Project Overview

Engineers Without Borders' work is capable of widespread impact in Ghana. We started off based in only a few of the nation's 107 regional districts; learning the out-in-the-field realities and building tools to address them.
We are now scaling up proven, effective approaches to infrastructure development from a small number of districts, to a national level. Specifically, we are institutionalizing evidence-based infrastructure planning at the district, regional and national levels. To ensure we have an enduring impact, EWB is building the capacity of district staff to manage and execute these evidence based decisions, teaching these skills to the Ghanains who are best able to implement them from their positions as managers and field experts.

September 13, 2010

Sam's Question

Thanks for the not only large but also numerically mirrored donation Sam!

I was surprised at what I learned in response to your question “What is the going rate for a wife in terms of livestock? Do transactions really go on like TV has led me to believe?”.

The short answer is four cows, the long answer is below.

The long answer requires some context. Before I came to Ghana I didn’t really believe that 52 different local languages could be spoken in such a small country, so I assumed that linguists were just getting a little crazy with naming languages as separate. I’ve found that there really is an enormous # of sub-cultures here. The traditional history of the country is defined by groups of many small tribes.

For example, I live in the district of W. Mamprusi, and the Mampruli people here speak a different language and have very different cultural norms for some things than the next group of tribes 70kms away. For example, men here, and just north of here, will have as many wives as they can afford, but that is not the case a little ways to the west. The Mampruli have only been in the area for a few hundred years, and their language and customs are quite different than from surrounding areas. Each tribal area has distinct traditional customs; which is all to say, each area has different engagement and marriage rites and rules.

The Fulani are a group near here that have a lot of cattle. My neighbor reports that before marriage, a man must give his future father-in-law four cows, no matter the wealth, beauty, education etc. of his bride-to-be. He also said that if the father-in-law likes you a lot, and wants you to marry his daughter, or if you are very poor, the father might agree to receive as little as one fowl (chicken). He reports that when a Fulani father accepts the livestock, the daughter is basically contractually bound to marry.

In W. Mamprusi you would visit your future fiancé’s father’s compound of huts with a group of family and friends and enough soda-pop and kola nuts to share with everyone while generally letting them know you intend to marry their daughter. They might generally agree or disagree, and the parents can direct the daughter on whether or not to get married, but they can’t agree on her behalf. Kola nuts are apparently not very delicious, and not all that expensive, but they are a traditional food to share at any important discussion. The soda-pop is a new addition to the traditional ritual! Coca-cola is the DeBeers of the Mampruli.

September 9, 2010

"You are welcome"

"You are very welcome" is a phrase everyone hears alot of around here.
Anytime someone enters a room they are greeted with a warm 'you are welcome' and meeting people usually involves a heartfelt 'you are very welcome here'. So I have been welcomed many times in my new temporary home.

I am currently in the village of Walewale, a small town about 100 kms outside of Ghana's big city of the North, Tamale.

The buildings looks exactly like you'd imagine. Along the highway little shacks support just about any business you can imagine in a chaos of traffic of all types and sizes.

Buses, transport trucks, shiny NGO pickups, overloaded taxis, donkey carts, motorcycles, cyclists, and pedestrians with absurdly large loads on their heads all compete for road space. The bigger you are, the more priority you get.

Off the highway mud huts circle to form compounds. Children of like ages run around alternately helping their parents when requested and otherwise getting into as much trouble as possible.

Tucked in the heart of the village off the road is the family I am living with. The man of the house, Salifu, is the district water and sanitation engineer, so I basically don't stop bouncing ideas off him when he is home. His wife Agata (Ah-gah-ta) has taken me on as her Canadian sister, even going so far as to say the neighbors are mistaking us for each other. I do love my Ghanain sister, but I think the neighbors may be a little short sighted.

Agata promises that Jason will be very happy when I am returning, because I will be a good cook. She is pretty shocked at what I don't know, like how to make Fufu, the most basic dish of boiled maize flour made into a paste. For my part, I'm hoping to come home with some mad cooking skills, and I'm very happy cooking with Agata in the evening after work.

Even when Agata is cooking, she is taking care of the gaggle of children in the family home. Her oldest daughter Julie-Anna is 17 years old, and about to start the final year of high school. Like most new Moms, Julie is more than a little tired, but her two month old baby Malick is happy and healthy.

Agata's brother's nephew Aquesee will come back from the remote village he lives in to go to school here in Walewale. Alahssam and Fushina are two 5 yr. old twins, who are most easily told apart because Fushina refuses to keep her dress on in the heat of the day.

Agata's last child is called Junior, and at two years old he definately rules the roost.

September 1, 2010

Carol's Question

First, let me apologize for not posting more! I'm currently in a small town in northern Ghana named Walewale. The internet connectivity has left alot to be desired so, with Jason's help, I'm trying to get pictures and videos uploaded. Please be patient- they're coming!

Carol's question:

My first year university room-mate and friend Carol Wai donated to my EWB fundraising campaign and asked the first question about Ghana. First of all thank you for your donation Carol, it means the world to me to see the impact we're having able to continue. I'm sure it won't be much of a stretch for you to imagine me being in a new environment, not knowing what to wear, or even how to order a coffee.

Here is what I learned in response to her question "What does a Ghanaian think of then they hear Canada?".:

First I asked a young boy yelling "foreigner!" at me in his local language. His response: "I don't know, what is Canada? Give me Canada! Give me Canada! " (fair enough I guess, ask any young boy in Canada about Ghana....)

Then I asked my''sister'', the woman of the house in the family I am staying with. Her reply: "I think you are from Canada. Tom is also from Canada." (Tom is a previous EWB volunteer)

I thought a university student might know, so I asked one: University student: "I think it is far away." (Further probing questions got no more info. This is how far rote learning goes.)

Of course the supreme chief's primary son had an interesting response. He asked back: "Do you have machine or hand weeding of maize (corn) in Canada?"
***I had no idea - do we even weed corn fields in Canada? can anyone answer this for me?***
(He then wanted to know if we have traditional chiefs in Canada to which I said yes, and then whether my chief was a good chief, which he further defined as being a very wealthy chief like his father. He didn't really believe that I didn't know how wealthy my traditional chief was, and explaining that I was traditionally Irish didn't clarfiy matters at all.)

Last of all I was speaking to politician from Ghana's capital who was visiting Walewale (the village that I am currently in) for his sister's funeral, and this was his response:
"I think the best NGOs are from Canada. They are the most effective and the best are helping all of Africa more than any country, because they have the most and the best NGOs. I think soon Canada is the best country in the world and everyone is wanting to go to that country. What can you do for my constituents?"

(I was super-excited to ask this guy, because he would actually know a little about Canada, but I guess a politician is a politician anywhere. Its worth noting that China is providing by far the most funding, and who has the best strategy could be debated late into the night.)