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The Misery of Northern Ghana @50

Fri, 20 Apr 2007 Source: GNA

A GNA Feature by Paul Achonga Kwode

Tamale, April 19, GNA - Ghana is still in the mood of celebrating its 50 years of nationhood. As the nation celebrates the golden jubilee with one voice in unity in the name of one Ghana, there is the need to reflect on the misery that has been parched on the heads of the people of the North.

There is no gainsaying that Ghanaians did indeed celebrate the anniversary in unison. This shows how the celebration brought us together as one people with a common destiny.

There is, therefore, the need for the Country to reflect on how the people of Northern Ghana, specifically, the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions have fared from the Colonial Era to the Independence period and after.

When the country attained independence and adopted the unitary system of government; a system based on equitable distribution of national resources, many were the hopes of the people of the Northern Sector of the country.

Expectations of the people of the North were raised high when the First President of the country, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah initiated a lot of policies and programmes like the introduction of compulsory basic education and scholarships schemes for students from the Northern Sector which enabled the less developed, highly illiterate, poverty endemic Northern Ghana to dream of better things to come.

These positive steps were, however, short lived as successive governments after the Osagyefo Nkrumah's Administration failed to implement these policies thus making Northern Ghana the forgotten son left in great misery and deprivation in a geographical landmass that was hostile.

Like Oliver Twist, who asked for more, Northern Ghana needed more and in fact a fair share of the national cake that would at least propel it to a level playing field where people of the North could catch up with their brothers in the South.


The Northern Ghana abounds in natural and human resources which if properly harnessed could bring it out of poverty and deprivation and make it a prosperous area full of hope and promise for its people.

The people of Northern Ghana are very hardworking full of unexploited talents. The habitat has made them robust and capable of withstanding all sorts of hardships. They are prepared to do all manner of jobs that would earn them a livelihood.

For instance, during the dry season when the land becomes dry and parched and no proper farming could be done, unless those advantaged to have irrigations facilities at their disposal, the majority who do not have this facility travel to the South to do "by day" - weeding the farm for a fee on daily basis. They return home when the rains set in. Thus the agricultural output from the South has significant input of the people of Northern Ghana.

Although about three quarters of agricultural produce and the labour engaged in its production is from Northern Ghana the people hardly benefit from their hard work.

The vast arable land in Northern Ghana could be developed to become the breadbasket of the country. The land is suitable for large-scale mechanised agriculture to produce various food and cash crops including groundnuts; beans; millet; maize; bambara beans; yams; mango; water melons; tomato; onion; shea butter; cotton; rice; sunflower; and cashew.

There is also a great potential for livestock farming including the raising of cattle; goats; sheep; pigs; fowls; guinea fowl and ostrich. These could be raised in large quantities for export could earn the country millions of dollars.


Investment opportunities in the Northern Sector are enormous and the people of the Northern Ghana are very accommodating. There is an airport in the area, cheap labour and vast arable land for agriculture purposes and other projects, which can be negotiated for on flexible terms.

There is ready market for produce since large market centres abound. Valie could be added to these produce by processing them. A recent discovery of yet investment potential is sugar cane. It has been discovered that the sector could go into mass production of sugarcane.

The tourist attractions in the Sector are enormous and some of them are; the Mole Game Park; Nalerigu Defence Wall; Laribanga Mosque and "The Mystery Stone and the Salaga Slave Market all in the Northern Region.

In the Upper East, some of them include: Paga Crocodile Pond: Tenzuk Shrine, near Bolgatanga, and the Sirigu Cultural Village. The Upper West also has Wichau Hippopotamus Sanctuary; Wa Na's Palace and the Ancient Mosque are but a few of the tourist sites.


In spite of the economic potentials in the Northern Ghana, the people remain in abject poverty through no fault of theirs. For instance, an industrial census of 2005 conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service showed that the three Northern Regions accounted for only 8.3 per cent of the 275,495 persons engaged in industrial activities and had only 9.5 per cent of the 26,493 industries that the study was covered.

The youth of the Northern Ghana have not had their fair share of employment opportunities compelling them to migrate mostly to Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and big towns in search of non-existent jobs. They go into all manner jobs including becoming porters with its associated problems.

The Northern Sector can only boost of the recently rehabilitated Pwalugu Tomato Factory and cotton ginneries.

Ghana is said to be second in the world of guinea worm disease affliction with 13 out of the 15 endemic districts in the Northern part of the country.

The educational facilities in Northern Ghana are not the best. Some basic schools hold classes under trees. It is, therefore, no wonder that many of them drop out of school. The few who struggle to the secondary level face major difficulties.

Disparity in tertiary schooling for the Northern students is high as against other regions. This is often blamed on the inability of the poor parents to afford the cost of education.

The Northern Sector faces yet another great disparity in road networks. Apart from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Road that passes through the area, most of the major roads are not tarred. For instance, roads to 15 out of the 18 districts capitals of the Northern Region are not tarred making it difficult for farmers to transport their produce to the cities during the rainy season. Navrongo - Wa; Sandema - Fumbisi; Wa - Bamboi Highways are also not tarred leaving them in a deplorable state.

The proposed rail line to link Ghana to Burkina Faso that would have to pass through Northern Ghana is still in the drawing board.


There have been a number of interventions undertaken by past governments and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) but much is expected. Most of the NGOs in the Northern Sector exploit the plight of the people to get funding for projects which in the long round benefit themselves more than the people in whose name they solicited for funding. Politicians hype their plight during electioneering campaign only to leave them in the lurch once they are elected.

The enormity of the problem calls for the project approach to the development of the area. Specific projects should be developed and effectively implemented. There is the need for new NORRIP; LACOSREP; ICOUR; Bontanga and others.

ICOUR needs major rehabilitation; FASCOM is in distress and must be given a lifeline.

Since the people are less financially resourced to undertake capital-intensive projects, the attention of the government should be focused on establishing industries that could turn the raw materials available to finished goods.

In this way, more people would be employed to raise the standard of living in the area. Parents, who could not send their children to school due to financial difficulties, would then find it easy to do so. The tourism potentials in the Northern Sector are left untapped to attract major tourists to the area. The few that attempts have been made to revamp to attract tourist are in decrepitude and unattractive. 19 April 07

Columnist: GNA