Meeting the King

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?

Comments: 3 (Discussion closed)
  • #1

    Marc (Tuesday, 10 May 2016 10:01)

    Once the engineering Solutions implemented do not conflict the traditions customs and interest of the people there shouldn't be a problem. With maintenance i believe getting the elders of the local community involved would go a long way to help as well as external institutions who would do regular followups to ensure everything is up to speed

  • #2

    Jackson (Friday, 13 May 2016 14:33)

    Civilized Laws: In most civilized nations whose Law is based on Old English Common Law, there are two Laws, Eminent Domain and Police Power. Eminent Domain give government the right to use a private property for public use. An example will be if there is a fire and the fire Truck has to drag their hose and walk over some private property. Sometimes there is a major Highway designed, and people are told they will have to relocate. Such Laws, though, negotiate with the owners, and compensates the owners of such property, and give them adequate notice. The other Law, Police Power, is the power to seize a private property in case of emergency or war, without any notice or agreement by the owner. We have seen the use of such powers under the Rawlings administration of the PNDC. Ghanaians are sick and tired of such arbitrary use of power. No such misuse of power must enter the minds of any government leaders, be they city, regional or national. Period! The cost of putting up a simple modest house in downtown Accra is at least $50,000. 150 houses demolished is an estimated minimum of $7,500,000 or C58.5Billion cedis. Is the AMA going to compensate the people who are losing their houses or they plan to use Marshall Law and Police Power?

    It is the opinion of many of us who have built house in Accra that the AMA is a very ill-managed apparatus of government. They don?t know how to manage, and they want to wield arbitrary power without being able to deliver basic cleanliness to even make Accra, the capital, seem a normal city. The AMA has failed to pick up garbage, failed to name all streets and failed to number houses. The AMA has been reported as paying its executives hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild their houses, when they cannot even use part of the taxes they collect daily from the Makola women and others to provide simple public toilets for them. They cannot enforce simple laws of decency requiring decent sanitary toilets by Banks and businesses doing business with the city. This is done in every civilized nation that I am sure Mr. Mayor has visited and perhaps lived overseas.

    Please note that I am not trying to put all blame on Solomon Darko, since he is a new mayor of Accra However the Chief Exeuctive must act like a Chief Executive, as the name calls for. Here are examples of what is expected of him by the people of Ghana who use Accra s their capital.

    1. The Chief Executive should sit down with his Architechts and City Planners, or hire some good ones, plus a City Manager, pay them well, and with a pen and paper and calculator (preferably a Computer with a simple Spreadsheet software program), START PLANNING THE CITY.

    2. Use the Pen and Paper and Computer to find ways to add up the taxes collected, and brainstorm what needs to be done to solve the problems. AMA, without any help from outside, should work with the central government to device a revenue-sharing and cooperative means to develop Accra. The money is there in front of you ? use it and stop simple macho bulldog approaches that may subject the city to lawsuits, or bring untold suffering to the poor who cannot afford to sue. There are always alternative Engineering solutions. We have even built a huge dam to divert the Volta river. Isn?t that an inspiration left by Kwame Nkrumah, that we can find solutions instead of this destructive demolition derby to allow water to pass it?s own pathway!

    Accra is the capital of Ghana and the population growth require more planning than any person ever thought of. Lands Department of the Ministries has failed us, and so has AMA. I recommend strongly that the Chief Executive takes his job very seriously and more than a figurehead. Act and Plan like other Mayors in major cities around the world do. Bulldog dictatorial African solutions will not work. The new Mayor of Kumasi, Maxwell Jumah, seems to be making inroads to progress. Maybe you can share some notes. Ghana is spending lots of money to woo investors, with the President and Ministers of Trade & industry making trips outside every week at tremendous cost to the taxpayer. Let?s Plan and Make good use of our human and other talent and resources, and make Accra a beautiful place we can all be proud of.

    All the Best,

  • #3

    Milou (Monday, 23 May 2016 13:40)

    It sounds like such projects as yours could use a human-centered designer a.k.a. I wanna be involved!!!!