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04.05.2021 Opinion

Culture Can Also Be The Engine That Drives The Local Economy Of The Sisaala Land, Upper West & By Extension, Ghana

By Cde. Chief Bukari Kuoru
Culture Can Also Be The Engine That Drives The Local Economy Of The Sisaala Land, Upper West & By Extension, Ghana
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Culture is appellational. It is the bedrock of our identity and the roadmap that can determine our past, present and future. It ties into our unending History- that set's us apart in our universal existence, representation and puts into proper perspective our contributions to humanity.

Thus, what we will be remembered for is inseparably tied into our way of life. Wether we are a people who build nuclear weapons of mass destruction, colonised other countries and enslaved its people, wantonly dissipated our natural resources, improved universal human rights, assisted terrorism or made life better for the lot. Wether we were brave, stood against injustice, harnessed our natural resources for the benefit of the unborn generations or sold our identity & culture & knowledge of who we are today for peanuts robbing the unborn generations of knowledge of their selves.

I am a staunch believer of Marcus Garvey. In his paraphrased words, a people without knowledge of their history & culture are like a tree without roots.

The strong voice of Bob Nesta Marley keeps ringing in my ear, "know your history know your destiny for in the abundance of water the fool is thirsty." All these immortal black leaders, who were murdered, suggested blue prints that could help us attain self sufficiency and true independence creating employment and revenue to help run the state.

Culture re-enacted is a great way to re-orientate the Sissala people about themselves and a great source of knowledgeof themselves. A Source of great identity and an opportunity to impart knowledge as was always done by our forebears and passed on from generation to generation through the word of mouth (Oral Tradition), ethnography( present day social institutions as well as craft and artistic skills of the people), ethnomusicology (drum music, horn music, war songs, dance songs, funeral dirges) etc

It's a way of instilling pride and awakening a sense of patriotism in the people by getting them to appreciate their identity and way of doing things and take pride in our names, dress, food etc.

There has to be a conscious effort not to replace but to transform some of them to meet the context of our time. I trust this is the main reason why people refuse themselves from patronising our traditional culture because even though we need to maintain originality, it may come across as barbaric. Some few improvements could be done while keeping its originality. Thus, the idea of being host to a barbaric tradition that produces barbaric products should be a thing of the past.

The picture should be painted of the ability of the local innovators to produce guality products ofcourse with support from the neccessary institutions with complimented infrustructure.

This requires the efforts of everyone especially the local media, especially teachers & parents who encourage the younger generation to take interest in their local economies or tradition. Like cultural activities that students used to take pride in, in our schools ect

Organisations such as the Sissala Heritage Foundation, a freelance journalist Ayamga Bawa Fatawu & the Sisaala Discourse Series who have started seperate campaigns to preserve local artifacts & antiques, written a couple of books to preserve Sisaala names, species of plants & animals, culture etc A museum of Sisaala arts could be established through their efforts. The benefits thereon could be stupendous.

These are individual efforts that deserve commendation and support. The local Fm station can also host a program to allow Sisaala Historians, custodians, experts, NGO's to share their knowledge and research on how to develop our local culture and create opportunities for development. e.g. many should be encouraged to save or patronise the Sisaala Rural Bank and Credit Unions. These are also local banking industry. Why are we not throwing more light on the Gwollu defence walls, crocodile ponds, bone setting center, Kasana Museum, Slave markets, Gbele forest reserves etc are there no stories behind these institutions. Could they not be highlighted for Patronage and contribute significantly to the local economy?

Additionally, Culture can also create employment by focusing on the individual ethnic economy and developing it extensively by providing all the technology needed in the 21st century to help improve the various local economies. This will not only create employment at the basic/ constituency level but it will also solve the perennial problem of rural-urban migration, child labour, forced marriages, reduce poverty etc Take for example, the Sissaland produces if not 1/3rd but 2/3rds of the countries Maize yet nothing much has been done to provide storage facilities and other locally safe ways of improving soil fertility & production. Same for the Yam, rice that goes waste every year in other parts of the country. Have we studied and attempted to preserve or improve on how our forebears cultivated these crops and made heavy harvest in periods where they were technologically blind handicapped? No!

Sisaala East was a huge producer of all the cotton Ghana needed to feed its industries such as ATL, GTP etc but for mismanagement, corruption and political witch hunting, the only factory then in the Sisaala East if not Upper West that provided employment for professionals and farmers would have been alive and active and the Sisaala East/ West would have still had a booming cotton production industry. Then came KEDAN, but for some funny reasons has also folded up. This is a discussion for another day.

An objective understanding of the culture of a group of people tells you basically that these group of people have all the conditions and are always good at a particular craft. The common-sensical thing for any authority to do is to find ways to improve that system to serve not only those group of people but to also create additional opportunities for diversity and innovation or creativity.

Again, Culture is a contributor to the countries GDP. If our festivals were well marketed it would have attracted a huge number of visitors yearly. The goods made locally could be taxed as well as the salaries of the workers of these local industries. Levies could also be exacted from these local industries by the local District assemblies which could be used to develop the area without neccessarily waiting on central government.

Revenues accrued from these taxes could be used to bridge the over 1 million housing deficit, solve the sanitation problem or would have averted the taxes on sanitation that Ghanaians are burdened with, fix the super bad and deplorable roads that the People of Sissala East have had to grapple with for the 64 years of independence.

It will also promote Patronage of local goods which will discourage govts from importing items into the country instead the monies used for the importation could have been employed in several sectors of the economy like encouraging, investing in local science and technology. Its been 60+ years after independence and Ghana still imports tooth picks etc when we have bamboo in abundance in the Central Region and other parts of the country.

Moreover, Creativity, innovation & development of science and technology are but elements of a people's culture which is evident in personality's like Ambra, the engineer. A vested interest in the way a group of people do things will uncover a clear path on how things were done, how to improve upon them and how to increase production gradually in the surest and safest way we know how to. Thus, by this time, we should have developed a complex tourism & buzzing herbal sector, improved the species of flora & fauna indigenous to Sissalaland, developed a local craft industry, developed an advanced local technology, developed a vibrant film/music industry which is a very pivotal means to change the psychology of the people to pass on our history, culture as we have come to know it and not allow anybody who has no appreciation of us to tell it from their side. Its also a sure way to preserve our culture as well. All these could have been done based on the knowledge of our culture as handed down to us.

We have to be intentional about how we want other people to see us. In Rwanda, after all they have been through, there's a specific agency, charged with re-inventing the country's image. One sure benefit is that it has attracted foreign interest and investment. All these contributes enormously to the GDP of the country as is the case in Rwanda where tourism contributes a huge chunk of their GDP. Ghana has more than it needs to achieve this.

One critical thing often overlooked is that by this time, Sisaalaland & Ghana's herbal industry should have been an international space center. Unlike the Chinese who have experimented & developed their herbal industry, some of the products we purchsse happily at exorbitant prices, the Sisaalaland, Ghana has remained indignant, backward and unrepentant about taking any bold steps to developing this huge multi-billion dollar industry to my spinal surprise.

The Gwollu bone setting center, the Bujan bone setters, have become what I call "circus centers". I mean what kind of people are we? Today, Covid-19 is staring us at the face, the Sisaaland/Ghana could have easily found a cure to Ebola and Covid-19 but we are a people who prioritize tele novela over ingenuity. We are also afraid to be called witches & wizards for our knowledge in local herbs & medicines with good reason. But that time is past. We must begin to embrace ourselves & our culture. Thats the only way to truly appreciate ourselves and improve upon our God given gifts and talents for our development and that of the outside world.

Why have we not tapped into this knowledge. Why are we not concentrating on training more people in knowledge of the local medicines and traditional healing methods by getting them certifications. We all know the success stories of the herbal escapades of our local medicine men & midwives whom we have allowed the West to label as witch doctors. I mean how long shall we wait to lose all the people that we have been blessed with knowledge of medicine before we realise what we have lost all these while?

Admittedly, Culture can accelerate development because we already have a blueprint. The beautiful thing about culture & History is that our ancestors literally handed down a way of life, a system, a process of how things are done. All that we could have done better is to experiment with the system gradually to perfection or to improve upon it. Everything must have a foundation. Ours was what our forebears operated and handed down to us. Thus, there is a path which has already been laid down for us.

All we needed to do was to follow and improvise. We would have known which areas needed much attention and which needed replacement or improvision etc it would have accelerated our development because all we needed to do was follow the blueprint and execute it.

The founders of Singapore have done so, China has and is doing same, Dubai, Rwanda has joined the table and it seems Tanzania is following suit. The small country of Madagascar seems to have awaken from its Slumber as well. Anyways like its said, the future of any nation depends on the calibre of its leaders & people. A lot can be said about the calibre of leaders and the people of Sissala East & Ghana. Like all leadership definitions and like the benevolent Lee Kwan Yu said, its not enough to have visionary leaders but also committed followers who will help you execute your vision. Clearly, we need a reset of our mindset to embark on an intentional journey of progress and development as a nation and as a people.

"Posterity is our way of life of the past into the future that will judge us. Culture can be a powerful tool for rebuilding our country and continent back up strongly."

Happy May day!

For God and Country.

Cde. Chief Bukari Kuoru.