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The Singa village come out to greet our group to bring us to the Festival of Freedom and Life Picture: The Singa village come out to greet our group to bring us to the Festival of Freedom and Life

I was afraid, anxious and yet calm and excited all at the same time:
It was almost a dream, the crossing of the White Volta River at Nauuni, North Ghana, to take the seven mile track to Singa in 1996. It was by small canoe, paddled by two hardy river men who managed to cram several passengers, their goods for market, and our two old motorbikes into it as well as ourselves! Fortunately there are no crocodiles or hippos at this section of river! In the wet season it floods to seven miles wide!

David Bellamy and our intrepid team cross the White Volta in 2007 for the Singa FestivalChief Zakaria crossing to take David Murden to prepare for the Festival

left: David Bellamy and our intrepid team cross the White Volta in 2007 for the Singa Festival
right: Chief Zakaria crossing to take David Murden to prepare for the Festival

I had been told however no visitors go there. It was "Overseas", even "cursed" as so much suffering was there and very difficult to get to with only a very dusty and dry track to follow. This was the infamous slave route I since have followed almost by default whilst trying to set up this "model" of rural development. The women of the village had to walk a 14 mile round trip every day to get river water: guinea worm and other water borne diseases were rife. As the first white visitor the reception was almost the whole village sitting down with the Chief to greet me and talk through why I had come BUT the old Chief told me I was "expected" as God had told him I was coming in a dream! In spite of so much poverty and hopelessness in living on the edge, he sent me away with Yams and Guinea fowls to take back to Logshegu!

Chief Zakaria , his elders and people welcome Simon's friends to their village in 2006Chief Zakaria, his wife and village representatives attend the very first Festival in Anomabo

left: Chief Zakaria , his elders and people welcome Simon's friends to their village in 2006
right: Chief Zakaria, his wife and village representatives attend the very first Festival in Anomabo

I have been many times now, trying to tease out and analyse how to help, with the present Chief Zakaria, the old Chief’s son, interacting at every level with a knowledge and wisdom which will solve many problems in the future. Clean water and a school is there already, not all our doing, although we supported clean water and the first woman teacher to teach school there. But we seem to have stirred things up to be successful in communicating their needs. Apart from education one important result is the Guinea Worm illnesses are almost a thing of the past!

The Singa ladies used to walk 14miles a day to fetch water……Now they gather around the new well, a great place to talk and share needs

left: The Singa ladies used to walk 14miles a day to fetch water...
right: ...Now they gather around the new well, a great place to talk and share needs

Sometimes I take other white folk with me of every age group, always graciously received students, teachers, eco tourists… In March 2007, David Bellamy and I, plus a whole group of other tribal representatives, went to hold a major Festival to commemorate the ending of slavery 200 years before. Ex slave tribes and masters came together for the first time since!

Chief Zakaria honours us by leading the way on horseback!Traditional dancing marks the start of the Festival

left: Chief Zakaria honours us by leading the way on horseback!
right: Traditional dancing marks the start of the Festival

We have set the wheels in motion to do a huge project there Insh’allah ("If God wills", as they are careful to point out, with me saying I pretty well believe He does!) 2009 will find us putting together with Zakaria, and many other Chiefs around, a plan to set up, in place of the old slave route, an ethical trading route and agricultural project with Singa as the Centre but with the villages around and the hundred down river from there to Yapei port able to trade their increasing commodities with the rest of Ghana. It’s a dream well understood and we are taking it seriously by applying for Government grants and World Bank loans to do it.

Future " Traders" getting ready to grow into bigger boats!The first fruit trees about to get across the river to begin a plantation near their lake

left: Future " Traders" getting ready to grow into bigger boats!
right: The first fruit trees about to get across the river to begin a plantation near their lake

This is such a future strategy for Africa: the people themselves benefit directly, the Environment is largely preserved and used for eco-tourism as well as indigenous trees and plants being grown…The Chief’s representatives pointed out 60 square miles of virgin Bush- land in which to make a start! Better this "African" project, even if we take part, than selling off their birthrights for a Western or Chinese "bowl of porridge", a fuel oil project growing huge amounts of one species only (Jatropha or Palm oil for instance).


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