Crossposted from BorderJumpers.org, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack. This piece was originally featured on Cheapflights.
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. We visited several projects across the country, and each of them reinforced the fact that people are working hard to lift themselves out of poverty.
In Abokobi, just outside of Accra, we met with women who are using dairy cows donated to them by Heifer International to make yogurt to sell to local businesses and schools. 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 helping prevent slash-and-burn agriculture by 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.
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 visiting the Kakum National Park, watching birds and monkeys at eye level as they walked along their 350 meter ‘canopy’, located in a small rain forest about 35 miles from Cape Coast. 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.
For many travelers, we doubt Ghana ever makes it onto the radar. But if you’re bored of lying around on beaches and want to visit somewhere that will truly inspire you, then maybe it should.
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