Sunday, July 22, 2007

Living with Royalty...

With just one month left in Ghana, I’ve realized how much there is still to do and so little time! This weekend, I’ve been lucky to have some excellent family bonding time.

Aye yo eloto! (Let’s go to farm!)

This morning was definitely the highlight of my week. As the heading suggests, we went to farm! Luckily it rained last night so the sky was cloudy and the weather quite cool.

Around 9 a.m., I hopped on the back of my bicycle and Somah peddled us the 2 miles to today’s task – bean planting!

Here, unlike Canada where farms look like the solid-colour building blocks you find in a kindergarten classroom, it’s often hard to distinguish between a farm and the bush. My family farms a number of crops on separate chunks of land sprinkled along the road leading to Kafaba. On the way to our destination (the yam and cassava farm), we passed their teak tree/mango/cashew farm, their ground nut (peanut) farm, their maize farm, and the place where their cattle are kept. It seemed like every two minutes of the ride I’d hear “this one is ours” coming from the front of the bicycle. I’m excited to sit down with Zet and draw out a map of all their farms to get a clear picture of all of it! Hopefully I'll be able to share that next time with a few more thoughts about all these different crops...

The bean planting process is fairly straight-forward: make a hole in the mound with a big stick, throw in two beans, cover the hole. “Make a hole in the ‘mound’?” I hear some people asking. Yep, yams and cassava are planted in mounds to give more room to the roots and, consequently, get bigger yams and cassavas. The yams plants produce one yam per mound, but the cassava plants (which look like little trees) can get as many as five cassavas per mound. The mounds are often home to more than just a yam or cassava plant and also host one or two maize plants, okra, ground nut, or… beans!

With many helping hands, the work didn’t take too long to complete and we were back home by 12:30. Photos posted here:


Today was also snippets of a family history lesson. Apparently, my family’s ancestors were originally from Kafaba (the place where I did my village stay) and were the first people to settle in Salaga. They’re also royalty… Zet is the son of the former Somahwura and I’ve been told that the Somahwura is second in rank after the Kafabawura, one of the bigger chiefs in Gonja land.

Traditional authorities (chiefs and queen mothers) are still an integral part of society in Ghana. When spending time in a village, it’s always a good idea to greet the wura (the chief) and present a gift of kola nuts or bread. In addition to many other responsibilities, the chiefs hold control of the land so if you want to start a farm or build a house, you must ask for land from the chief before anything else.

The Yagbonwura, King of Gonja land, stays in Damongo, West Gonja. Endawura Jakpa (sp?) was the fierce warrior who led the Gonjas from Mali to Ghana… kind of like the George Washington of Gonja land. It’s been said that every time he conquered an area and got that extra bit of land, he left one of his sons to be chief of that area. The chieftaincy system of the Gonjas is quite complex. I don’t know all the details but the seat of the Yagbonwura basically rotates through four or five gates, the gates being the main chiefs of Gonja land based on where Endawura Jakpa’s sons settled. Each of these gates has its own system of rotating between clans and, within those clans, there’s a ranking system that people must climb to reach any significant chieftaincy.

One of these gates is in Kpembe, a village just a quick bike ride from Salaga, and the current Yagbonwura is actually from the Kpembe gate. One of my good friends, Braimah, is the grandson of Yagbonwura Timu I, the Kpembe Yagbonwura from 1983 to 1987. Timu I had nine wives and 47 children! Talk about family connections everywhere you go!

Another family bonding activity this weekend has been some mini computer lessons I’m doing with my siblings. Apparently the government wants to open an IT training centre/internet café in all the district capitals. Hopefully the next blog entry will feature some guest writers with a story or two…


gien said...

Now we're getting the meat and juice of your JF in Salaga. Keep up the pressure despite the time restraints ;-)

phangchi said...

I am most impressed by your blog, your work and you especially. this experience will surely stand you in great stead for the future years to come.

take care and lotsa love.

Your Great Aunt Pearl from Singapore