The plan on Tuesday was to wake up early and get out of Accra on a bus heading north to the region of Kumasi, where we would meet the staff of an experimental farm run by the Ceciyaa Foundation. The purpose of Ceciyaa Foundation is to reach out to villagers in rural Ghana through evangelism, education, and economic development. It was started in 2013 by a Ghanaian who currently resides in the United States, Francis Adouffei. The story of why he founded this organization is on the home page of their site.
Here is their website:
Ceciyaa Foundation is involved in many useful and productive initiatives. It was formed “in order to meet the need for basic food, clothing, and healthcare services among the poor and the disadvantaged women and children of Ghana.” Ceciyaa is a “multi-service community organization that values the expansion of opportunities and the enhancement of quality of life for the women and children of Ghana.”
I was mainly interested in seeing their experimental farm, a place where they try out new crops with seeds from the United States to see what might work to grow vegetable and grain crops in Ghana, and their poultry farming operation which has a few thousand chickens under management at a given time.
I also wanted to learn about other aspects of the ministry: how they build tables and benches for schools; donate food, clothing, books and computers; teach sewing & offer basic health education programs to young mothers, along with supplemental nutrition for at-risk infants; educational programs offered to local schools through a grant process. Ceciyaa Foundation starts community libraries that can become a source of access to better education for many children in underserved areas.
About the journey….
We started in the morning from Asare’s home and drove to the bus station in downtown Accra, from which charter buses depart for several destinations. Kumasi is a 5-6 hour bus ride away. One of Ceciyaa Foundation’s local staff members, Ethel, had been assigned to help us and make the travel arrangements. We showed up at the bus station and had to change my money from American dollars to Ghanaian Cedis to pay the bus fare ($100.00 USD = 500 Cedis); this was accomplished by Ethel finding some guy walking around who was a money changer and having me fork over the money. Then we bought the tickets for 45 Cedis each, or $9.50 USD x 3 for all of us. It’s unlike any bus station in the States, as you can see from the pictures. The buses seemed to be parked just centimeters away from each other and cars and people were tightly packed in all the spaces between. It was a crazy experience even just getting on the bus!
The ride itself was not too remarkable – except for the scenery (mountains outside of Accra were quite beautiful, and the exotic palm and coconut trees). For stretches there would be no one around, then near villages, people were walking along the road and selling everything you can imagine at roadside, including fruit and vegetables, water, used tires, bed frames & TV sets unprotected from the weather. Strolling villagers (including small children) seemed unconcerned about the danger of huge buses and trucks speeding by at upwards of 70 mph. Most people near the road appeared to have little to do, just sitting or leaning against something, lounging or waiting. A few were working more diligently. It seemed most probably had some small duty they were expected to tend such as keeping one of the shops.
Goats and chickens as well as cats and dogs could be seen roaming all over. Having domesticated animals nearby but not on any kind of chain or in any enclosure is quite normal. Many buildings were just wooden shacks. Some were concrete buildings partially completed, overgrown with weeds, iron Re-bar sticking out of the top. In Africa the mindset is to build as you have the money; a building is started, then added to only when more funds become available. It may stand partially completed for years.
The road we were taking from Accra to Kumasi was paved, which allowed us to travel at speeds upwards of 60-70 mph. There was one rest stop in the middle of the journey with access to a set of flush toilets and sinks for a fee. You could buy small food items from vendors there, so I bought a bunch of bananas. And the whole way, we were treated to watch Ghanaian soap operas or series on a TV at the front of the bus. 🙂
Arriving in Kumasi at the bus station, it felt like about 90 degrees F. We needed a taxi to take us the rest of the way to the Ceciyaa Foundation farm. As soon as Ethel, TENGUE and I had secured our backpacks and climbed into the small hatchback taxi, it began to rain, and soon it began to pour.
This downpour continued for 30-45 minutes straight. At times I had no idea how the driver could see anything, since he had no air conditioning or fan inside the car and there were four of us in there sweating profusely with the windows rolled up. The driver had an old T-shirt he was using every few seconds to wipe the inside of his windshield from condensation. We drove off the pavement and onto a dirt road that turned out to be the most rutted, crazy road I had the pleasure of enjoying on my entire trip. I think Ethel, TENGUE and I were all praying silently as we bumped and rocked our way along…I was holding on to my side door for dear life. And still we couldn’t see a thing and the driver was passing cars into oncoming traffic anyway! It was something like 3 lanes wide and the middle lane was for use by cars going both directions!
As we started up a small hill, the taxi began to struggle and then the engine stalled. We sat there in the downpour, smoldering with heat, being passed by other cars, unable to start our engine after many tries. TENGUE got out and pushed the car because we were actually in a small stream that kept swelling and he was afraid we’d get washed away! After it became apparent that this taxi wasn’t going anywhere soon, TENGUE dashed out and up the top of the hill in the downpour to try and get us rescued by another taxi.
He flagged down a slightly larger vehicle that came and picked us and our backpacks up (we all got out while it was still raining and were somewhat soaked), so we finally arrived to our destination around 6:00 pm.
We met the few women and their children who were hanging around the farm in one of the buildings that was apparently used as an open-air kitchen on hot days. Ethel was obviously comfortable with them, but it took me quite a little while to figure out what I was supposed to do with the whole situation. We were directed to sit down at a table on the porch of a second building, where we were given a plate of rice with chicken and spicy sauce to eat.
It wasn’t too long until we needed to go to our lodging (most daytime activities wind down just before dark, and are replaced with evening activities after nightfall, if you’re in a town or city), so we were taken to a nearby “hotel.” This little place was not western by any means, but clean and sufficient for our needs with electricity and running water, and we could get to sleep for the night. When we walked into the lobby it was almost completely dark. A woman appeared from the further recesses of the room to give us keys. After dark, many places just aren’t well lit, and this hotel lobby was one of them. Still, it felt strangely comfortable and safe.
I can’t explain my comfort level except to say that, as in every circumstance I experienced on this trip, I was aware that the Lord was with me. Rooms have double or even triple locks on them, and windows have metal bars, so once you’re in for the night, you can feel secure. I don’t remember much about that evening except being tired and grateful that I could plug my phone in to charge, and that I could take a “bath” (under a spicket instead of a shower). But all was good, we were fed and safe, TENGUE was in his room, I was in mine, and we were on track to visit Ceciyaa the next day.