Friday, August 31, 2007

Water, Water Everywhere

I've been working in Navrongo for about two and a half weeks now. The people here are incredibly hospitable, and it seems like I've gotten to know half the town. They're all testing me on my knowledge of Kassem, too (the local language).

Unfortunately, the district has been experiencing incredibly bad rains lately as well. There has been a downpour almost every day since I came. While the rest of Ghana is doing well with the weather, huge areas of the Upper-East Region are experiencing the worst floods in 15 years. Crops and livestock have been adversely affected, and one of the duties of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture now is to go out into the district and determine the losses that farmers have experienced. In addition, throughout the Kassena-Nankana district, houses are crashing down one by one.

Traditionally, houses in Kassena-Nankana (of which Navrongo is the capital) are built from clay. The roofs are nearly flat, with a slight slope towards one side, with a ridge of clay around all four ends. At the lowest end, a single pipe allows the water to drain off. This relatively flat roof allows a family to sleep on top during the hot months, and inside when it is cold. In normal years, the design withstands the weather well. However, with the rains as they are now, the houses cannot hold up under the onslaught. It is difficult to find a traditional house left standing.

Closer to town, the people who can afford more modern aluminum-roofed houses have made it through the rainy season. When the rains stop, in October, those with clay houses will have a chance to rebuild and recover as much as possible. In the mean time, however, the destruction across the countryside is a reminder of how much vulnerability (to weather, to markets, or to other factors) shapes and defines what poverty is.

1 comment:

Greg Best said...


Not sure you will remember me but I am Ben Best's father and we met briefly in Waterloo when he, Cat and Megan were doing presentations on their overseas experience.

Thank you for writing your blog. It is a real priviledge to be able to share in some of your experiences. As I read your entry today, I thought about how many times many of us in Vancouver had complained about this summer being unseasonably wet. Your note on the devastating effects of the rainy season and the resulting hardship really helps to bring our complaints of rain into perspective. No doubt your experience will bring many more things into perspective for many people. Enjoy your time in Ghana and know that many are appreciating and learning from your experience.