Northern Region Summary

Saturday, November 04, 2006

By Melissa Rick

From Monday to Monday sixteen students, Professor Groenhout, her kids, Samuel, and our driver Robert went to the Northern Region.  Northern Ghana has a mystic element about it.  Most of the Southern Ghanaians I have met have never traveled to the Northern Region.  Stereotypes and generalizations about the North and Northern people permeate discussions and assumptions.  1,820,000 people live in the Northern Region, a small percentage of the 21 million population of Ghana.  Of this number 305,000 live in Tamale.  70% of the economy is agricultural and Islam is the dominant religion.  The average yearly income is around $100 US dollars. 
We drove by villages comprised of round clay huts with patched roofs.  Groups of compound houses would make up the small village.  Compound houses are separate huts formed in a circle with a courtyard in the middle.  One hut will be the kitchen, one for the male, one for each wife (polygamy is legal and practiced in Ghana especially in the North), and then an entrance hut. 
After a twelve hour bus ride we arrived for our first night in Tamale.  We spent most of our nights at TICCS (the Tamale Center for Cultural Studies) as we traveled around the surrounding areas during the day.  Perhaps my favorite part of the trip was renting old-rusty-barely-working-metal-bikes in Tamale.  Tamale has few cars and most people get around the relatively small city on bikes.  It was accelerating weaving past motor bikes, pedestrians, stalls, and other bikers on wobbly bikes.  The bike tour was a great way to see and experience the city. 
We also visited World Vision’s Northern office.  World Vision is focused on providing clean water for different villages in the North.  They function as an amazingly efficient NGO that wants communities to build sustainable projects that the community can maintain without assistance from World Vision. 
Another day we visited a crocodile pond.  The members of the village that surrounds this pond have their entire lives wrapped up in the existence of the crocodiles.  The crocodiles even lay their eggs in people’s homes.  For the tourists (us), the villagers coaxed a large crocodile out of the pond with a squawking live chicken.  The crocodile stayed stationary with its jaws open toward the chicken while our group sat on its back and took pictures.  Finally they handed the chicken over to the mouth of the crocodile and he consumed it in a few bites then slide back into the water. 
One night we stayed over in Yendi, which is the second largest “city” in the Northern Region.  While there, we saw another NGO, BIRDS and visited women in a collective.  The collective makes shea butter and sells it to make profit. 
That night we were treated to a Gonji Performance inside the courtyard of a more modern compound house.  The courtyard was packed with gonji players, women, and at least a hundred children.  The gonji is a traditional guitar like instrument that has almost a moaning type sound.  The performance was fun and at one point we each had to dance by ourselves or with one other person in the courtyard (embarrassing). 
Another highlight of the Northern Region Trip was Mole National Park.  The Park is a reserve for African animals.  We stayed at a hotel (with a pool!) at the park.  The hotel overlooks a watering hole and we watched warthogs, elephants, and birds enjoy the water.  In the morning we went on a nature hike through the park to see animals.  However, when we woke up we were surprised to find an elephant inches away from our hotel rooms!  On the nature walk we found two more elephants drinking water and sat and soaked up their majestic entertainment for a while. 

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