisu’s friend and here to conduct his own research on the teaching of maths at the basic level. He will also give a talk at the Ashashi University. It was fun to go to breakfast with him and show him what we’ve been eating since he told us he has been following the blog and we mention it everyday.

We were then off to see the Archives and Public Records Office. We met with Helen, the director of the Office and she took us through their holdings. They collect documents from district administrations and departments (including water, labor, health, lands, animal health, and public works) as well as justice systems (local and district) and educational institutions.

The oldest record they have is an 18th century book, and they showed us another old book from the 20th century. It was an old colonial registry for letters and was about 25 lbs! Some of the entries that we read were about prisoners and others relayed messages to chiefs.

We made a quick stop in the repository, where they keep all of the confidential documents, but we got a special pass to go in! Most of the documents are not yet available to the public. The holding time is 30 years. The bookshelves were filled with criminal and civil records.

We then went to the digitizing center, where they are working to digitize some of their documents. To do this, they take a picture of the document with a nice Canon camera, add it to the computer, and back it up. The photos all included a color wheel as well. They have been working on the project for about a year and are expected to complete it soon. Below is a picture of our own Alex and Laura helping digitize some  of the documents.

We were then taken to the research room, where Prof. Idrrisu spent a considerable amount of time doing research. He told us that he was in and out of the building for 20 years!

To use the resources provided by the Office, researchers need to have a recommendation from a teacher or a certification. Typically, this includes scholars and people working in the justice system and they usually spend about one year doing research. They can request up to three documents at a time and there is no fee, unless the Office has to authenticate documents. One issue that they face is a lack of space – they have other storage locations around the city, but the digitization of documents may help to alleviate this problem.

Tourist Board

The Office of the Regional Tourism Authority was right next door and we met with the director of the Tourism Board for the northern region of Ghana, Mr. Nketia.

There are at least 63 slave sites throughout the country, but many are not developed. They are resources rather than attractions because they are visited mostly by foreign tourists and are sources of revenue for the communities in which they reside. He expressed his frustrations with the board – there are disagreements between the tourism board and local governments (including chiefs) about the importance of various sites.

One major sites with problems is Babatu’s grave, which we visited a couple of weeks ago in Yendi.  A young member of the family wanted to develop the site into a store to get some additional income, thus effectively demolishing the grave. The tourism board told them that they couldn’t because of its historical significance. According to Nketia the community is not very much invested in the site because they think it doesn’t benefit them in any way. This problem appears at the national level, too. No one has taken much time to study slavery or the northern Ghanaian factor in the slave trade. Visitors to the site, both local and foreign, are not informed that the slaves came from the north and that Asin Manso and the forts and castles song the coast were just holding houses for slaves. There is no sustained program of education and preservation of the material cultures of slavery. Attrition at the tourist board is equally high. Service Personnel sent there, gain knowledge about preservation and what’s going on, only to leave after a year. And for those who are employed with tjmem, the pay is terrible and there is no incentive since most of the slave sites are visited by foreign tourists.

To conclude his lecture, the Director told us about the wells in Salaga, which we visited. He described the speculation surrounding the wells since they all seem to be connected underground. Were they tunnelsbfot hideouts or used only to provide water? More research is necessary to find out.

After a long morning, we picked up our long awaited laundry. Most of us had been wearing the same clothes for a few days and we appreciated our crisp, clean clothes. Our late lunch consisted of yams and the classic egg sauce, which we’ve had for the past three days. We rested and had dinner before going to bed early because of our 4am wake-up call for Mole National Park!

P.S. We wrote this blog post with a chicken on Marquis’ lap! We named her Milo after the drink we have each morning.

Marquis, Maddie and Jonathan

Damongo Game and Larabanga Mosque Jan 23

Damango Game reserve on Jan 23, 2018.

We had a bright and early start leaving the hotel at 5 a.m. We made our way west with the sunrise at our backs. About three hours later, we arrived at Mole National Park, one of the ten richest national parks in Africa. We drove into the park to immediately find a beautiful vista with elephants at the watering hole. A family of elephants was swimming and playing in the water, a fun sight to see. It was the best way to wait for our breakfast of vegetable omelets, toast, apricot marmalade, and tea. Following breakfast, we divided into two groups and mounted our safari jeeps, on a cage like structure atop the cars.

With the wind blowing through our hair, we headed into the reserve, bumping along dirt roads and rocky terrain. Within minutes of starting our adventure, we saw a warthog cross the road right in front of our jeep. Soon after, we saw a group of antelopes hidden within the trees. We learned that there are four species of antelopes within Mole, with a variety of sizes, antler shapes, and markings.

As we continued along, we saw some movement in the trees and our guide focused our attention to the Velvet monkeys playing on the branches. Our jeeps turned the corner towards the watering hole to reveal a majestic elephant drinking right in front of us. Our guides climbed off the jeep and motioned for us to follow. We excitedly dismounted knowing that we were about to get an even better view of the incredible creature. We observed the elephant in its natural habitat, drinking water and spraying mud on itself. We learned that African elephants are actually black but appear gray because they cover themselves with mud to protect themselves from the sun and insects. We took the opportunity to snap many photos and even a few selfies. Although we kept our distance, Professor Iddrisu constantly reminded us to stay back in order to not engage in ‘risky business’ (one of his favorite quotes of the trip).

Our guides led us over to another watering hole where we encountered many crocodiles lining the shore. We learned that crocodiles and elephants are mutually threatened by each other and keep their distance when possible. Elephants can step on crocodiles and crocodiles can bite the trunk of an elephant while drinking. We saw a few more warthogs and antelopes on our way back to the jeep. We continued our ride through the reserve, heading back to the community where our guides live. We spotted many different species of birds, identified by our guides. We were excited to see some baboons, surprised by how large they were in person. We were all looking to see if they really did have colorful butts (they do).

We saw a family of warthogs in the same area picking through the dirt and sharing food with the baboons.

We ended our time at Mole with a guided tour of the museum which included many bones and skins found in the reserve or confiscated from poachers.

Although poaching is illegal, it remains a problem within Mole as the park has over 600 elephants and there is still great value attached to ivory.

Larabanga Mosque
On our way out, we stopped at a famous and unique mosque. It is one of the oldest mosque in West Africa, however in order to respect the Muslim faith, we did not enter the mosque. It’s cinstruction dates to the 15th century. It also has a Quran, whose origin is unknown. The mystery of the Quran and mosque has drawn worshipper to Larabanga annually. At our visit, the people were in the process of sharing meat from a cow that been offered for sacrifice.


After this quick stop, we headed over to the Mystic Stone, or the hanging stone— a stone of many stories and symbolic meanings that came before the existence of the current community.

The stone is now used as a place for prayer to God. After briefly visiting these two important sights, we returned to Tamale for our favorite yams and egg sauce lunch. After this long but exciting day, we headed back to the hotel for a nice cold shower and a restful nap.

Andrea, Mckenna and Kaya

Sunday Jan 21 Service

Blog Post 1/21/17

Emma, Marquis, and Kosey

Happy Sunday everyone! We had the day off today, so it was pretty relaxing! We began with breakfast at 8:30am at the usual spot. They gave us a chocolate spread today for our bread. It was really good and kind of tasted like Nutella— except with coconut instead of hazelnut!

After breakfast, half of the group went to the service at Ola Catholic Cathedral Church. We arrived at 10am, but it seemed as though the service had started before we got there. We think we arrived for the second half of the service because we did not hear a welcome or a sermon. It began with singing by the St. Cecilia’s Akan Choir and was then followed with an offering. Rather than having people collect the offerings, people could go up to the front and put their offering into a basket.

The priests then went through the weekly announcements. Most of the announcements were regarding where the funds were being allocated within both the local church as well as within the mission of the greater Catholic Church. The priest also emphasized that if people could not afford to give an offering/donation, they should still come to church because God will provide them with the means to give back eventually. Other announcements were about upcoming Church events. At the end of the service, newcomers were called up to the front of the Church. We were the only ones, so we all went up and introduced ourselves to the congregation. The service then ended with singing.

At around noon, a group of us went on a short walk around Tamale. We all enjoyed the exercise and being able to explore the area.

After the walk, another group of us went to pick up lunch at the usual spot. We got fried yams and a tomato-egg sauce for everyone and then brought it back to the hotel for the entire group.

Shortly after dinner, some of us went to play basketball at the Tamale Cultural Center. When we got there, there were already some locals playing, so we joined their game. It was really fun, and they were all really good! They also gave us some good basketball pointers.

To end the night, we played cards in the main lobby area until the NFC championship game between the Eagles and the Vikings. We played a few rounds of Nertz and then BS. At midnight, we all tuned in for the football game and cheered for the Vikings. The game did not go as hoped, but we all had fun watching it together!

Lecture and discussion with Dr. Haroon

Blog 1/19 with Dr. Haroon.

Two hours after breakfast we drove to the Tamale Technical University for a lecture on the unequal provision of education in Northern Ghana. Dr. Abdullah Haroon started with decolonizing the mind and cautioned that students should not always think from a western perspective but instead come to everything with an opened mind and then form their own views.

He began with the history of the relationship between Europe and Africa. Initially, the relationship was cordial but Africa was turned into a provider of raw material for the benefit of Europeans. Turning his attention eventually to Northern Ghana, he explained that the territory was not originally part of the British colony, which initially was limited to the coastal strip, nor Asante, the forest and mid portion of Ghana. The British acquired the northern territory out of a defensive motive to keep out Germany and France. The north was thus kept separate from the South, which had readily exploitable minerals. The north then became a labor reserve, providing labor for the mines and plantations in the south.

The semblance of education started with a young man, Mr. Wemah who in 1908, gathered his peers and imitated the education he saw police utilizing. The enthusiasm of Mr. Wemah and his friends’ for learning was to lead to the implementation of what would later become formal education in the north. The first school established in the north was in 1909 in Tamale. This was a big step forward for Northern Ghana, but there were still issues to address. Some of these issues included: getting teachers to teach, getting funds, long distances for students to travel, boarding accommodation for students, colonial reluctance to speak English so that only community languages were appropriate in the North, and lack of support from parents about students attending school. Many schools failed to be successful and partly a cause of the north’s underdevelopment. Originally students in Northern Ghana were only allowed six years of schooling and were forbidden from secondary education. Edmund Alhassan later became the first university graduate from Northern Ghana, graduating in the United Kingdom in 1953. Others were to follow after the 1960s from Ghana’s own University College, affiliated with the University of London.

After independence in 1957, the government still had little interest in providing higher educational for northern Ghana. Eventually the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) a military government stepped in and implemented articles for the establishment of the University for Development Studies, a multi campus higher education in the north. The PNDC also implemented a new system to develop further education opportunities for all Ghanians; created Ghanian textbooks but still face challenges regarding lack of books, teachers, and other resources persisted.

Dr. Abdullah Haroon answered some of our questions about his opinion on the NGO we visited, School for Life. He spoke highly of this program and explained that School for Life is a necessary process for promoting education as a right for all people. He also mentioned that School for Life is a great example for other African countries to use as educational models. While ending the lecture he predicted a bright future for Ghana and and the enthusiasm of people of the north in improving the education system. He sees a lot of potential in Ghanaian children and that their motivation for learning is what will make Ghana better.

After a very informative lecture, we set off on a quest to find pizza. After trying two restaurants, the third stop had what we were looking for. Pizza for Kossey’s 21st birthday was the perfect way to celebrate. There were so many delicious options and we chose five pizzas to share. While waiting for our food we entertained ourselves with cards that a few of us were smart enough to bring. We ate our pizzas as soon as they came out of the oven and enjoyed every single bite.

After our satisfying meal, we headed back to the hotel to rest and gather laundry for washing. In the process of doing this Prof. Iddrisu returned with a cake and many pineapple juice boxes to celebrate Kossey’s birthday. It was fun to end the night with this get-together for Kossey.


A Visit to RAINS and TibZaa Farms Jan 18

Blogpost for  Jan 18
The day began with us sleeping in before coming together for breakfast. We then left for RAINS, a nearby NGO in Tamale. RAINS stands for Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems. The organization was formed in 1993 by young activists who saw development challenges in Northern Ghana and wanted to take action. At its origin, RAINS used young university students in the area to do research on these challenges, specifically, ethnic conflicts and education of children. The organization focused most prominently on women and children but has since expanded. RAINS focuses on three main programs. 1) the promotion of basic and continuing education for girls, 2) capacity building for farmers engaged in animal farming, and beekeeping. This is intended to rural communities utilize their resources, promoting their education as the program limits previous travel obligations. 3) provision of credit program that works with local banks allowing women to save and take loans, so they become more financially stable and independent. This also helps women to mobilize their internal resources for their businesses and prepare for their future.

For funding and support, RAINS collaborate with stakeholders both internationally and nationally. Foreign stakeholders include organizations from countries like the U.K., U.S.A., Canada, and Denmark. In Ghana, different sectors of the government, such as the Department of Social Welfare, Education Service, Health Service, and District Assemblies all play a major role as stakeholders. This is because the government has a mandate to deliver sustainable interventions, they have information about communities, and they have money. RAINS, as an NGO, then compliments the government.

A Visit to TibZaa Farms
After our meeting with RAINS, we came back to the hotel for a short break where we were able to relax and prepare for our meeting at the Tibzaa Farm. We met up with a panel including 1) the CEO of the farm, Sintaro, 2) Mr. Ibrahim Yurzaa Pochocho, owner of Tizaacoma Farms, and a high school mate of Prof. Iddrisu, 3) a mechanization specialist from the government, and 4) a Director of Agriculture from the government. The two highly educated farmers considered themselves colleagues and had both spent a significant amount of time in Australia. They returned to Ghana to give back to their community by helping to decrease poverty through farming.

Both farmers target women and youth in their work as they are the most vulnerable members in Ghanaian society. They do this by training them, so they can farm effectively and efficiently. Tibzaa Farms also carefully selects communities whom they want to collaborate with based on highest need. The support include: training workshops, hands-on training on the farm, provision of machines including tractors, and combined harvesters. They also provide some support for seeds and fertilizer through the banks. The farm employs members of the community to work on two crops — maze and rice — and livestock. Tibzaa provides information on marketing for the farmers to sell their produce. They can decide to sell to TibZaa or the best buyers. Excess crops are owned by the individual farmers and can be sold back to Tibzaa, sold through their local market, or kept for themselves. Mr. Ibrahim Yurzaa Pochocho provides a somewhat different approach. He’s paid back through the crops these communities generate, for every acre of support farming given, an amount of produce is charged, to be collected at harvesting. The two farmers argued as to which is the best method to alleviate poverty.

Tibzaa Farm cares about education and investing in the community. As a result, students from local high schools and universities come to the farm to do fieldwork and learn about agriculture through experiences. The farmers emphasized “hands-on learning over handouts” as it helps employees to learn and harness their skills, rather than just reading about what they can do to produce food for their communities. Tibzaa Farm also values their relationships with local farmers because as the CEO, Sintaro put it “commercial farmers succeed when local farmers succeed.” Directors of the farm educate local farmers on topics such as pesticides, crop spacing, weeding, and general care of crops. Although pesticides are available to all farmers, they are effective only when properly implemented. There are also officers from the government who travel throughout Ghana and teach locals about farming techniques.

Although colleagues, the two farmers had very different views on mechanization. Mr. Ibrahim Yurzaa Pochocho, of Tizaacoma Farms, believed poverty would increase with mechanization since it decreases jobs. The other farmer, the CEO of Tibzaa, Sintaro, believed in mechanization because it gives success to individuals and is more efficient. He stated that people who lose their jobs due to mechanization can easily be redeployed to other jobs where they can add value to society. The government officials on the panel want to expand mechanization with dreams of catching up and surpassing the United States.

After the Tibzaa Farm, we headed back to the hotel where we had a short break. Since we had a late breakfast, we decided to have an early dinner.

Maddie, Alex, and Kaya

The Pikworo Slave Camp at Paga-Nania, Jan 20

  1. Blogpost for Jan 20:

Visit to the slave camp at Pikworo.

We woke up earlier than usual in anticipation for a big day. We had an early breakfast that was supposed to be a quick stop to energize for the trip, but ended up being our usual leisurely pace. Finally we were on the road, about two hours later than expected, so really, right on time. Fast forward three and half hours and we had arrived in Pikworo Slave Camp. Upon arrival we saw three main huts and rocks as far as the eye can see. Our tour guides, Richard and Illiasu, explained that Pikworo means “place of rocks” and was named and chosen due to this unique landscape. They started the tour with an explanation of the historical significance of the camp, some background information, and preparing us for what we were going to see. The site was identified as an old Slave Camp in 1992 and brought to the attention of the Ghana Tourism Board in 2002. The founder of the camp was Bagau, who had controlled the land and transformed it into a Slave Camp without help or consent from the surrounding community. Slaves from Northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, and other nearby communities were brought to Pikworo and held for a few weeks until buyers would send them to Salaga Slave market and eventually, through Yeji to Assin Manso and then to the coast. The masters at the camp were Ghanians that were working for white men on the coast in order to provide slaves to the white buyers.

Our guides started our walking tour by taking us to the trees where the slaves were chained all day, every day, unless doing some other daily task, such as entertainment or eating a meal. It was explained to us that the camp was unique because there was always water available in the crevices of the large rocks that populate the camp. This was a very important feature because water is so scare in the area.

We were taken to the rocks where their one meal of the day was prepared and served around dusk. The females of the camp had to prepare the meal with the few resources provided by the masters, and they served the food in holes in the rock that were manually hallowed out by the slaves. The size of the holes in the rock determined how many slaves would be served out of that vessel.

The food was only enough to keep them alive, not enough to satisfy. During dinner, the masters would choose dancers and singers from each tribe to provide entertainment for the camp.

We made our way over to two large boulders that served as drums for the entertainment. When struck with other rocks, these boulders made sounds that imitate drums. The masters knew that singing and drumming could help with the stress and morale of the slaves which could in turn help their motivation to survive. Our tour guides along with other locals performed a rendition of these songs for us. Witnessing this performance was a very powerful experience and when we asked what the lyrics meant, we were surprised to learn that they were songs used to praise their masters. At this time, masters would also try to inspire the slaves by telling them that going to the coast was a special opportunity to be educated by the white men and learn skills that would make them more successful upon their return home. During discussion later on, we became convinced from analysis that the songs we heard might not have been the songs the slave used. These songs imitate the genre of “African American spirituals” that preached of hope and a day of redemption, themes that might just be superimposed on what happened at Pikworo.

Next, we visited the meeting place of the slaves where the masters stood on top of a large pile of rocks to examine the slaves below them and make their selections on who to bring with them on their multi-month march to Salaga.

We also visited the watchtower of the slave raiders. Slaves took turns occupying the tower to look over the camp and watch for runaways and slave liberators. If there was something wrong, the watch person would blow a cow horn to alert the camp.

Later, we visited the cemetery for dead slaves where the mass graves were marked with a big rock surrounded by a circle of little rocks. It was heartbreaking to see how little recognition there was for the large number of lives lost. It was common for slaves to die due to snake bites, starvation, and brutal punishments.

Our last stop was the “Rock of Fear” the so-called punishment rock where slaves sat with their hands tied behind their back and their feet crossed and chained to the rock. They were forced to watch the sun from sunrise to sunset and many lost their eyesight over the course of the day. The third punishment on the rock was almost always fatal, and all of the slaves were gathered to observe this death take place.

Being present in the location where such suffering and pain was experienced, brought about a lot of difficult and thought-provoking emotions. It was overwhelming to think about the atrocities that occurred in the very place we were standing. Everyone reacted slightly differently to this experience, but many expressed sadness, guilt, and shock. After some time for reflection, we left the camp with heavy hearts and new perspectives.

The Crocodiles at Paga

Our next stop of the day was the Chief’s Crocodile Pond in Paga. We watched the park’s workers lure the biggest crocodile out of the pond using poultry on a rope. Once the crocodile had come to land, we were able to get up close and personal, and even take some pictures. The crocodile was very calm, but most of us still found it terrifying to crouch over a live crocodile and pick up its tail.


Since we were so close to the northern border of Ghana, many of us took the opportunity to go touch the wall that separates Ghana and Burkina Faso. We had to give our passports to immigration in order to get this close to the border.

After our pit stop at the border, we started our journey back to Tamale. On our way, we stopped at a campus of the University for Development studies where Prof. Iddrisu used to work when it was the faculty for social, Political and historical studies. It is now a campus for science and technological studies, but many of Abdulai’s colleagues still work there and we were able to meet Dr. Muniru Iddrisu and Dr. Abukari Alhassan among others.

Finally, we arrived back in Tamale at night, and drove straight to pick up our nightly noodles, and headed home after a long and emotional day.

Abigail and Andrea