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Upper East: Finest tourist Destinationpdf print preview print preview
18/04/2007Page 1 of 1
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Upper East: Finest tourist Destination


Article: BENJAMIN GLOVER, Bolgatanga

THE Upper East Region is located in the north-eastern of Ghana and bordered on the north by Burkina Faso, on the south by the Northern Region and on the east by the Republic of Togo.

It covers a total area of 8,848 square kilometers, which represents about three per cent of the country’s land mass.

It is one of the 10 administrative regions of Ghana. It was part of the Upper Region, which was carved out of the former Northern Territories on July 1, 1960 and it was later divided into the Upper West Regions on April1, 1983.
District Structures
Administratively, the region is divided into eight districts, namely Bolgatanga municipal, Bawku West, Bongo, Garu-Tempane, Talensi-Nabdam, and Builsa Districts. There are 67 Zonal / Area Council, and 737 Unit Committees. 

The districts are headed by District Chief Executives, and the current ones are: Messrs Isaac Noah Amoah (Bolgatanga Municipal), Abdul-Rahman Gumah (Bawku Municipal), Emmanuel Aoyi Chegeweh (Kassena/Nankana), Emmanuel Sin-Nyet Asigri (Garu-Tempane), Francis A. Akurugu (Brongo), Moses Appiah Abaare (Bawku West), Sebastain T. Bisnab (Talensi-Nabdam, and Thomas Kofi Alosi (Abuilsa).

Members of Parliament
For the purposes of law-making at the national level, the region has 13 seats in the National Assembly. They are Mr. Abolimbisa Roger Akantagriwen (NDC), Builsa South, Mrs. Agnes Asangalisa Chigabatia (NPP), Builsa North, Mr. Albert Abongo (NDC), Bongo, Mr. David Apasera (PNC), Bolgatanga, Mr. Dominic Azimbe Asumah (NDC), Garu-Tempane, Mr. John Akolugu Tia (NDC), Talensi, Mr. John Akparibo Ndebugre (PNC), Zebilla, Mr. Joseph Kofi Adda (NPP), Navrongo Central, Mr. Mahama Ayariga (NDC), Bawku Central, Mr. Mark Anthony Awuni (NDC), Binduri, Mr. Moses Asaga (NDC), Nabdam, Mr. Pele Abuga (NDC), Chiana-Paga, and Mr. Simon Akunye (NDC), Pusiga.
Former Regional Chief Executives / Commissioners,
Administrator / Ministers
Since its creation, a total Regional Ministers have administered the region under the various regimes. The first person to head the region was Mr. Ayeebo Asumda, and that was during CPP era, while currently, it is being administered by Mr. Boniface Gambia. The Regional Ministers, the Government and the period they served are as following: 

Messrs Ayeebo Asumda, (CPP) 1960-66, J.W.O. Agyeman, (NLC), 1966-67, Imoro Lafia, (NLC), 1967-69, Imoro Salifu, (PP), 1969-72, Col. George Minyila, (NRC), 1972-73, Col. Acquaye Nortey, (SMC), 1973-75, Major Ofori Akuamoah (SMC), 1975-78, and Wing Commander Samuel Gyabaah, (SMC), 1978-79.

Others are J.D. Cobbinah, who served in an acting capacity, (AFRC), 1979-80, George Nandzo, (PNP), 1981, Dr. Awusu Tinorga, (PNDC), 1982-84, J.E. Sakyi, (PNDC), 1984-88, L.K. Molibilla, (PNDC), 1988-1993, S.A. Gumah, (NDC), 1993-1994, and Godfrey Abulu, (NDC), 1994-1995.

The rest are:     Cletua Avoka (NDC), 1995-1997, Donald Adabre Adabere, (NDC), 1997-1998, Alhaji Sulemana Amidu, (NDC), 1998-2000, David Osei-Wusu, (NDC), 2000-2001, Mahami Salifu, (NPP), 2001-2005 and Boniface Gambila, (NPP), 2005 – to date.

These Regional Ministers were ably assisted by Regional Co-ordinating Directors (RCDs), to effectively implement government policies and programmes. In all, a total of 13 RCDs have worked in the region since its creation.

They are Messrs S.C.A. Chinery, (CPP), 1960-1963, B.K. Otoo, (CPP), 1963-1965, D.K. Ntosuah, (CPP), 1965-1966, J.A. Indome, (NLC), 1966-1969, J.K. Darfoor, (PP), 1969-1972, and Alexander Alastair Ampofo (NRC /SMC), 1972-1978.

The rest are:     J.D. Cobbina, (SMC/AFRC/PNP), 1978-1980, E.C. Kotey, (PNP/PNDC), 1980-1985, F.N. Andan, (PHDC/NDC), 1985-1993, H.A.L. Imbeah (NDC), 1993-1999, David Yaro, (NDC), 1999-2001, G.S.C. Anaba, (NPP), 2001-2004 and David Bakari (NPP) 2004 – date.

One RCD whose name rings a bell and has been acknowledged as having spearheaded development in the region is Mr. Alexander Alastair Ampofo, alias “Kofi Charley”.

In recognition of his efforts, the National Executive Committee of BONABOTO, which is an association comprising citizens of Bolgatanga, Nabdam, Bongo and Tongo, honoured this illustrious civil servant at its end–of–year get–together on January 21, 2006.

The population of the region, according to the 2000 Population and Housing Census, is 920,089. The region is dominated by females, who are 477,597 compared to 442,492 males. The major ethnic groups are the Gurunne, Kusasi, Kasem, Nankana, Builsa, Mamprusi, Moshie and Bissa.
The region is predominantly agricultural, with about 80 per cent of the economically active population engaged in one form of agriculture-related activity or another (mainly food crop subsistence farming).   Principal crops grown in the rain-fed upland soils are millet, sorghum (guinea corn) and groundnuts, Important minor crops include maize, bambara beans, cowpeas, tobacco and on late soyabeans. 

In the irrigated valleys, tomatoes, pepper and onions are grown during the dry season. The main tree crops are sheanuts and dawadawa, both harvested from the wild, with mango and cashew planted in small quantities. Livestock and poultry production is also predominant. The region can also boast of two large irrigation facilities. These are the Vea Irrigation Project Bolgatanga. And the Tono Irrigation Project at Navrongo. However, the large amount of silt in these two irrigation systems has become an issue of concern to the region. It is generally believed that when the silt is cleared and the dams subsequently revamped, it will enhance food production in the region.

In the area of education, there are 378 pre-schools, 543 primary schools, 218 Junior Secondary School, 21 Senior Secondary Schools, two Technical Schools, three Vocational Schools, four Private Secretarial Schools, one Youth Leadership Training Institute, one Specialized School, two Polytechnics / University Campus and two Teacher Training Colleges. 

Notable among the Second Cycle Institutions, which have, no doubt, contributed to shaping the lives of some dynamic citizens, whose contributions to national development have been tremendous, include Bolgatanga Secondary School, Bolgatanga Girls’ Secondary School, Zuarungu Secondary School, Bolgatanga Technical Institute, and Zamse Secondary / Technical School.

The rest include Bawku Secondary/Technical, Bawku Secondary School, Navrongo Secondary School, Sandema Secondary/Technical School, Bongo Secondary/Technical, Gowrie Secondary/Technical, among other.

Social Services
All the eight Districts are connected to the national grid, while 80 per cent access to good drinking water.
Health Care
In terms of health services, the Upper East Region boasts of six Hospitals, 30 Health Centre, 37 Clinics and about seven Midwifery, re-habilitation, Mobile Clinic and Research Centres. 

According to the Ghana Living Standards Survey, 1998 /99, nine out of every 10 people are poor. The region is also said to have between 35 percent and 40 per cent of its population being extremely poor.

There are a number of major manufacturing establishment in the region, including the Pwalugu Tomato Canning Factory, which is now under a new management and undergoing massive rehabilitation. There is also the Ghana Cotton Ginnery at Pusunamongo. One can also mention the Zuarungu Meat Factory, the Bolgatanga and Bawku Rice Mills. These three, however, are no more in operation and have, therefore, been listed for divestiture. 

There are some commercial quarries in the region. They are the Upper Quarry Limited at Pwalugu in the Talensi-Nabdam District and the Granite and Marble Company Limited at Tongo.

The former produces granite chippings for the construction and building industry, whilst the latter produces granite stones to be sawn into slabs for cladding commercial buildings and monuments.

Of late, small-scale gold mining, referred to as “galamsey” and popularly called “Lakpikri” in the local parlance has become rampant in the Bolgatanga Municipality, the Talensi- Nabdam District and the adjoining areas of the Bawku West District, especially around Tilli and Widnaba. Some foreign mining companies have been given licences and are currently prospecting for gold in the region.

Informal and small-scale industrial activities are by far the most important activities in the region due the simple technology involved, the availability of local inputs and the linkages between them and other economic activities such as blacksmithing, pito-brewing, smock weaving, basketry and other straw products, leatherworks, pottery, sheabutter and groundnut oil extraction,. The smocks and the straw baskets, popularly known as the “Bolga Basket”, are now being exported to earn foreign exchange. These are mostly engaged in during the dry season when little or no farming activities take place.

The Upper East Region is among one of the finest and friendly tourism destinations in the country because of its varied tourist attractions. The attractions include crocodile ponds, slave routes, rocks used as drums by the slaves under captivity in Paga, slave stops and slave resistant spots and shrines, including that of Babatu, the famous slave raider in Sandema in the Builsa District. 

Other places of interest are the Kulungungu bomb site, where an assassination attempt was made on Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr, Kwame Nkrumah, in the 1960s, the Tenzug shrine in Tongo, believed to be a very powerful god that serves people’s needs, no matter wheat the demands are, and also rocks, shaped naturally to the admiration of anybody who sees them.

Other attractions, such as the “tomb” of the famous warrior, Naa Gbewaa, which is also a shrine in Pusiga, near Bawku, is available to tourist. It is believed that the warrior vanished in the heat of one of the wars in this shrine.

Also available for visitors to admire is a museum that houses monuments of great men and warriors from the three northern regions of Ghana, palaces of Chiefs, as well as the traditions and customs of the various ethnic groups.

In Widnaba, in the Bawku West District, a visitor can enter a hollow baobab tree in which potential slaves were held captives. While at Paga Nania, three kilometers west of Paga, in the Kassena Nankana District is a slave transit camp and relics of the Slave Trade. The Tongo Whistling Rocks constitute one unique site in the region. Located six miles (10 km) from Bolgatanga, these granite rocks also make strange whistling sounds during November and December, when the harmattan wind blows off the Sahara through the region. The region is also known for its handicrafts and a locally brewed beer known as pito, which comes in two varieties, the Frafra pito and the Dargari pito.

The region also plays host to many festivals throughout the year. Most festivals are either to bring a good planting season or celebrate the harvest. They include the Samanpiid Festival celebrated by the Kusasis in the Bawku Traditional Area between November and December. Its significance is to give thanks to the gods for a good harvest.

There are hosts of sacrifices followed by merry-making to climax it. The Adaakoya Festival is celebrated by the Chiefs and People of Bolgatanga and Zuarungu. It is held between January and February.  The festival is used to give thanks to the gods for good harvest. The mode of celebration is through various sacrifices followed by drumming and dancing. The climax is a durbar of the chiefs and their people.

The Fao Festival is observed by the chiefs and people of Paga, Chiana, Kayoro in the Kassena-Nankana District between November and February. It is a thanksgiving offering for a good harvest. During the festival, the people display stalks of their first harvest of millet as a sign of sacrifice, and thankfulness to the gods.

The Feok Festival is celebrated in December since time immemorial by the chiefs and people of the Builsa Traditional Area. “Feok in the local Buli dialect means abundance of food. In this context, the festival becomes one of thanksgiving by which the people of the area express thanks to God, their ancestors and the earth shrines for seeing them through a successful farming season. The climax of the celebration is a public gathering or durbar bringing together chiefs, war dancers and singing groups from the surrounding villages in the Builsa area.

The Upper East Region is a place where the hospitality of its people is legendary. There is a chance to hear amazing words of welcome.

Lovers of arts will be pleasantly delighted to view the gamut of works of art or carry some away. In the nooks and crannies of the region, one will find hand-woven smocks, beautifully crafted baskets and exquisite leather works, which come in all shapes and sizes.

A visit to Sirigu, a village located 30 kilometres off the Bolgatanga-Navrongo Road will expose tourists to murals done on walls and canvas, mainly by the women committed to keeping threatened traditional arts alive. These women also sell baskets, pottery, and other crafts, which are both a source of livelihood and a proud tradition for the villagers.

Everywhere one turns, there is a chance to hear amazing traditional music created by the locals from simple instruments such as gouges.

The main dishes of the Upper-East Region are “Tuo Zafi (TZ)”, rice balls (“Omo Tuo”) with groundnut soup or green leaves soup, beans, rice and cowpea or “Tubaani”, and koko with “koose”. Beverages include pito and “Zom krom”.

Like every other society, the region can boast of an array of chiefs who are also custodians of land and culture of the people. Records available at the Regional House of Chiefs state that there are a total of 17 Paramount Chiefs in the region. The notable ones are Naba Simon Ayidana Asobayire, Kologu Naba and President of the Regional House of Chiefs, Naba Sugri Bewong, Sakoti, Naba Martin Abilba III, Bolgatanga, Naba Abugrago Azoka, Bawku, Pe Charles Awia Awampaga, Paga, and Pe O.B. Tiyiamu, Kayoro among others. A few are deceased and are yet to be replaced.

One unique feature of the Upper East Region is the cordial relationship between the Gurune and the Dagaaba tribes. The Dagaabas are from the Upper-West Region, while the Gurunes (Frafra), on the other hand, and are from the Upper East Region. Both are predominantly agricultural people.

So cordial is their relationship that the two groups are able to joke and tease each other publicly without either taking undue offence. They have mutual understanding as “Mabia” or play mates.

To strengthen this bond of friendship, the two ethnic playmates meet regularly to compete for honours in several sporting events, with the ultimate price being a puppy, a delicacy enjoyed by both tribes.

The region has a total of 4,697.7 kilometres trunk roads. These are made up of 69.5 kilometres asphalt roads, 136.2 surface dressed roads and 264.0 kilometres of gravel roads. Generally, most settlements in the region are accessible during the rainy season. The region can also boast of an air strip at Paga, which currently does not operate currently does not operate commercial flights. It is hoped that the upgrading of the airstrip and the provision of facilities will help open up the region to the business community. There is, however, no commercial air travel to and from the region.
Telecommunication Services
All the major mobile phone service operators, i.e. Onetouch, Areeba and tiGO are equally represented in the region. However, fixed network services provided by Ghana Telecom are limited to only three district capitals, namely Bolgatanga and Bawku Municipalities and Kassena-Nankana. Sandema in the Builsa District is, however, on satellite communications. 

The postal services in the region are handled by the Ghana Postal Services Company, which operates four general post offices and six agencies, Ghana Post also delivers and dispatches mails and it has taken up supplementary services such as the sale of stationery and the renewal of television licences, the Western Union Money Transfer, and Instant Money Transfer, to increase its revenue.

There are four Frequency Modulation radio stations in the region being the URA Radio, operated by the state-owned Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Tono Radio, Style and Rock FM, The URA FM transmits messages in English and five dominant dialects, namely Gurunne (frafra), Kasem, Buli Kusaai, Bissa. The Radio Style and Rock FM stations, which are privately owned, broadcast in English, Twi, and Gurunne, but do not cover the entire region. Tono Radoi is a community-based radio station located at Navrongo in the Kassena-Nankana District.

In the area of television coverage, state-owned GTV covers the entire region, which Metropolitan Television (Metro TV) covers viewers in the regional capital, Bolgatanga.

Banking & Security
There are a number of banks operating in the region. They include the National Investment Bank, the Ghana Commercial Bank, the SG-SSB Bank, the Agricultural Development Bank, the ARB Apex Bank and a number of rural and community Banks, all providing one form or another of banking services. 

In the area of security, a total of 31 Regional Police Commanders, including the current Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Ofosu-Mensah Gyeabour, have supervised the security needs of the people in the region. The first Regional Police Commander was ACP G.A. Donkor, whose administration started from June 10, 1961 to February 15, 1993.  Currently, there are two divisional commands, six District Commands and 15 police stations offering policing services in the region.


            The Daily Graphic -            Wednesday, April 18, 2007            Page 15,16 & 33

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