Many of the plantations that Barbarugo is setting up in the North of Ghana, are near remote villages. At first sight, such villages look romantic, so close to nature and to simple life as they are. The huts of dried mud with their pittoresque roofs of thatch last five or more years, after which they collapse. A new hut will be built a few meters aside. Note that a hut is not a house. It is rather a room. Where Europeans would expect corridors, villagers walk in the open space of their compound from one hut to another. Why not? It is never cold on the savannah, although Ghanaians complain sometimes whenthe temperature dropsbelow 22 degrees Celcius.Picture: A typical traditional village on the savannah.Coins and banknotes play a marginal role in these villages. Villagers eat basically what they grow on their fields: maize (corn), yam (a kind of giant potato), groundnut, cassava, tomato and a few green vegetables that look like endive or spinach. One of the occasional workers on our plantation in Ekumdepe almost died when he was bitten by a snake: he could not raise the 100 Cedis (about 25 euro) to pay for the treatment and family and friends did not provide him with the money until Barbarugo guaranteed to pay it back. My friend Kampala, with whom I stay when I have to sleep in Ekumdepe – there is no guesthouse – once fell sick and had to wait two weeks until I could send him the money for treatment in a hospital. Don’t think that he is a lonely bachelor – he and his brothers, their children and grandchildren are a group of forty adults in the village, but could not raise a few hundred Cedis for transport, admission and treatment at a hospital in a nearby town. The totalcost of his recovery was alittle more than 100 euroafter all.
Picture: Transport of a patient to a hospital.At the time of his sickness, the roads linking his village to the town were worse than ever. Cars, including public transport could not ply them at all. The only traffic possible was by motorbike, and that is how my friend was carried over 30 kilometers. In fact, the roads to our 3 plantations in Chumburung and that in Sheini are always in bad shape, reminding of a training ground for military tanks. A journey of30 kilometers usually takes more than one hour, but if the car breaks down on apothole, there may be adelay of another one ortwo hours.Picture: A typical unpaved savannah road.Such roads make it impossible to carry perishable products like tomatoes over distances to a market in a town. They can only be consumed locally and are no good source of income for the villagers. This is why Barbarugo wants to strengthen the economies of such villages by growing bamboo. We want to create new possibilities for peasants and unemployed laborers to earn money with their work, whilst producing for an external market. Thus we want to do away with the bad aspects of village life, and strengthen their capacity to enjoy themselves with the traditional culture..Dr Menno Wolters, Tamale