Awal, Ghana, the Symposium and a Possibility

February 01, 2009 | By The Pachamama Alliance

A man named Yakuba Mohammed Awal was doing internet research for his studies in Ghana when he found the Awakening The Dreamer website. He reached Jon Symes, Pachamama Outreach Director, who sent him a Presenters’ Kit and introduced him to Janet Laughton MacKay, a Canadian Symposium Facilitator, who offered to help people in other Symposium “start up areas.” On January 31, both were giving Symposiums, Awal in Ghana, and Janet and her husband in Canada. Awal and she were comparing notes over the internet. In Canada, they were driving on a paved highway to a location where everything was easily provided. Later Awal sent us pictures of how it works in Ghana. Janet has used his photos and this story to add a 5-minute presentation to the Symposium  which so moved the Symposium participants in Canada that they contributed $750.00.

Here is Awal’s story:

Hi every one,
My name is Yakubu Mohammed Awal. I am 27 years old, male and a student in my third year of studies at the University for Development Studies in Tamale-Ghana, studying agricultural technology .

As part of our academic requirements to attain a degree my university is mandated by the constitution of the republic of Ghana to blend academic work with a rural practical experience which is compulsory for every student in the university to participate in for three years. This is how it works:

In your first year of studies you're sent to a community anywhere in Ghana to study the community profile, topography, geographical location, population census, and the community transect. In the second year, you are required to go there again and study the problems and potentials of the community where upon data collected you analyse it with tools like the problem tree analyses, pairwise ranking etc. In the third and final time you go there again, and this time you are required to write a proposal with your findings in the community and present to the school.

So the first year when I arrived in my community of research called Subriso #1 located in the Brong Ahafo region which is predominantly a forest area. I was quick to notice that they had a major challenge. That was both legal and illegal chainsaw operation which seemed to be an everyday activity.  I noticed with great dismay that the rate at which the precious forest trees were being depleted every day was alarming.

Funny enough this particular community happened to be a settler community. They went there to farm cola nut and then the forest trees became a discovery to them. So they abandoned their farming activities and simply took up machines and started cutting down trees which fetched them quick money. They had more hands join in the business and it became worse.
With my little experience of deforestation I tried to talk to them about the dangers involved in this business but I was met with stiff opposition from the townspeople.

To them it was a gift from God which they were going to use it fully to their advantage. So they wouldn’t listen to me. But I also thought they should listen because it was important for us to know that a well lived today brings a better tomorrow. It became a challenge to them but my time to return to school was due so I had to go back to school.

Then I met Jon Symes through a friend and we exchanged e-mails and phone calls and Jon inspired me to organize a symposium for these people. He sent to me a symposium DVD and some materials to study as a guide towards organizing the seminar.

I accepted the invitation to do it and organized a symposium at this community on the 28th of Nov 2008.
This community has no electricity so I had to carry my television set with a generator to this place. I had three friends of mine who volunteered to join me to do this. One of them had to do the translation for me since he spoke the same language as the townspeople.

On Friday at 10 am the entire community was gathered at the village square to listen to the message we had brought to them. We played the dvd and explained as it rolled on until the end. We then had an open forum where we received questions from the people as to their understanding of the video and the message.

The response was affirmative and we had to deal with questions like, “What do you want us to do now that you want us to stop cutting down the trees?” “Where do we get money to go into farming since it is not cheap to go farming? “Do we just leave the forest to waste now that you asked us to stop cutting them?” “Are you (me)bringing jobs to us as alternatives to cutting the trees?” “How do we get our fuel wood then? “— a whole lot of issues. But as much as I tried to answer them I also gave them hope, since I had no immediate answers. In the end they saw reason in my case and the chief of the village called Nana Yaw Kyere rose up and pledged his commitment to end the chainsaw operations in the area. So we made a list of names, mostly opinion leaders, to endorse their commitment. We ended the day by praying to God for that day and asked him to help us.
This symposium as it took place will change the lives of my people and the generations yet unborn if this continues. I want to do this to help my country and help realize the dream of Pachamama also, because Subriso is just one community around hundreds of those communities engaged in this destruction.

Here I'm just a student. It took me my entire savings to make this first seminar happen, transporting the tv, generator, myself, my two friends, feeding them, and accommodating them became a cost to me. In the end I spent about 430 Ghana cedis  = 430 US $ equivalent. I do not regret it because not is more expensive so long as it pays to educate someone (people).
I’ll be on holidays soon, for 1 month and I was hoping to use this period to visit the other communities with same message. But I can’t afford it now since I do not have any money again. This time I wish to use  - a two weeks period – to cover about 20-25 communities and that will cost me a fortune.

Please can you tell a friend to tell a friend that if they can assist me to do this, we will all contribute in changing the lives of many people around especially here in Ghana.

Thank you, Jon,
hope to read from you soon.

Thank you.
Awal from Ghana.