In the evening, there was a welcome party and cultural show organised by Mr. Yao Afarrnya Dzide, who turned out the next day to be our tour guide and leader. On 20th morning, breakfast was brisk. As we borded the bus for the tour, little did we know we were in for a thrilling experience all day long. As soon as we drove out of the hotel Yao took over and in a sonorous voice and diction, told us the story of Ho and her people…“Ghana has about 106 languages and dialects and about 46 recorded ethnic groups.
Here in Ho dwell the Ewes, and their language is called Ewegbe But of course, there are other ethnic groups in the north of the border region, like the Bonjas, the Gwans, comprising the Ntsimuru, and other minority tribes like the Ntsokori, Bafus, Igbees, all speak mixed dialect and we refer to them as the Gbowan people. Ho is the capital of the Volta Region. You can see all around the hilly nature of the area, and most of the administrative facilities for the region are located here, simply called the regional offices.Today we have the decentralised system of governance in Ghana and out of the ten administrative regions, 275 districts have been carved out and this is where the government is represented all over the country. In each of the districts, there is a government representative, either the district chief executive or the municipal chief executive.
Today, Ghana is advancing in ecotourism, the parks and certain conserved forest areas have become very significant. It is gradually becoming one of the strengths of tourism in Ghana. So far, attractions in Ghana abound more than in major West African countries that have opened their flanks to tourism. The slave trail for instance is very significant in Ghana, and this starts from the northern territories, where we still have slave parks with a lot of monuments that you can still see today, and can revisit the past of how slavery took place in this area. Ho has one ecosystem called Agbaklu Mountains which is also a recreational area where you test your strength during the climbing to the top. Apart from that we have a national museum which houses some relics, and a few cultural expositions of the area.
These are some of the attractions in Ho. Around here we have some of very beautiful ecosystem, we have the Kplii Waterfalls, perhaps the highest waterfall in West Africa, towering about a hundred feet and the fall is special as we have two stages, the top which oozes out of the rock, flows a little and drops from that height, the vegetation around there is inviting,with water falling from the fall,and turning into a little river that runs and meanders and crisscrossing to the fall. It is very exciting to see. It falls all year round. It is one of the significant natural attractions in the Volta Region, located here in Ho.
Tourists coming to the Volta Region normally spend the night and do the day tours next morning. The settlers chose the hilltops in the past as strongholds of defence, thus making it difficult to move up the hills, not to talk of driving as we are doing now, then the population was small but today they have grown and have opened up the environment to visitors, and some that actually relocated, or migrated from this axis, bend backwards to fund its development through Foreign Direct Investments, by providing social amenities, thus making life more meaningful and comfortable for the local populace. The land is very fertile, this is one of the reasons the inhabitants dwelt here, and because of the hills, there are several springs supplying the people with fresh clean water.
Life is comparatively better here than in some climes, the youth need not go to the cities for greener pastures, although Ghanaian economy is agriculture based. If you identify the crops to grow and have comparative advantage, you are made. Apart from the cash crops,some of which are grown here, the biggest staples which include plantain, cassava, yam, cocoa yam, maize, etc, vegetables, fruits like avocado pears, are all grown in Ho area and some of the fruits are bought by market queens who transport the goods to the major cities.
The Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary and Cultural Centre
The monkeys live among the people. They are sacred and are therefore not harmed and they live in harmony with the people in the community. The sanctuary is run by a secretariat. It is a community based attraction, the community itself earns income and put in their best in preserving what they have. For those who are Christians, there is a grotto in Kwando where you can see the 14 stations of the cross, marked in concrete stones, and you can see how Jesus Christ passed them one after the other. We have the Virgin Mary, which is the biggest statue, in recent times, we have wood carvings done by professionals within the district. In the vicinity, it is another pastime for the locals, especially, pottery. Heading southwards from Ho, we have another large pottery area called Vhume. From here we get various decorative pots for indoor and outdoor purposes, these are very colourful gourds, most of these are however sold in neighbouring cities while some are for export.
This part of Ho was protected by the French, who were then in Dahomey, now Benin Republic, while the other half under the British, when the territory was called Gold Coast. But after Ghana’s independence, there was a plebiscite in 1956 by the first president Kwame Nkrumah asking if the people here would like to join the new Ghana or stay alone. The people voted overwhelmingly for that change, that was how the region became part of Ghana.The Ewes largely moved in various directions and when you talk about people in Ghana today, you’d go back to history of around AD 10, 11 and 12 when people started migrating the Mali and Songhai empire.
There were two reasons why people descended on the forest region and all the way down to the coast. One was the pressure of Islam, people were being forced by the Arabs coming from the Mediterranean Sea to convert to their religion and some of the natives being traditional worshippers resisted. The second reason was desertification. Since the inhabitants those days had to till the soil for food, and gathering fruits and firewood from the forest, once the forest began to disappear, they decided to move southwards. So it was and the people moved. The last area where the Ewes stayed is a location in Togo known as Nordchey, they were said to have lived under a wicked king called King Adjakole. The king had a problem with the Ewes because a lot of them moved into his territory.
Gradually the Ewes got fed up, due to the treatments from the King, they decided to run away. They travelled all night. When the King’s guards pursued them they were unable to drive them back and like the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt, the elders created a dam as defence and when the pursuers could not cross the river they went back. That’s how the Ewes moved all the way down to the present location in Ghana. That’s why you see a lot of affiliations, as they share a lot in common with the people of Togo. Today the Ewes can be found in the southern part of Ghana, Togo and Benin. Farming and fishing thrive in these communities that is why they operate most of the fishing boats you can find along the coastal areas in West Africa.
From Nigeria to Ghana, and down to Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia and beyond. The hills you see are the extension of the Akwapin-Togo ridge. From here to Togo is very close. You don’t need to pass through any border, as soon as you drive on, you get into a village in Togo, a lot more people use these bush routes to either smuggle goods across or for other reasons, although Ghana has a lot more regular frontiers where they observe immigration formalities but because of the ECOWAS Treaty allowing free movement of people within 90 days, movement across the corridor has been simplified so long as you can identify yourself as a member of the community, you can easily cross the borders. But the conditions we face now as ECOWAS members, crossing the borders is expensive and this is not good. Ghanaians crossing into Benin pay at the border, Nigerians also pay and these are some of the illegalities at the border posts. We need to highlight these ills to make tourism cheap. The corridor should be opened for the purpose of promoting regional travel and tours.
The conditions for crossing the borders are not too good. The authorities demand money from Nigerians and Ghanaians and these are some of the illegalities at the borders. This is one of the problems we need to address in the region if we need to grow domestic tourism and use the proceeds for community development.
Flights operate from Kotoka airport, which is the major international airport. There is a standard airport at Ho. It is being expanded and upgraded to an international airport. There is one in Kumasi and the other at Tamale. Last year there was a chartered flight for hajj pilgrims which operated from Tamale to Jeddah, so Tamale is quite safe for large and light aircraft. When ready you can have flights from Nigeria to Kumasi, depending on the type of tourists coming. Once in awhile we have grade A clients or VIP’s on tour and these are taken care of adequately. We also fly to Togo, with two reputable airports, one in Lome the other in Miam Togo. From Miam Togo, you can do the tour aspect in the northern stretch in a day and return same day by air.
Ghana is gradually getting to that stage. Some of the problems we have is that some of the highways and trunk A roads are in bad shape and it takes a longer time to go around in a big bus to see some of the attractions. We now provide some facilities near these attractions. Poor road network is the reason for low tourism traffic and arrivals in the region. Soon, we will begin to have the arrivals as it should be, when the basic infrastructure have been provided.
We have huge tourism potentials in the region. From Lagos and Calabar to Accra and the Cape Coast. But the challenge is that we are not marketing and promoting these destinations enough. We need to improve the arrival figures if we are serious with making tourism real. Tourism is the fourth largest income earner in Ghana. Cocoa which is the main crop, coupled with gold and mineral resources, and of course remittances from family and friends abroad, bring in a substantial percentage of our foreign earnings.
Ghana has oil. Ours is not as vast as Nigeria’s but we are learning from your short comings. We hope our leaders are taking a cue and we hope oil will be able to transform our economic landscape.
We have six circle education system introduced in 2017. Children leaving the Junior High to Senior High no more pay fees, which is part of the oil money. Although the policy is difficult to implement, there must be a beginning because we believe that if part of the money goes into funding education, on the long run, it will impact on our our children. That way we would be less vulnerable to misappropriation because of the type of leaders we have today. We hope that as we become more democratic, with press freedom, everybody will understand what is happening. If we all frown at corruption and circulate the needed information, enlighten the people, and invest the oil revenue in our children, their future will be greater than ours.