The Story Behind The 'Three Forgotten Villages'
Most of you reading this post know me as an environmentalist who is also very passionate about renewable energy. In the past 2-3 years, I have focused my work in areas that are ignored by majority of players in the energy sector— off-grid communities in rural centers and villages. My convictions are: first, solar lighting solutions make more socio-economic sense in villages than bulk grid infrastructure, and second, the social capital and human potential in rural areas are so vast to be ignored. I have therefore made efforts to visit as many villages as possible to learn about what can work there with solar.
A couple of months ago, some friends reached out to me about visiting some villages they thought needed help with solar lighting. After months of connecting with a contact on the ground, I made the trip with 2 colleagues— Perk Pomeyie of our startup company Solar People and Afi Antonio, founder of our social action project Solar4Girls, supported by friends and partner Support A Vision Ghana.
We embarked on an adventurous trip with three objectives: first, connect with the local school there, and provide solar lamps to the 20 Junior High School (JHS) pupils who are preparing for their Basic Education Certificate Examination (B.E.C.E) in 2018. Second, build a relationship with the people in the community, and third, assess the needs and potential of the community, and reach out to people in our network for additional support in the sectors of education, energy, health, etc.
On the dawn of Friday October 20, the journey to the ‘three forgotten villages’—Tsremanti Dornguanor, Tsremanti Yoyim and Besease Dornguanor of the Yilo Krobo District of the Easter Region began. We traveled from Accra through Akropong-Akuapem to Nkurakan where we picked a taxi to Akpamu junction.
Since the villages do not have a motorable path from here, we began a 40 minutes walk on foot through the valley to Tsremanti Dorguanor, also known as the valley village. The other option is an hour and half journey also on foot through the forest from Koforidua Pipeline; we used this route after our visit when returning from the village.
Every holistic development is transformational, integral and sustainable, and requires the practitioner to assess the potential of the community in order to design a response. Below are our findings after an assessment of Tsremanti Dornguanor:
The village has a chief and a linguist with a group of elders who see to the welfare of the community. We also met the Unit Committee members of the village. What impressed us most was the introduction of the member in charge of youth development.
This was the main reason we went to the village. The community has no electricity and children rely on traditional lanterns and torchlights to study at night. Not only does this impede their education, children and adults also risk bites from poisonous snakes and other reptiles at night.
The only source of water in the village is a stream, which links all the 3 villages. This is for both drinking and irrigation purpose.
This is a big challenge in Tsremanti Dorguanor and the 2 sister villages. There are 2 classroom blocks; one is a makeshift structure and the other requires a facelift. The educational facilities and supplies for learning are inexistent or incredibly inadequate. Pupils are in dire need of uniforms, knapsacks and learning tools. But the biggest problem the local school faces is with teachers.
The lack of electricity, portable water, motorable path, health post and mobile network, coupled with the lack of accommodation facilities for teachers make it difficult for them to live in the village. Children therefore have to travel for 2 hours to Nkurakan during the weekend for extra classes. The performance of the local school in the BECE has been fairly good and access to electricity will improve it immensely.
In addition to this, because teachers have to walk for hours climbing and descending mountains every week to teach, they are not able to come to school the whole week. A teacher told me, “I do 2/5 or 3/5 because I get too tired walking for hours and escaping snakes just to teach and return to where I live”. I was lost about what 2/5 and 3/5 mean until he explained to mean 2 or 3 days out of 5 days in a week. Because of these challenges, there are no female teachers in the school.
This is the biggest potential in the village. The land is very fertile for vegetables such as cabbage and green pepper, for tubers such as cassava and cocoyam, and for cocoa. The number of cabbage farms we saw impressed us. The problem however is about access to markets for these produce. The lack of roads linking the village to urban centers present villagers with 2 options: children and women carrying produce and climbing the mountains to the nearest market which is 4 kilometers away or paying a fortune for vehicles to cart the produce to markets in Nkurakan or Koforidua.
The creation of road networks will transform education and also impact agriculture and energy. If families can access markets for their produce without excessive costs, they can save some money to afford solar for their children to study at night. The presence of lights can also be a motivation for teachers to stay for weekends and help pupils with extra lessons.
All the villages have no health post. The nearest health post is about an hour away (Koforidua Zongo) where emergency cases are taken. Community members carry sick people on broken doors and walk through the forest for treatment. A small makeshift health post which will respond to emergencies such as snakebites and provide first aid will come in handy. We were however told that some community health nurses from Nkurakan visit the village occasionally for health outreaches.
The school has very good sportsmen and women in athletics and football. We were thrilled to meet one of the girls who doubles as the captain of the football team and 3000m women champion in the Yilo Krobo District for 4 consecutive years.
Our visit to Dornguanor was very successful. We had an amazing time with the school pupils and reached out to them with solar lamps. The experience was beautiful, and at the end we were fulfilled when departing. I hope this post will ignite your interest to know more about the ‘three forgotten villages’ and reach out to support them.