What happens when you zoom out from Accra and look at the hydrological processes at a larger scale? You'll find an impressive drainage system: the Volta Basin, Ghana's most important natural source bringing life to the country. Most of Ghana's rivers have its origin in Burkina Faso and flow to lake Volta, the world's largest artificial body of water (8500 km2). The Akosombo dam is the name of the hydroelectric dam in the Volta river, providing most of Ghana's electricity supply. Even parts of Benin and Togo run on 'Volta power'.
To say we were exited for our trip to the Akosombo dam is a slight understatement. Having analyzed the Volta basin extensively in our course work on transboundary basin management and evaporation modeling, we could not wait to see this Civil Engineering work of art with our own eyes. The Volta region is the most tropical region of Ghana and the landscape is changing beautifully as we leave behind the noisy city for a day. (Our accommodation is located next to a church with exceptional services from 8am in the morning till 4am at night)
We are welcomed to join a festival taking place in Akwamufie, a village on the east shore of the Volta River. The festival turned out to be a funeral of the Chief of Akwamu, a big state of the Akan people. The chief is a highly respected person in this region and his funeral lasts for 3 days, whereby the entire village and surrounding towns are invited. We arrived early on sunday morning and meet with the artists and volunteers working on the creation of an artpiece, the table of hope. The table is made from wooden planks with writings from community members about their dreams and hopes; the co-creation is supposed to stir-up a good dialogue.
The table of hope is presented to the King of Akwamu and his Chiefs during an official ceremony in his palace. The guests raise when the delegation of respected men in ropes walk in. The more elaborated their bottons on their slippers, the more important the Chiefs are, we have been told. It is nice to see how the king fully embraces the project, by stating that he will use the table in his palace when he will meet and discuss matters with his Chiefs. A new ritual is created in a culture where traditions, ancestry and beliefs are so very strong.
What we learned today, besides dancemoves from the Ewe tribe and being astonished by the ceremonial proceedings ? Reflecting on our own work, we realize that implementing engineering solutions will only become a success when it fits the people and culture it is designed to serve. Creating rituals and giving a special meaning to physical constructions might be a good way to realize the envisioned end-results in communities like we visited today. What if the town's urban drainage system would hold such special meaning for the community, would maintenance still be problematic?