Blog: BA in Global Development 2023 Ghana Field Trip
Olivia, a third year student at the University of York studying on the BA in Global Development, went on a field trip to Accra in Ghana in April 2023 to carry out development research.
Hi, I am Olivia, and I’m a third year student at the University of York, studying on the BA in Global Development. In April 2023, I went on an incredible field trip to Accra in Ghana to carry out development research.
To gain context of the country, the group visited different places across Accra and Cape Coast. When we arrived, we explored some of the capital city, Accra. One of the first places we visited was Makola Market (the largest market in Ghana), where the resilience of our senses were put to the test. We were dropped in the deep end (in a market labyrinth), with tens of thousands of people buying and selling produce; from fresh avocados and mangoes to handmade fashion items, smoked fish, and grains and delicacies from across the country… you could find anything there. We also visited Black Star Square where Kwame Nkrumah declared Ghana’s dependence from the UK in 1957. A particularly poignant place, it was huge; you really got a sense of how electric the area would’ve been back then.
After our initial settling-in period (and to adjust to the heat and humidity!) we headed to Cape Coast via a cocoa growing community in Asafo, in the Eastern region. Here we gained an insight into the workings of a cocoa farm, with a session led by the community’s leader and gatekeeper. Cocoa is one of the country’s largest exports, along with gold and oil. We learned how cocoa farming is overseen by Ghana’s Cocoa Board, which represents farmers at the national level to ensure they are protected through policy and fair pricing every season. We spoke to local women who worked for the Board to ensure good quality produce who took us through the process of cocoa production from cultivation to harvest. There was a real family community feel in Asafo, with farms employing most of the households in the local area, and a school that supported local children’s education and development, all taught by local people to keep indigenous knowledge and learning at the heart of their studies.
In Cape Coast, we visited Cape Coast Castle, previously owned by the British during colonial rule of the Gold Coast (the colonial name for Ghana). Perhaps the most harrowing experience of the trip, the Castle saw millions of African captives pass through and sold as slaves for around 200 years. We stood in the dungeons where captives were held; 1,500 captives were kept in one small space, left there to eat, sleep, excrete, vomit, and suffer for up to 3 months while waiting to be sold and put on the next ship and taken them across the Atlantic, never to return. The dungeons were hot, sticky, dark, and smelt like the horrors of history. A truly eye-opening and emotional experience, one that is hard to comprehend until you are stood inside. Below the ‘Door of No Return’ a fishing community were going about their daily routines, in handmade boats of incredible colour and design, donning their individual flags. Again, the sounds of music, the hustle and bustle of people working and selling, and the smells of the fish and the sea air were a real sensory overload – nonetheless, beautiful.
Perhaps the most shocking experience of the trip was our visit to Agbogbloshie, one of the world’s largest informal e-waste dumps. The site is home to over 10,000 workers, and more of their families, who wade through scrap metals, rubbish, e-waste, and plastic every day, in a process of informal recycling for their livelihoods. As we got out of the minibus, the smell of burning plastic and electronics filled the air – you couldn’t escape it. Piles of plastic and plumes of smoke dominated the horizon, and the walkways up to the top were lined with plastic, tyres, metal, rubber, electronics, old car engines – anything you have ever thrown away in life, you would find it here. The river Voltar, which runs alongside the dump, is certified as ‘dead’, meaning no living organism can survive in its waters. Cows were grazing on the tops of rubbish mountains; not a blade of grass in sight. However, despite the atrocities of the conditions people were working in, this place provides thousands of people with jobs, a place to live, and a livelihood. People from the northern regions migrated down to Accra to work in sites such as these, because there are opportunities to earn a living there. Although it is informal, the government could do little to prevent this, with our guide telling us “Ghana would shake” if the government destroyed the site.
Finally, on our return to Accra, I conducted research into the impacts of COVID-19 on informal traders, and the role of the government regarding recovery and resilience. Co-designing with a student from the University of Ghana and York, the project was conducted across three days, aiming to interview 20 participants and determine initial key findings. The research days were incredible experiences; they provided a vital insight into the processes of researching in a developing country and into the issues Ghana is facing in the current economic climate.
The Simon Bryceson Fund helped to support this research, and I’m so grateful I had this opportunity to develop my skills, see a different part of the world, and to meet some amazing people who supported my research report. The skills, knowledge, and experiences gained on this trip are immeasurable, getting me one BIG step closer to starting a career in the development field.
Across the two weeks, the group visited several NGOs to gain insight into the work individual organisations are doing, from grassroots to national level. The groups we visited were:
Local, grassroot community dance and music group that support children who are not in school. Providing them with a safe space to explore their creativity, confidence, and passion for the arts, and offering scholarships to study for students.
Supporting mothers and women to build financial, health, and emotional wellbeing through developing their skills and knowledge of entrepreneurship. Their mission is to create a life of prosperity for African women and their families.
Clothing waste and justice NGO, the foundation promotes the circular economy through the regeneration of clothing and plastic waste across Accra. Working at the grassroot, national and international levels, the foundation provides work and skills training for local people, conducts research across Accra to provide policy suggestions regarding plastic, waste, and water provisions, and works internationally through advocacy work at the UN and other international organisations.
- The GNECC
The Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition is a network of over 200 civil society organisations. The GNECC represents these organisations at the national political level, influencing policies by gaining research and data from local organisations.