Visits to the Field in Navrongo and Sandema

Martin, the acting M&E officer in the Bolgatanga office, teaches a young extension agent who is interested in becoming a technical officer how to take a bearing

Please accept the following pictures of my time in the field with the Regional Monitoring and Evaluation team as a replacement for the FULL post that I really owe you…. and I’m working on, I promise.

Two members of a rural household near Navrongo, I didn’t get their names (my apologies). Madame was very proud that MoFA used their fields to measure the state of agriculture in the region.

In another nearby area, we witnessed further evidence of the collapse of homes due to the heavy rains in August. The districts we visited were some of the worst hit by flooding in the region. In the background are two grain silos.

The early millet produced from the 6×6 plot cut from the same house is pitiful. This is every stalk in the area, and it only weighs 1kg. I would say that this level of crop failure is much worse than the average farmer, but not a rare occurrence across the region.

This time of the year farmers burn the grasses around their homes  and along  commonly used pathways for fear of snakes and scorpions. My friend Justa, a nurse’s aid in Tongo, killed a cobra and a scorpion in her yard last night. The health centre where she works is currently out of anti-venom, but people regularly arrive with bites and must be transported 15miles to Bolga for treatment in the ambulance. I can understand why she is thinking about burning the brush near her house.

Unfortunately, the burning often goes out of control and causes the destruction of property, income generating trees (mango) and dry season crops. The frequent bush fires severely reduce the fertility of the soil. Other countries in the region (Burkina Faso, Togo) control bush fires through strict policing, but Ghana has not taken significant measures.

Akaanmami ADEM is a small scale livestock farmer in the Builsa District. His name means, ” If I can’t give, you should not blame me. ” yet he gave us a very active chicken as a thank you for coming to his farm. It is worth over 3GHC in the market at present – which is enough money to fuel my motorbike for three days of riding.

Sorghum yields are low, Mr. ADEM is lucky to have heads on these plants that are heavy enough to be bending in the wind. Many sorghum plants in the region didn’t produce grain because the rains washed all of the pollen out of the flowers during the day when they are open.

Here we are husking maize to get the production from the 6×6 plot. I lost a bet on the weight, guessing 6.1kg when the result was 12kg. I should know better than to bet against agric. staff at this point, although no one else guessed close. I consistently lose, particularly when predicting distances. This farmer did much better than average in terms of his yield, and is very familiar with MoFA’s programs.

When measuring the rice plots (rice was one of the crops that did well in areas where the water level didn’t drown the plants ) we came upon some women threshing rice. We would beat the stalks and then turn the pile and continue, until the grains all fell to tohe bottom. Then we winnowed the grain.

It really didn’t take long for me to get some serious blisters, and I got chaff in my eye while winnowing. I swear that my technique got better than this!

Until next time…

oh yeah – and here is my motorbike!

🙂 My friends tell me that when a woman gets a machine, you should call it her new husband. All I can say is that my new man has power to burn. We are in the rocky early stages of our relationship, but there is hope for the future… and I have a good helmet.



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6 responses to “Visits to the Field in Navrongo and Sandema

  1. Hey Sarah,

    Nice pics! The grain silos are really interesting. How are they built? It looks like they are raised off the ground on some kind of platform. Was a lot of stored grain lost in the rains? I notice you’re wearing jeans in one of the pictures. What’s the culture around women wearing trousers in Ghana?


  2. sarahlewis

    Hey Yaacov,

    These are an improved type of silos as compared to the ones in my area. I’m not sure if, now that I think about it, they were the product of an NGO project, or if they have a different way of making them in this area. I did notice that poultry really like to hide underneath these particular silos, it must be a comfortable environment for them; which could be because of the tight space as much as the temperature.

    House construction varies quite a bit from one district to another. The region’s population is around 930 000, but there are 5 culture groups with major differences, and, in addition, several variations of most of those. I believe, but haven’t verified, that it also has an impact on loan repayment rates in different areas (difference in management styles in the district offices also a big factor)

    In my family compound, the silos are solidly attached to the ground, sometimes with a few holes 3/4 of the way up for additional ventilation. I can tell you from personal experience that the damp weather caused my family’s early millet harvest to get mouldy. Many families removed the grain and tried to dry it in between rain showers to keep it from moulding with mixed results.

    In our case it wasn’t lost, just caused some less than normal tasting food. They say with Tuo zafi (TZ is a stiff millet porridge) all the flavour is in the soup – but man, sometimes the grain makes a difference too. Seriously though, grain prices are rising like crazy, the price of a bag of maize has more than doubled over last year in some areas, and if it is salvageable, it won’t be wasted.

    Note the picture of women threshing rice for the answer to the trouser question. In the village women wear both skirts and trousers, but it’s usually younger women who prefer trou. When doing real fieldwork, female MoFA staff often wear trousers, and recommend it. It’s logistically difficult to drive a motorbike over rough terrain otherwise. 😉


  4. Hi,
    My name is Mike Hortens. I work for It’s About Time Publishing in Armonk, New York, USA. We produce math and science textbooks for the American middle school market. Currently we are producing a science textbook. We saw your photo #Threshing_sm.JPG of women and men threshing rice on this website. We would like to get usage rights to this photo. The image would appear no larger than 1/4 page on an interior page of the book. We are working under a low photo budget and would like to use the photo for free or for a modest fee. We would credit you within the book in any event. Since we are trying to bring this book to press shortly, I would appreciate hearing from you at your earliest convenience. Yours truly, Mike Hortens

  5. you seem to be having too much fun there (smile). i am ready to come there also. thanks for the pictures.

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