Back in Ghana Feb 2008

Gambaga, 20 Feb 2008 Greetings from Gambaga. First day in the office after a long drawn trip to the US in December and January! I finally arrived in my village last Sunday, and got caught up with family and personal matters until now. My immediate (a bit extended family) is well. But I lost an uncle (mother’s cousin) who was in his mid-30s. It is Harmattan season here. From Nov to Feb/Mar. During winter in the Northern hemisphere, dry winds blow from the north down south, bringing with it a lot of dust/fine sand from the Sahara desert. The dust is so thick it looks like a thick fog outside right now, covering the sun and every thing else. For example, if you are outside for 3-4 hours the fine dust settles on your eyelids, nostrils, any hair, etc and all turn visibly brown. Dusting furniture and other things is a useless exercise at this time. In West Africa (not sure of the rest of Africa) we call this season the Harmattan Season. Coming from the north, the Harmattan is more severe in northern areas (countries, regions and districts) than in the South e.g. it is severer in Burkina than in Ghana and in northern than in southern Ghana. The Harmattan season is the coolest time of the year. The temperature may go down to 15 degrees Celsius (in Farenheit?) in the evenings and mornings. That is very cold for us here! It is time for building and repairing houses. Last year’s floods caused many mud houses to fall. Building and roofing is men’s responsibility in our area. Women may help with water but their responsibility is plastering walls and damming the floors. It is also the season for final funeral rites celebrations, especially for the elderly who passed during the past year or before. It is a good time because food from last year’s harvest is still available to feed family and relatives from far and near who gather for such celebrations. It is a time for family reunions and renewal/fostering of extended family ties. The Dawadawa (locus bean?) and sheanut trees, the two main economic trees in the north here, bloom at this time. The bean of the former is processed into one of the main ingredients for soups and sauces while sheabutter is extracted from the nuts of the latter and used for cooking and body cream. Indeed, sheabutter is used extensively in body creams, chocolates and for medicinal purposes. The Japanese are investing in sheabutter production/processing in the north for exporting. These two trees are perhaps the most important income source for rural women in our area. They roam in the bush and farms to harvest the locust beans and sheanuts, then sell unprocessed or processed. Judging from the blooms, the harvest looks promising this year. However, conventional wisdom has it that the excessive hamattan winds this year may damage them. The Harmattan is followed by the hottest time of the year i.e. Mar-April –May when temperatures may climb above 40 degrees Celsius here, just like hot summer days in Oklahoma! Enough about seasons and local goings on. Check in later for news about PAMBE Ghana.

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