Day 1 in Garu Region

July 6 – Day 1 in Garu Region
Reflection – Annie Nottingham

We arrived in the village of Bulpiesi to visit the Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS), which are fields in which the women farmers in the community utilize the training taught to them by the Community Based Extension Agents (CBEA) who learn the new farming techniques and technologies from Care training.

We met the women farmers and they explained they would be planting soybeans today. First a woman measured out 200g of inoculant to mix with water and the seeds into an empty gasoline container. After the seeds and inoculant were thoroughly mixed, she spread out the seeds on a tarp in the shade to dry. Then we watched them make divots in the soil with what looked like long walking sticks.

After they finished making divots in one row of soil it was Parker’s, Emma’s, Lex’s, Thomas’, Ellie’s, and my turn to give it a try. The women instructed us to place the divots about 10 cm apart and to pound our sticks hard in the ground. We all tried for a few seconds and quickly realized that we seriously lacked the proper divoting technique.

Watching our efforts, the women could not hold in their laughter and rushed over to help us with the task. Their help was much needed, and we graciously thanked them. The speed and accuracy with which the women made the holes was incredible.

Next we grabbed a bowl of seeds and were instructed to place two seeds in each hole and then step on the hole to cover it with soil. This task we got the hang of quicker, but our performance still paled in comparison to the women farmers from the community performing the same task as us at the time. Even after planting one row of soybeans my back ached, and the next day my legs were sore!

After we finished the planting we stood in the shade and listened to Giftee, a CBEA. Through a translator we learned that the community members had adopted the CARE instructed techniques such as allowing adequate spacing in the rows between seeds, using inoculants to speed plant growth, and preparing the fields before planting. Giftee explained that she worked as a CBEA as an act of service for her community, and because she wanted her people to be healthy and nourished.

We thanked Giftee and the other farmers for their time by shaking their hands and exclaiming, “Tpoussia!” meaning “Thank you!” in their language. With a newfound awe and appreciation for the work the women tirelessly endure day in and day out, we moved on to our next activity: the gender dialogue.

Elmira Castle – A Holding Prison for Slaves

Reflection by Lex Trevelino
Elmira Castle – A Holding Prison for Slaves

Today we visited the Elmina Slave Castle on what is known as the Gold Coast of Ghana. As we got off the bus we were swarmed by locals asking our names and trying to sell us their “one of a kind” artwork, but once we got through the doorway of the castle the hagglers left us alone. Our tour guide hadn’t arrived yet so we waited in the first Portuguese church, which has been converted into a museum. Here are a few facts that I remember: The Castle was built in 1482 when the Portuguese arrived looking to trade. At first they traded gold and salt with the locals. Then it shifted to the slave trade and the castle was transformed into a dungeon to hold the slaves before they were put on the boats and trafficked around the world. In the 1670’s the Dutch took over the castle and the trade. Our guide pointed out to us the red bricks were used by the Portuguese and the Dutch used yellow bricks. The British took over after the Dutch until Ghana earned its independence in 1957.

First we went to the Women’s Slave Dungeon. Our guide explained to us how the Governor would choose women to use, how the guards would clean the women with the well-water and walk them up to the governors rooms. Afterwards the women would just get thrown back into the dungeon.
He said the Europeans would force 150 people into dungeon cells not much bigger than a school bus. We went into another cell that had rags and chains on the ground. Our guide explained to us that last year 48 Africans from all over the continent put themselves in this cell to be able to relate to the hardships the slaves endured. They stripped down and covered themselves with only the rags and chained themselves just like the slaves. They stayed in there for 12 hours and experienced only a small taste of the terrible conditions of the cell in the past, which included the accumulation of urine, feces, and vomit.

Next we visited the Room of No Return – this was the room where slaves would go to board the boats that would take them to the large ships. Our guide told us something very moving: that in slavery every stage was worse than the one before. The boats were far worse than the dungeons at the castle. Our guide quoted one captain saying they put slaves on the boats like books on a bookshelf. No space was to be wasted. Also the slaves were chained together and more often than not they would be chained to a dead corpse. The lack of space, food, and water is what lead to nearly half of the slaves on board dying. Pregnancies were also very common aboard the boats. The horror mothers endured was terrible.

Our guide then took us to a smaller cell and locked us in. This was the cell Europeans were thrown into when they got too drunk. It was considerably nicer than the ones for the slaves. Right next to it was the dungeon where they would kill slaves. They shut them into the room with no food, no water, no light and would starve them to death.

The castle was very moving and it was very frightening to imagine what these people must have been through. Words can not accurately describe it. It hard to imagine that approximately 500 slaves were taken each month from this Castle for over 300 years. That’s around 1,800,000 people. It’s simply astonishing that this practice endured for so long. Our guide ended the tour by asking each of us to take action in our daily lives to ensure that no such tragedy happens again.

A Day at the Artists Alliance

We made it to the Artists Alliance and it was so well worth it – three floors of incredible art and crafts showcasing mostly works by Ghanan artists. Vibrant and beautiful. Also saw a few examples of the famous “fantasy coffins” from the Kane Kwei Carpentery Workshop – the style emerged in Ghana in the 1950’s. Highlights were the works of Prof. Ablade Glover, Nyarko Kwabena and Betty Acquah.


We’ve landed!

And we are in Ghana 🇬🇭🇬🇭! Smooth 10 hour flight from JFK after a 4 hour weather delay. All is good and we are happy to be here. Trying to get a taxi to the Artists Alliance Gallery – wish us luck!