Spotlight on Ghana!

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Interview with our Ghana team leader 

CHIPS’ work is focused on the eastern corridor of Northern Ghana, where the Nanumba and Konkomba tribes have been enemies for more than thirty years. Over this time, more than 400 villages have been destroyed, up to 12,000 people killed and 150,000 displaced.  The tensions between the tribes remain today.

Desmond Mpabe has been with the CHIPS team since the start of its project in Ghana in 2011, and has led the team since 2012. An experienced community worker and project manager, he grew up in the region and has first-hand experience of the ethnic conflict from his own childhood. Desmond lives at the CHIPS base with his family, and is a youth leader for the local Catholic Diocese.

Q: How would you describe CHIPS approach to peacemaking in Ghana?

A: Our approach is different to the conventional methods of peacemaking in the region, which are often led from outside the area and don’t always adequately address issues such as reconciliation and sustainability.

In contrast, our team is made up of people from the different clans and tribes who have been at conflict. In this way, as local people, we can support everyone at grassroots level and set an example for the community of how we can live together in peace – and do so in a sustainable way.

Q: What are the key objectives of the team’s work in Ghana?

A: All of our activities have the same three objectives at their heart. First, they are designed to bring together opposing groups of people who would otherwise be alienated from each other, and break down the barriers between them in very practical ways.

Second, they are designed to help alleviate the root causes of poverty, which is so important because poverty is a significant part of the problem that leads to conflict in the first place. And finally, we choose and structure our projects carefully to be sustainable over the long-term.

Q: What are CHIPS’ main areas of activity currently?

A: We have a diverse group of projects which can be described in six main categories.

One is agriculture. We have established self-help groups from both tribes, often women, working together to support their households and generate income from animal rearing (mainly goats, sheep and chickens), along with other groups who farm different crops of their choice. In a similar fashion, we have beekeeping groups who harvest honey for local use and for sale.

Another successful and growing area of activity, which first emerged from the animal rearing work, is our savings and loans groups, where we support local people to save money and make loans to each other, helping to facilitate trade across the community.

We also have a well-established project providing villages with animal health expertise from community animal health workers (CAHWs). Popularly called community vets, these trained CAHWs are able to perform a range of veterinary tasks and share animal husbandry training and advice.

Our natural medicine project teaches communities how to use readily available natural plants and herbs to treat common ailments at home. And last but not least, our sanitation and hygiene project helps villages by appointing community volunteers, and providing the right tools and implements to keep homes and surroundings clean. This includes helping households to build simple toilets!

Q: How has 2019 been for you so far?

A: Overall, I would say it’s been a year of steady progress!

We’ve been able to build our team’s capacity through training, which has in turn really helped to increase their confidence and effectiveness.

We also recently started a new, subsidiary project of the savings and loans work. Many groups are already successfully saving money but do not have enough funds to successfully trade with each other. We therefore supported two women by providing them with a larger loan that will allow them to do more trade and build stronger relationships. We expect this work to grow.

One of our main challenges is to help people to understand and accept our distinctive approach to peacemaking, which means encouraging them to trust one another. Right now, we are seeing increased tension in some areas, particularly in Lungni and Bimbilla.

Earlier this month, we were very saddened by the sudden death of Afa Duna, who first hosted Paul and myself when we moved to live in Nakpayili. He was a relatively young father of several children, very kind and generous, and always smiling. He was a great example of a community peacemaker, who spoke both languages and was a great friend to CHIPS.

Q: What has inspired you to keep going recently?

A: I was very pleased when the Reverend Moses Bakar, a member of our Ghana board and well-known local church leader, said to me recently, “The work you are doing is not receiving much publicity but you are going far.”

I’ve also been very inspired by what God has said to me through my prayer and Bible study – “you are not alone in this journey”. It’s important for all of us to have the assurance that we are not alone and we have God on our side!

Q: What is your vision for the future of Northern Ghana?

A: My vision and prayer is for everyone, on every side, to have a level playing field with the same opportunities to succeed and to live in harmony without fear and intimidation!