Ghana’s diversity never fails to amaze me – nor does the amount of amazing resources that are not only untapped – but they are simply not known about.
During a recent flight to the Digya National Park, where we saw an elephant and some antelopes, it was not the animals that caught my attention and sparked a bush fire in my imagination.
The three aircraft for this ‘mission’ were being flown on ‘patrol’, that is a loose formation with a kilometre or two between each aircraft and all the crew communicating and keeping in sight of each other. All needed to be briefed in detail before setting out – maps issued, rendezvous points established, terrain awareness and safety equipment covered. Not to forget the cameras, food, drink, etc.
The aircraft set off and established patrol formation over the Afram plains. These plains are reputed to be the most fertile lands in Ghana. They are ideal for low cost irrigation and have widely dispersed ‘buckshot’ splatterings of settlements across them.
The land is clearly fertile, and the lake immense in its utility, but the area has less than a few percentage points of practical development. Why we import a single item of food into Ghana is beyond comprehension – except that few people get to see this immense pot of potential green-gold, as we do when we fly over it.
Donkorkrom, the ‘mini-capital-city’ of the Afram Plains is nestled there, with its red-and-white-pins of telecom towers sticking out of it, and the single tarmac road bisecting the town. It is a shame that the airfield there is no longer useable, since, somehow, power lines now cross the southernmost threshold, and a house is built on the old threshold, plus non-maintenance, resulting in non-usability of the facility once frequented by our Heads of State.
Without the airstrip in use, it makes a journey, that should be less than one hour. into six or seven, at best, by road. But, since we do not value the treasure of time, we do not see the need to protect the facilities that make time savings and increased exposure so valuable.
You have to ask yourself, as you see the increasing number of General Aviation aircraft in our country, whether the lack of community investment in aviation infrastructure is because people do not see the enormity of our wealth, or because we do not maintain the facilities necessary to enable such exposure?
One thing has become evident throughout the world, and not only in relation to aviation, and that is ‘Government can’t run business effectively’. The reason is a simple one, commitment. When the projects are started the commitment – and vision – is there. But a few years down the line, the people who started the project are no longer in a position to be functionally committed to the project, and the vision is lost in a haze of excuses. I do not need to cite a single example – because you have them on the tip of your tongue.
Now, as I look at this majestic, underutilised area, I have to ask myself, ‘Why doesn’t the community of Donkorkrom set to creating its own new airstrip facility, in the same way that Techiman has?’ It is not because they do not know about the idea, and it is not because they do not have enough funds, and it is not because they do not have the land.
All I hope is that, if they do, they do so as a people, as a committed community, since that is the only way that it will be long term sustainable.
As we flew on into Digya National Parc, the sight of the elephant area was magnificent. Absolutely no sign of human activity for thousands of hectares. It was as if we had flown back in time, to a time before mankind had learned to walk.
The gallery forest was magnificent, with occasional clearings, muddy rivers meandering their way along and nothing to detract from natures perfection. Traces of antelopes, elephants and the flight of large wingspan birds, probably kites, were in abundance.
This is the second largest nature reserve in Ghana – and the number of visitors per year is probably less than the number of people who work in the game reserve! There is no ‘proper’ road to the area, but there is a lake, and there are ferries. Also, what would it take to establish a small strip, suitable for the enthusiastic nature minded aviator to visit and promote the facility.
So many people in Ghana have no idea about Digya – far less than have some idea about the Afram plains! The rural communities in the area are impeccable.
Better maintenance than we witness in many of our cities, for these are a proud people, and a people without access to the facilities and conveniences of Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale.
What a treasure, that is hidden under the dusty carpet of lack of promotion. I hope that we will fly back and take in a health education team, perhaps sooner rather than later…
We cut across the Digya National Parc and passed about fifty kilometres south of Kete Krachi, site of another un-maintained and effectively abandoned airfield. On the return leg, we deviated to ‘visit’ one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Ghana. You will not have heard of it, because it does not appear on the map and has no roads to it.
It has no ‘promoted’ name, and is probably only visited by the local people who have reason to trek to it. On the south bank of the Afram leg of the lake, the ridge rises towards Kwahu, and there in the middle of it, stands a two kilometre wide brown triangle of rock, with a stunning and awe-inspiring tirade of water tumbling down the side.
The water appears to spurt out from the grassy covered rocks at the top, and then tumble a few hundred feet to the pool below. We all flew past, one after another, and made radio calls, aircraft-to-aircraft, about how ‘amazing’, ‘magnificent’, ‘beautiful’, ‘fantastic’, and so many other positive adjectives that this sight deserved, applied to this moment in our flying and visual experiences.
The flight time was four hours – and yet it seemed like less time than first-half of a football match – and all aboard the different aircraft were tired and exhilarated. All of us had our eyes opened to some of the sights of Ghana, reserved by the de-facto access systems and exposure to a privileged few, which we can now count ourselves amongst.
I am just left wondering, how it can change? It will not change by directive, nor by direct political intervention. No, it will change by education, awareness and an enabling environment, supported, but not owned or managed, by Government agencies and their policies. It needs long-term, self-motivated, self-initiated and self-maintained facilities and programmes if it is to ever succeed – and the people need to realise that ‘self-help is the only way to achieve success’.
Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS – The Best Flying Experience in West Africa (www.waasps.com)
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