Ghana is one of our favorite places in the world to visit. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most endearing parts of this wonderful nation is that it is not highly touristed and the people seemed more curious and friendly to see foreigners than anywhere we have visited in the world. Ghana is also a place where there is no “tourist price”…we were treated as locals, for the most part, wherever we went, and everyone seemed genuinely happy to help us out, whether it was to provide directions, take us on informal tours or just engage in conversation!
One of the most amazing experiences was to live in a Ghanaian village for a couple of days. “Ecotourism”, a form of small-scale tourism that is intended to not disturb the natural environment and for which funds directly impact the host community, is relatively popular in Ghana. A great way to experience ecotourism in Ghana is to live the life of a villager in a farming village by visiting the Mognori Village, located about 15 km from the Mole National Park in northern Ghana.
How did we arrange this experience? We met Moses, an ‘ambassador’ for the village, when we visited the Mole National Park. His father used to work at the park, so people at the park know him well and are able to arrange for a meeting with him to set up a visit to Mognori. For just a few dollars, he will organize transporation to and from the village, as well as accommodations should you wish to stay overnight. You will also be expected to make a donation of any amount you feel appropriate which goes towards the development of the village. You will offer this to the Chief of the village upon your departure.
So, what do you do during your stay at the Mognori Village?
We wanted to get really involved and understand what it is like to live in a Ghanaian village, so we opted not to have the traditional tourist experience of observing the village for a few hours and viewing a traditional dance. Instead, we asked to get our hands dirty to really experience life in the village! Here’s a snippet of what we did:
Making Food: Grating and Drying Cassava Root – The main staple food of the villagers is cassava, a very starchy root vegetable that is capable of growing in semi drought-like conditions. It is a good source of carbohydrates, calcium and vitamin C, although poor in protein. We spent a couple of very hot hours with some of the ladies in the village helping to make the cassava into a flour, by grating and drying it…this is extremely hard work when you are sitting in front of a hot fire stiring casava root to eliminate the moisture. We also helped to carry semi-dried casava up to the roof-tops of the village so that it could dry naturally in the sun.
Making Cassava Flour
Collecting Clean Drinking Water – The Mognori Village is very lucky to have access to clean water via a well that is a 15 minute walk from the main village center. Many villages in Ghana still don’t have easy access to clean water. We helped the villagers fill up some pots with clean water to be taken back to the village. A 15-minute walk seems a lot longer when you are carrying a heavy pot of water (and it makes you realize how fortunate you truly are to have multiple taps back home…).
Villagers walking to the water pump to collect clean water
Pumping clean water
Touring the Village – We had the opportunity to tour the village and see the different homes that families live in. The houses here are simple structures made of mud and built with thatched roofs. There are no beds in these hut-like structures and the villagers sleep on the ground or sometimes on top of the roofs if the temperature gets too high during the summer months. There is no electricity in the village, so come nightfall the stars up above are an incredible sight!
If you do choose to stay overnight, the village provides you with your own hut, complete with a bed, and there is a small battery-powered light to provide some guidance in the darkness. If you’ve lived in a city for all of your life like we have, it is quite the surreal experience to be in a place without light during the night.
(Also, just as a warning, an overnight stay is not for the faint of heart…be aware that your hut will be home to many cockroaches and other creatures that will scurry around you through the night!).
View of the Mognori Village
Children greet us as we tour the village
Like in most Ghanaian villages, the families here are very large, with many children who act as “hands” for the farmers. The great part about this village is that they have a local school where children are also educated. If you do decide to visit Mognori, don’t forget to bring some supplies for the school, which can be anything from pens and pencils to stickers and art supplies.
Playing! Recreation: Football! One of the highlights of the stay was to see the kids playing football after school in the village field. Not all of the kids had proper soccer shoes, but it certainly didn’t stop them from trying to play along! Many younger children would gather around to watch their older siblings play and the game carried on until the sun went down and it was too dark to see the ball.
Younger kids watching the older ones play football!
The opportunity to spend a couple of days in the village was something we will never forget. Not only did it make us appreciate all that we have at home, but there were so many moments that made us pause and be grateful for the simple things in life. The next photo captures this thought so vividly. These children crowded around me and wanted to sit on my lap, touch me and hug me. In fact, the little girl on my lap wouldn’t let me go! And, when they saw their own reflection in the lenses of my sunglasses, they thought it was the greatest thing ever, and spent what seemed like endless minutes giggling and admiring their mirror images. The half hour spent with those kids was enough to make me fall in love with the people and the country of Ghana…
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