Lasajang Community Project (LCP) Scottish Charity Number SC037448

 

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Lasajang Ecovillage

Centre for skills development through international volunteer exchange programmes

Lasajang ecovillage is a skills exchange and a community development centre.  This ecovillage will provide a great opportunity for both local and international volunteers to contribute skills and experiences which can directly help rural farming communities in northern Ghana to achieve sustainable livelihoods.

The unique facilities in the centre will be used to conduct ongoing research into farming practices, organic farming, aquaculture and other sustainable techniques which can be transferred to the local farmers through our volunteers.  The centre will also serve as a hub for processing and packaging of local produce for both local and international markets.

 

Help support the Sissala people

The ecovillage is currently under construction and we are looking for volunteers with skills and experiences on architecture, bricklaying, carpentry, permiculture, fish farming, tree planting, landscaping, solar and other renewable energy enthusiasts/experts and any other skills and experiences which can help us construct this ecovillage.  Volunteers have the options of camping on site or staying in the nearby village of Pulima or Tumu which are both short journeys on bikes.

   

 

Main Project Plans for Lasajang

     
 

Representation of the Lasajang Ecovillage

Facilities in Lasajang Ecovillage will include:

  • Agricultural Centre with farmland, grain bank, processing, packaging, livestock, tool bank, composting systems and water catchments
  • Green Gardens
  • Fish Farm
  • Craft Centre
  • Shop
  • Music and Drama Centre
  • Museum of African Musical Instruments
  • Offices and Computing Facilities
  • Reception/Tourist Information
  • Bar/Restaurant
  • Accommodation
  • Recreation/Library
  • Healing Centre
 

 

Benefits to the Sissala Community

  • Improvement in farming practices and livestock production

  • Fish farming

  • Establishment of a profitable arts and crafts market

  • Growing local economy through eco tourism

  • International trading through volunteering and the internet

  • Improvement of primary education

  • Improvement of water resource management

  • Better environmental practices

  • Improvement in health and well-being

  • Research and development

Woman in Pulima carrying food on her head

Agricultural Centre

Farming is the main source of economy in the north of Ghana.  The main cash crops are cotton, maize, beans and groundnut.  Other crops grown in the north for consumption are guinea-corn, millet and yam.  The main concerns with farming are the short rainy season, soil degradation, soil erosion and lack of farm machinery.

 

 

Cash crops in the north of Ghana

 

        Aims of the agricultural centre:

  • set-up a grain bank

  • provide information for local farmers on best farming practices

  • farm crops, vegetables and livestock for sustainability

  • study new crops such as Jatropha curcas for bio-diesel

  • provide farming tools for hire

  • promote the use of donkeys and bullocks for ploughing

  • encourage green gardens using waste water and composting

  • planting of trees

 

Grain Bank

A grain bank or store will help local farmers who are forced to sell their crops cheap during harvest time to outside traders and then buy back during the lean season at extortionate prices.  The grain bank can buy the local crops during the harvesting season from the local farmers when the prices are low and the supply is high and then lend back some of the grains to the farmers at reduced rates during the lean season.  This enables the farmers to spend their limited resources on cultivating their land rather than struggling to cope with hunger and farm work at the same time.

 

Any loans that are given to farmers during the farming season will be paid back to the bank with a reasonable amount of interest.  Any surplus generated are then sold for profits.  All profits and interest generated from trading is used to balance the bank, increase the supply of grains to the bank and to support projects to help the local farmers.

         
 

Bags of grains

Transportation of grains

 

Composting

Farmers will be supported to research and develop local techniques for producing and using organic manure from livestock and other environmentally recyclable waste.  This organic manure can be used on green gardens in the local villages.  Chinese farmers have been using a method of creating manure for centuries.  They make a compost heap with fresh manure, add some plants and soil, and cover the heap with mud.  The heat that builds up inside the compost pile kills many weed seeds and disease germs, and produces better fertilizer which is suitable for the environment.

           
 

Jatropha curcas in Ghana

Jatropha curcas

One of the main interests will be the planting of the shrub Jatropha curcas which produces biodiesel.  The products from Jatropha curcas seeds are oil, press-cake and the sediment of oil purification. The uses of the extracted oil are as a fuel in diesel engines, for lighting (the Binga lamp) for cooking and as a lubricant.  The oil and the sediment can be used for soap production and the press cake is excellent organic manure. The oil also contains an insecticide.

The shrub Jatropha curcas is ideally suited for growing in the north of Ghana.  It grows on any soil type and is highly resistant to drought.  It requires little management and has few insect pests.  It is also an excellent hedging shrub as it grows rapidly producing a thick hedge within one month of planting and is not browsed by animals.  Jatropha curcas will be planted around the outer edge of the site for easy harvesting of the seeds and for shelter and shading.  The shrub produces seed for harvesting after 2 years and will reach optimum levels after only 6 years.  It also produces seed for over 40 years.

   

Tool bank

The agricultural centre will have a tool bank where farmers can hire or loan basic tools like hoes, cutlasses, digging stakes, harrows and bullock services.  In order to support the Sissala communities to grow, we have to provide them with the tools to do it for themselves.

 

The tool bank will assist the farmers to take direct control on growing enough food to feed their families and to generate enough surpluses to invest on the education of their children so that the present generation can learn today and do better for themselves in the future. 

There are several villages among the Sissala communities where tool making is a major trade.  We will assist the local blacksmiths to improve the quality and quantities of the tools they make.

 

It is hoped that after four to five years of operation, the tool bank will be able to buy a tractor to back-up bullock services, thus integrating both traditional and modern tools to gain the benefits of both.

 

Local blacksmith making a hoe

Green Gardens

The rational behind the green gardens is to manage wastewater and recycle organic waste to cultivate vegetables like garden eggs, tomatoes, green leaves, pepper which are all vital soup ingredients regularly used in Ghanaian cooking.  We will also grow calabashes for making eating and drinking bowls, containers and for use in the craft centre.  The main advantage of a green garden is that it does not depend directly on the natural rainfall, as most of the water required to grow the crops is already used water from the community.  Another source of water will be secondary use of the Tilapia fish farm water (see below).

 

Green gardens will be set-up near the shower block at the accommodation to make use of grey water and the situation of the borehole.  There will also be a garden near the kitchen block to make good used of waste water and organic waste.  The gardens will be hedged with Jatropha curcas a shrub that grows quickly and is not eaten by animals.

 

The centre will also provide training and networking opportunities for the village gardeners to share, skills and resources, which brings communal benefits to the whole community.

 

Vegetable garden in the village protected by a wooden fence

 

Women selling goods at Tumu market

Aquaculture

We plan to set-up a fish farm growing Tilapia.  This will supply a protein-rich food source for the centre and also a cash-generating crop that can be sold in the local market.  It will also be a training centre for the local people to learn about aquaculture.  The pond is drained to harvest the fish and the water and sediment is an excellent fertiliser for the green gardens.

 

Why Tilapia? 
Tilapia are native to Africa and are a hardy fish that like warm water.  They can thrive in fresh, brackish, or salt water, and have excellent tasting, firm, white meat. 
Tilapia eat only algae and plants and so do not build up pollutants and other toxins in their bodies.  Tilapia convert a greater proportion of their feed into growth than most other fish species. The acid content of their digestive tract is one of the strongest known and efficiently digests most micro-organisms.

   

Tilapia fish

Easy, Uncomplicated Aquaculture
Tilapia's wide range of tolerance of environmental changes, including, water quality, temperature, salinity, population density, make them ideal candidates for aquaculture.  Tilapia can be grown in open ponds.  They can produce young in any season and can reach eating size within 10 months.  When well fed and kept in warm water, there are no known diseases that can cause a large kill of the Tilapia stock.  With the proper training and approach, Tilapia aquaculture can provide a reliable harvest that is inexpensive to grow.

 
 

Craft Centre

The craft centre is for local people to use to make their own goods for sale within the centre and to create a market in the south and on the internet.  The centre will have a website where each crafter has there own profile and goods for sale.  The centre will have materials and tools to help in the production of the different arts and crafts.  Another main aim of the craft centre is for volunteers and tourists to watch local crafters at work and to take part in workshops where they can learn and share their skills.  Some of the local craft skills are in decline and in danger of being lost.  Many of the younger generations are not interested in these skills as there is no immediate economic return.

Establishing an annual craft exhibition at the centre would encourage an interest in traditional crafts.  Prizes can be given within different craft categories such as; woodwork, grass weaving, pottery, painting etc.

           
   

Some of the local craft skills:

Carpentry and woodwork

Blacksmith

Sheabutter production

Shoemaking and repairs

Leather goods

Basket and matting

Weaving cloth

Musical instruments

Pottery

Calabash Carving

     
             
 

Carpentry local carpenters will be employed to make furniture for the centre and to make wooden crafts for the shop.  Easy chairs are made locally that are excellent for relaxing under the shade of a tree.

Blacksmith to produce farming tools such as cutlasses and hoes.  Local blacksmiths can make hoes and other farming tools which can then be hired or sold from the centre.  Some farmers struggle to buy a hoe so that they can farm their land.  Hoes can be in short supply and many compounds share tools which can slow down production.

 

Sheabutter Production - Sheabutter comes from the Shea or karite tree which grows wild in the north of Ghana.  It is regarded as a sacred tree and because it is never cut down it grows in abundance.  The women collect the fruits and extract the nuts which are then dried, ground and boiled to extract the precious butter.  Sheabutter contains many healing ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, and proteins, and has excellent anti-aging, soothing and moisturising properties.  It also has natural sunscreen properties and anti-inflammatory agents.

Sheanut butter can be used to make body creams and soaps that can be sold on the Internet and also distributed to fair-trade retail outlets in Europe and other western markets.  The raw sheabutter is popular in America and with the correct packaging and labelling there would be a market for the direct sale via the internet.

 

Shoemaking and Repairs local cobblers are able to repair shoes and to make sandals from old car tyres.  These sandals are cheap to buy and are worn by many people to go to the farm.

 

Leather Goods There is no leather goods produced in the Upper West region yet the neighbouring town of Bolgatanga in the Upper East region is famous for its leather goods.  Tourists are attracted to the town to buy the distinct red designed bags, shoes, purses, hats etc.  The leather goods from Bolgatanga are now being sold in other major cities.  The leathers that are used are mainly cow and goat skins that are also available in the Upper West.

 

Basket Making & Matting At the end of the rainy season there are dried grasses to be found everywhere.  There is a type of long grass that is used to make matting which is used for bedding or for temporary shelters and shading.  Another type of grass can be used for weaving shopping baskets, laundry baskets, making hats and small hand shakers.  The grasses can also be dyed with natural dyes to make beautiful colours that can make patterned baskets.  Again there is a growing industry of basket making in the Upper East but because there is no tourist centre or attraction in the Upper West the opportunity is not being utilised.

 

Weaving Cloth the north of Ghana is famous for the smock which is worn by the local people and is increasing worn by other tribes throughout Ghana.   There would also be a market for selling to tourists and on the internet.  The smock is made from cotton that is spun and dyed.  Cotton is one of the major cash crops grown in the Sissala district and Tumu has a cotton ginnery.  There were local crafters making smocks but now the main centres for smock making are in Bolgatanga and in Tamale.

 

Musical Instruments the xylophone is the main traditional instrument of the Sissala and Dagarti tribes of northwest Ghana.  There are local crafts men that still make the xylophone today.  Calabashes are hung under the wooden bars to amplify the sound and spider webs are used to increase the resonance.  These traditions must be passed to the younger generations.

There is market demand for djembe drums in Western countries, especially America.  They are also becoming increasingly popular in the UK.  Djembe drums are made in Accra and shipped abroad.  An assessment of the tree types and sustainability could be made to see if the djembe could be produced in the north.  Basket shakers and calabash (dried gourd) shakers or thumb pianos could also be made.

 

Pottery Traditionally women in the area mould clay pots and dishes.  Clay pots are excellent storage containers and can be decorated with patterns and designs.  Clay pots with basket weave rims can also be designed.

 

Calabash Carving The calabash is a vine grown for its fruit, which can either be harvested young and used as a vegetable or harvested mature, dried, and used as a bottle, utensil, or pipe.  The calabash is commonly grown in the Sissala district not for food but as a container.  The calabash can be carved with intricate designs and shapes that would give them market value.  The calabash can also be made into the Kalimba or thumb piano.

 

Wood carvings and masks made in Ghana

 

Local sheanut butter production

 

Bolga leather goods are sold in Accra craft market

 

Straw hats made in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region, Ghana

 

Dyeing of cloth in Tumu

 

Traditional xylophone playing in Pulima

 

Museum of African Musical Instruments

A museum of African musical instruments at the centre would encourage tourism to the Upper West Region and would promote traditional drumming and dancing in the area.  There is a huge variety of musical instruments in Ghana and in surrounding countries.  The museum can start with Ghanaian and West African instruments and build to the whole of Africa.  Connected to the museum would be workshops on how to play the instruments and also performances and evening entertainment.

 

Some of the varieties of African Musical Instruments:  

Drums: Djembes, Talking drums, Djun-djun, Kpanlogo, Frame drum, Ashiko, and Log drums and Bata drums from Nigeria.

 

Bells: Gankoqui single bell, Gankoqui double bell, Toke bell (banana shape), Frikywa bell (pod shape), Cluster bells, cow bells.  All of these varieties are made in Ghana.

 

Shakers: Double cane rattle, shekere or gourd shaker, Televi shaker, woven basket shaker, seed rattle, stick rattle, ankle or wrist rattles.  These are examples from Ghana, every African country has a variety of shakers.

 

Kalimbas or Thumb Pianos: different shapes and sizes made from gourds.  In Burkina Faso they make Kalimbas by recycling old sardine and tomato cans.

 

Xylophone: examples of the different styles of the Sissala and the Dagarti tribes.  The xylophone is called the Jansi or balafon by the Sissalas and Gyile by the Dagarti people.

 

Udus:  The Udu is a clay pot drum that originated from the Ibo and Hausa tribes in Nigeria.  Some are made in Ghana and are very decorative and beautiful to look at.

 

Other instruments include flutes, hand twister drums, percussion sticks, tambourines, rasps, whistles and rain sticks.

Variety of musical instruments in Ghana

 

 

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