Thursday, December 1, 2011

Farmers Day in Ghana

The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Tomorrow, December 2, is a national holiday in Ghana, Farmers Day. The country honors its citizens who produce the food and honors one as the Farmer of the Year. I am told the presentation is on national television and the winner is recognized with a commendation from the Government and many gifts.

I live in a village made up almost entirely of farming families in one of the most productive farming region in Ghana. Farming is not heavily mechanized, but made up of many small farms tended with care, mostly by hand. A wide variety of crops are raised just in my area; cassavas, corn, plantains, cashews, mangoes, pineapples, yams, beans, okra, oranges, peanuts, tomatoes, green and red hot peppers, cocoa, carrots, and more. Many of the children in my classes, if not in school are helping their parents on the farm. Like most farmers I have met, they are industrious, hard working, and are grateful for the crops they tend. This is the end of a shorter, second growing season, as the rains have recently stopped and we are entering the dry season that I am told lasts until March. It has turned hot during the middle of the day and the wind from the northeast, called the Hamattan, bringing dust from the Sahara has begun.
A fifteen minute car ride from the village where I live is the largest outdoor food market in all of Ghana. Thursday is the main market day and it is filled with vendors of all types of foods, cloth, clothing, hardware, household items, and almost any item you can imagine. If you like to browse and bargain, this is the place for you. It can be hot and dusty, with no AC, wide aisles to push a cart, or check out stations. It is all I imagined of an African market.
The picture above is the beginning of my garden. Not in the running for the Farmer of the Year this year. The dead leaves you see, tucked into a large plastic bag full of dirt is Vetiver Grass. This grass has been used extensively in certain parts of the world to slow down soil erosion and the Peace Corps supplied me with the grass. The school where I teach has already experienced some damage to the foundation due to erosion and the Headmaster has allowed me to plant a test patch on my back porch to decide if he will approve some planting at the beginning of the rainy season, March. My crop is on the porch to hopefully keep the free range goats and sheep from eating it. I have to remember to water during the dry season, but I am told the grass is very hardy, will grow in almost any soil, and can withstand a dry season. My neighbors think I am a "crazy man" growing some thing you cannot eat. However, the caretaker of the house is interested in joining with me to grow some tomatoes, peppers, and pineapples in this manner. Farmer of the Year??

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