VWB/VSF Student Project: Ghana

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas in Ghana

I am back in Ghana for the holiday time:) It is great to be here during the hamartime season-things are very different. it is very dry. It definitely feels like sub-saharan Africa right now! Even on the motorbike this morning the sand and wind just whips into your eyes.
I am here trying to obtain the final information needed for the proposal for CIDA. It is interesting to be here during the holidays. Ghanaians sure love their holidays! There is a lot of drinking and eating and visiting. The social culture is very rich here. Everyone has been taking wonderful care of me (too much:)) lol
I was even spoilt to have a christmas goat prepared for me next to a lake and a boat ride in a fishing canoe. The entire time was spent with many curious villagers as well. What a great time. Those village kids sure can dance! I saw some amazing moves. It was a great christmas.
I am still trying to get out to the villages, with the holidays and vehicle problems it has proven to be a bit tricky, but hey, it is Africa isn't it? I hope to get out to the villages today, I am just waiting to hear about the condition of the vehicle we were suppose to go out there in, Yesterday on the way, it began smoking so we had to pull over abruptly and disconnect the battery. Hopefully it will be fixed today. I am looking forward to seeing the villagers again.
I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday and I wish you all a Happy New Year!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Steve and his new friend

Village Meeting

Just a normal day in the village with the friendly villagers and their birds:)

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Peaceful Ghanians

How the time has flown...it is sad...my time in Ghana is quickly coming to an end! I already know how much I miss this place and how I want to return:)
This Upper West region is very special, the people and the villagers are unique. They are honest, accepting, non-judgemental, peaceful and accepting. I have not yet heard a Ghanian say that someone "should" be a certain way other than what they are, they are accepted for who they are. As well, Ghanians seem to have been born with excellent conflict resolution skills, I still have not figured out exactly how they do it but I am trying to learn:)
As for the project we are wrapping things up. The next bit will consist of trying to get the local vet representative out to the villages to vaccinate. Some of the villages have never met their representative so this is quite significant. Steve and I will both go to our chosen village and stay for a few days so that we can truly experience villlage life.
We have just returned from a trip to Kumasi, the commercial capital and it made me so happy to come back to Wa:)
I must go and tether my goats (I have 5 now) and feed my chickens and guinea fowl:) Of course, it is sunny and gorgeous outside and the watchman for my place is sowing peanuts by hand (ground nuts here) outside my window.
Until next time....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

African Life

Stopped to buy charcoal by the side of the road and the kids did not mind if i took a picture.

Plowing in Africa

A common sight in the villages, either using oxen to plow or doing it by hand under the hot African sun.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Adventurs in Paga


July 10th, 2010 is a day I may never forget. We drove out to Paga, a town in northern Ghana that borders Burkina Faso. The town is known for its sacred crocodile ponds that claim to have tame crocs. They believe in this so faithfully that their attraction is to entice a croc out of the water and then allow visitors to sit on top of it. This is exactly what we did - and got some great pictures and video to document it all. The second main attraction of Paga is the slave camps. This village served as a middle point for slaves captured from the northern region that would be later shipped down to the coast for oversea transport. A guide took us around the camp and showed us where they were shackled, fed, punished and sometimes buried. Locals performed ritual drumming on the rocks - the only source of entertainment and celebration for the slaves. It was difficult to see but important to remember the low points of humanity.

Our efforts to cross the border into Burkina Faso on the drive back were spoiled by the high costs of a visa. It was still exciting to see a small part of the neighboring country and speak a small bit of french with some locals. To say the roads from Wa to Paga are bad is an understatement. On the way back home I hit a very large pot hole which blew both of the drivers side tires. Fortunately no one was harmed, but we were left in a predicament. We were still about an hour outside of Wa just outside a small village called Sabuli. With no CAA to call we were at the mercy of strangers. Luckily we are in Ghana where people are always more than willing to help. In minutes there were 20 people around helping us. With help we managed to jack up the car with stones and remove both tires. We waited until a friend we contacted in Wa was able to pick us up. To our surprise he was able to track down two spare tires. About 5 hours later we made it back to Wa safe and sound. I am truly grateful to all the individuals who went out of their way to help people they just met.

It is now my final week in Wa. There are lots of loose strings to wrap up, including preparing the samples to come back to Canada. This week we will also be traveling to Kumasi with the regional director of veterinary services to visit a guinea fowl production system. After that I will be saying good bye to all the friends I have made here. I will then have a couple weeks to see the country and then back home to Canada. Time is getting very short and I am amazed at how fast it has gone.

All the best,


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lengthy Update


Please excuse the long delay between posts, long days at work followed by festivities surrounding the world cup and weekend excursions have kept me busy. There is also the matter of a varying internet connection. In regards to the project, everything is running smoothly as we are starting to see how it may develop in the future. As this is a pilot project our main goal is to get an idea of how it can expand. We need to take into consideration the goals of VWB, the needs and wants of the villagers as well as the feasibility of it all. This past week has been spent having general meetings with the villagers to figure out exactly that. We presented them with different ideas on how to improve their guinea fowl production and we then get their input on what they think may work and what not. Besides identification and treatment of disease their main wishes are to improve the housing and feeding of their guinea fowl.

The farmers are very willing to work with us and upon every visit I am informed upon the importance of guinea fowl to them and their families. Guinea Fowl is a type of insurance for a family. When difficult times come, such as illness, school fees, holidays, the bird is sold in order to pay. Improving their facilities and means to rear goes far beyond helping the animals; the significance of poultry is tied in with the success of the entire village. It has been very exciting to be a part of this project. It has given me a whole new appreciation into the work involved with sustainable development. I am very hopefully this project will continue on in the future as the well being of the people is strongly linked to the well being of the birds. It will be some time until we are capable of determining the cause of deaths. Samples will need to be shipped to Canada for proper analysis. I am hoping that we are able to determine the cause and recommend proper treatment or vaccination.

In other news I have been really enjoying following the World Cup. The Black Stars have been doing tremendously well, clinching a spot in the Quarter Finals, representing the whole of Africa. I was quick to dawn a Black Stars jersey which always enthuses the locals. We have made weekend trips to the Kintampo Waterfalls and Mole National park. Both were incredible and highly recommended to any travelling Ghana. We were able to stand 20m from wild African elephants, something I will never forget. We have also been inserting ourselves into the culture. We had the opportunity to attend a local funeral; a 3-day outdoor event filled with mourning and celebration. The end of the funeral was celebrated with cultural displays where I had the opportunity to dance and play drums in front of 300 people. I am now known as the dancing/drumming white man in the village of Charia. I hope to spend a couple days in this village before leaving as they have been very welcoming.

I regret not keeping up with my posts as I know I am forgetting more stories. I also wish the internet speed was quicker so I could post video and pictures. Please keep reading as I will better document my last two weeks in Wa. After that I will have some time to travel Ghana where I hope to visit the famous Cape Coast and also try some surfing on Busua Beach. I hope everyone back home is enjoying the summer. I encourage you all to cheer on the Black Stars tomorrow evening as they take on Uruguay. I have also adopted a puppy from a village which who had lost its mother and was struggling. I am working to nurse it back to health and if all goes well he may be following me back to Canada!

All the best,

Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup Ghana:)

It is World Cup fever here in Ghana! What a great time to be here. The village meetings arecoming to an end over the next few weeks and the realization that I will be heading back to Canada soon is shocking! I love it here and the time spent in the villages has been incredible. Most of the people here I have spoken to have never left the borders of Ghana but they are so friendly and accomodating.
This last weekend I spent in a neighbouring village where there was a funeral for one of the grandfathers. It was a whole three day event with mourning and celebrations. The grandchildren went around mimicking the old man. It was an unforgettable experience. One of the hosts was my sister here, Priscilla, and she fed over 200 people herself with using fires outside to cook. Truly incredible. The family unit here is the center of everything, and everyone is your sister, brother or auntie. it makes me think of how much we have lost the significance of our family units at home. Ghanians remind me of what is reallt important in life: family, working together, good food, laughter and love.
I hope that the project proposal that we will contribute to here will be successfull and continue on as a sustainable project for the villagers here. The guinea fowl and the chickens are so important to the villagers, if they need money for school fees or a hospital visit or for visitors or funerals it is the poultry that they count on.
I am off to enjoy a cold Ghanian beer while enjoying the heat:)

P.S. Looking forward to the next Ghanian game;) GO GHANA!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Village Meetings

I am absolutely loving the villages! We have meetings each morning at a different village and things have been going so well. The villagers are so friendly and helpful and our research is progressing. We have had some good submissions and have been busy with necropsies of the guuinea fowl and chickens. There are animals just everywhere here so I am in heaven. Tomorrow afternoon we are going to a rural local market so I may just come home with a new, very cute pygmy goat!! LOL We will be buying some birds from the market for sample submissions. Our work here is so interesting as the mortality is really unknown and farmers talk of losing all of their birds when this disease hits each year. They use the birds here to sell them or their eggs when they need money, for example, when a relative is in the hospital or they need school fees so their birds are very important to them! I sure hope we will be able to help.
I am off to hang out with some locals!
Ghana is great, the weather wonderful and the people so very kind.

Accra market

Enjoying a refreshing drink of coconut milk at the Accra Market

Monday, May 31, 2010

Welcome to Ghana

Wachiau Hippo Sanctuary

We made plans to spend the weekend at the Wachiau Hippo Sanctuary. It is about an hour drive from Wa. Early Saturday morning we received a call from one of our contacts regarding some sick guinea fowl. So after driving out to the village and performing the necropsies we were ready to head out. We arrived in Wachiau at 2:30 pm. While we were registering with the tour guides in came a massive storm which grounded us for over an hour. We were then able to drive out to the sanctuary, another 30 min drive on bumpy roads. The sanctuary is a protected stretch of land spanning 40 km along the Black Volta River which runs through Ghana, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast. A partnership with the Calgary Zoo accounts for most of the funding but the sanctuary itself is run by the local community. We unpacked our things while waiting to see if we could still go out on a river safari. Luckily the rain had stopped and the guides thought it to be a nice time to go out.

We set sail at 5 pm. Our vessel was a sturdy wooden canoe and our driver was a young deaf man whose ability to paddle for nearly 2 hours straight still amazes me. The scenery was breathtaking. Miles and miles of lush tropical bush with the sun touching down in the background. We paddled in complete silence, only hearing the gentle flow of the river and the symphony of wildlife surrounding us. We travelled for over an hour with no hippos in sight. We passed by local fisherman who kept saying the hippos were just a bit farther. Hippos are unsocial animals that try to escape noise and are said to be able to swim faster than a horse runs on land, explaining the nickname 'water horse.' Just as we thought we might need to turn back, with the sun nearly set and the rain gently falling, we saw in the distance what appeared to be a small school of hippos. What we first thought to be a group of rocks suddenly blew water into the air and made an impressive grunt which echoed through the bush. We had found them! A school of seven hippos. We paddled a little closer and set our boat along the banks. We were able to see them yawn and play and emerge from the water. They are giant and impressive animals, being the second largest land animal only behind the elephant. We sat for about 20 minutes, watching, in complete awe of their presence. It was amazing to see them in their natural habitat, completely undisturbed. After that we made our way back to the docking point. We paddled in complete darkness, with a sort of eerie tranquility.

We returned to camp and cooked our food over a small charcoal stove and were told local tales by our tour guide. It was a great experience and I hope to return before we leave. Next time we hope to sleep on the 'hippo hide', a tree fort that overlooks the river which unfortunately because of the weather was not an option this time. I took some great video which, due to the internet connection, will have to wait until august to be posted.

I am really starting to settle into the African lifestyle - I have made some great new friends, tried some exotic foods, chased lizards out of my room, and am riddled with bites from all sorts of insects. The time is rushing by and I can't wait to set out on another adventure soon.

All the best,


Friday, May 28, 2010

Getting set up

Ansoma (Good morning),

Since I last wrote our supervisors have made their way back to Canada. We are now working out our systems for the disease surveillance part of the project. We have been out to each village and had meetings with the farmers. They are very interested in the project and are happy to have us work with them. Our village contacts have been great; calling us when they find sick birds for us to pick up and necropsy. So far it seems as if we came at the right time as mortalities are increasing. We are getting good samples and are hoping they will help lead us to a diagnosis.

The village visits are my favorite part of the trip so far. The people are very friendly and are quick to find us a place to sit and serve us 'peto' - a local homemade brew that is drunk out of a hallow gourd halve. The children are always very excited to see us yelling 'Ensala (white man), how are you today?'. Simple gestures such as holding their hand, kicking around a football, or teaching them how to play 'tic-tac-toe' in the sand is all that is needed to put a great big smile on their face. I hope to be able to spend some extended time in the villages in order to better get to know the people. Our office and lab is set up within the Ministry of Food and Agriculture which allows us to also see any veterinary cases coming in. They have graciously allowed us to use one of their vehicles for the summer so we can drive out to villages to pick up sick birds.

For some more good news, I have tracked down a local watering hole that is close to our house. It is a small 'drinking spot' called 'Redemption's Drinking Spot' owned by Redemption and his family. He joined us for a beer and we had some great conversation. It will be a great place to sample one of Ghana's fine beers after a long days work.

All the best,


Wednesday, May 26, 2010


wow, the project is coming along quickly! Steve and I have a vehicle to use and have been driving..one thing...there are no maps! Also, no addresses and no street names! It makes things a bit challenging but the people are so helpful that you can stop and ask anyone. Driving here requires concentration with all the goats, sheep, chickens, motorbikes, bicycles and people all on the street, a horn is a necessity!
I have finally moved into my more permanent home and am quite happy, there is running water and a stove so I can cook! yippee! The landlord also said it is not a problem if I want to keep goats or sheep or chickens there. I could not be happier. Right next door is a little enclosed farm area and I feed the animals my vegetable and fruit scraps, there are also free range animals everywhere and some very cute pygmy goats!
The office is great, it is in the veterinary and agriculture complex and the clinic is just outside the window so when I see some animals coming in all we have to do is step out the door and we can partake in the activities.
As for the bird necropsies, we received 9 birds yesyerday and got samples from them all. It looks very promising. We have a meeting this friday in a village called Nator and will continue on with meetings the next week in the other villages.
All is well in Africa!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wow, what an incredible place. I have been very busy ever since I have arrived. The flight here I just made it, luckily my brother Bobbie found the mailman who was carrying my visa and passport and we just made it to the airport!! I am currently with the "team" in Wa which is in the Upper West Region of Ghana. It is rural and contains many beautiful villages. There are many trees and the people are amazing. I have had the opportunity to partake in the many meetings we have had here to set up our project. The village meetings are the best! The villagers are very enthusiastic about the project and I hope we will be able to determine why their Guinea Fowl and chickens are dying each year. We have already had a chance to necropsy two specimens.
I hope I will be able to post some pictures soon so you can grasp the essence and the beauty of Afria. The villages I have been to are very peaceful and very family orientated. There is a lot of respect for the elders and they are more than willing to work with us to improve their animal health and food security. I love seeing all of the chickens, goats, sheep and cattle free range.
I will continue to update this blog with the project's progress as the internet connection permits...

Week One


The last week has been a blur to say the least. I finally have some time to reflect on what we have accomplished in this short time. Dr. Hunter and Dr. Luginaah are only with us for a couple more days so this week has consisted of long hours trying to complete as much as possible. We have been meeting with existing contacts and forming new ones. It has been nothing short of amazing to be able to meet with government officials, directors of veterinary laboratories, and chairmen of other NGOs. The Ghanaian people have been extremely supportive in our endeavour and have gone to great lengths to help us. In one of our meetings a government minister gave praise to Canada and its people, explaining how much Canada's charitable donations have positively impacted his nation. I can say without a doubt this was my proudest moment as a Canadian citizen.
We also made our initial visits to each of the four villages . Again, we were greeted with hospitality and enthusiasm. The communities are very willing to participate in our program which is a positive start. I look forward to our next visits when will start our disease surveillance and community interviews.
I am adjusting to the heat and the new culture. Being surrounded by friendly faces and warm welcomes has eased the transition. We face many challenges in these next three months but I am certain the outcomes will be positive. Everyday new barriers are overcome and progression is made. I am excited to see what these next few weeks have in store!

All the best,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We made it!

Greetings from Accra,

After a day and a bit of travelling the Team has made it into Ghana. Kirstin and I arrived around 3 pm Ghana time and were met at the airport by a local contact. The first thing we both noticed was the intense heat and humidity, it is clear that staying properly hydrated is a must! Dr. Hunter and Dr. Luginnah made it in safely late last night so we were able to meet at breakfast and run over the initial plan. We will be spending the week in Accra to meet contacts and organize supplies. We hope to arrange for a car to take us up to Wa this weekend. The people we have met so far have been extremely friendly and accommodating. Last night we were able to sample some local beer and food, both very delicious. The team is excited to get everything going and spirits are high!
All the best,

Monday, May 10, 2010

One more day!

After months of hard work and prepation the day is almost here. I will be flying out of Saskatoon tomorrow morning and will arrive in Accra the following day. I am extremely excited to be working with VWB/VSF and feel privileged to take part on this project. I would like to thank everyone who has supported me on this trip - Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Chicken Industry and Investment Fund, Fox and Hounds, the University of Saskatchewan and of course to all professors and staff who showed overwhelming support from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. I am thrilled to be representing the WCVM and to serve as an ambassador for Canada. Please stay tuned for further posts, I plan to document our trip as best as possible. To all my friends and family I wish you a relaxing and enjoyable summer and look forward to meeting you all upon my return.

All the best,


Friday, April 30, 2010

Realization #1: I am going to Africa!

This will be the first blog for Ghana as I have just written my last exam this morning and now have the time to realize that I am off to Africa this summer:) It has been a very busy last few months with school and fundraising for the trip but it has all worked out very well. We were lucky to receive funding and support from the U of S, WCVM, AUCC, CIDA, The Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan, My local Rotary Club in Winnipeg, the Fox and Hound for a bottle drive and we even held a pulled pork lunch!
I am just waiting on my travel visa and then I think the full realization of Africa will set in. It is somewhere I have wanted to go for a long time and the more I hear about Africa the more I want to go. Everything I have heard about Ghana sound amazing as well. I am looking forward to learning about their agriculture there and their guinea fowl! I hear they are feisty little birds. I hope we will be able to find out why their guinea fowl are dying each year.
I am looking forward to spending three months in Africa getting to know their agriculture, livestock and getting to know the villagers and their way of life:)