We understand why Barack and Michelle Obama made Ghana their first stop on the African continent.
When you touch down in Accra (or anywhere in Ghana), you are greeted with the word akwaaba or welcome and the place is buzzing with activity: construction projects, vendors hawking antennas and groundnuts to commuters, roads being built and new investment.
Ghanaians boast about their stable democracy – they just peacefully transitioned governments in a 2009 election decided by only 40,000 votes. And we visited several projects across the country, each reinforcing the fact that people in this country are working hard to lift themselves out of poverty.
In Abokobi, just outside of Accra, traveling with the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD), we met with women who are using dairy cows, donated by Heifer International, to make yogurt to sell to local businesses and schools. These woman are working collaboratively on to rear dairy cows and bees, and process the resulting honey and milk.
In the village of Akimoda, we met the "King" of the village who is working with farmers to grow and market moringa, a plant known as the green gold of Ghana because of its health benefits for people and livestock.
In Kasoa we met small-scale livestock farmers who are raising grasscutters – large rodents which, to the locals at least, are considered a delicacy.
And in Cape Coast we met with a group of women fishmongers who are working together to process and sell fish. There we also met Mr. Emmanuel Akai-Taylor who is a farmer-innovator that developed a local vaccine distribution program for poultry.
Also while in Cape Coast, we visited the Cape Coast Castle, where slaves from all over Africa were imprisoned before being shipped to the US and Europe. We walked through the ‘Door of No Return’, which was the last thing some two million slaves saw before being loaded on to what the slave traders referred to as "floating coffins". For every one slave that made it to the US, at least four others died somewhere along the journey.
We learned that slaves were forced to walk to their prisons from all over West Africa. And once they arrived, hundreds were packed into dark dungeons with little food and water. The ones who survived were then herded on to ships, leaving behind their homes, their families and their culture forever. As disturbing as this was to hear, it only strengthened our admiration for the resilience and strength of Ghanaians.
We ended our journey with a visit to the Kakum National Park to watch birds and monkeys at eye level as they walked along their 350 meter high ‘canopy’. Located in a small rainforest about 35 miles from Cape Coas, the walk through the tree tops is a lot of fun, and while we are both afraid of heights, we even managed to look down a couple of times to enjoy the breathtaking views.
Though we didn’t see much of the beach, the Cape Coast sits along the Atlantic and the sound of the waves crashing around you undoubtedly beats the docile murmurs of a Caribbean island. If you have the time, waste an afternoon away, watching the ocean, sipping beers at the restaurant “the Castle,” with live Rastafarian music playing most of the weekend for free.
We found a terrific organic restaurant called Baobab with tons of vegan food (and the only place you will find a soy latte within 200 kilometers). They make fresh fruit smoothies and are located just a short walk from Cape Coast Castle. The best part is that all proceeds benefit a local childrens charity in the area. They have a terrific gift shop next door that turns recycled water bags into purses and wallets. One block away (and near the local market) is a fun and tasty restaurant called Chic Herbs with excellent lentil burgers.
If you are looking for a hotel, we can recommend a comfortable budget hotel called Mighty Victory ($25.00 USD per night for a double room), which had hot water, wireless internet, and even air-conditioning.
If we’ve piqued your interest in Ghana, you should know that Delta is running direct flight from Denver and New York City. You will fall in love with this terrific country (just make sure, before you hop on the plane, to you get your VISA (about $55.00 USD) in advance).
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