Ghana – Wednesday – to Akosombo

A good meal last night in an Italian restaurant in Accra. The pizza was excellent and the theatre was pretty good too. A Ghanaian gentleman (no, certainly not that, let’s settle for man) decided that, having eaten his steak he wouldn’t pay for it. He put on quite a show which was ably handled by the staff, although at one point all the kitchen staff appeared, looking far from happy, and had to be pushed back into the kitchen by the manager. Eventually he was escorted off site by the security guard. The manager apologised personally to us, but it was hardly his fault!

This morning we headed towards Akosombo and the dam, but we stopped on the way at Cedi beads, a company which makes very attractive beads out of recycled glass. It is an ethical company rather than ‘Fairtrade’, but was very impressive. People are paid for the bottles they bring to the company, being paid more for the more unusual colours. The bottles are sorted by colour. Then workers break the bottles up and then use a pastel and mortar to grind them into small fragments and even powder. These fragments are then put into moulds, the moulds having been lined with kaolin slip, so the beads come out easily. The moulds are of different sizes for different sized beads. Then the moulds are put into clay kilns, fired by wood and out come the beads some time later. Holes are created using a metal rod before the glass cools. For some beads, made from powdered glass, thin cassava stems are put in the powder and baked in the oven to create the holes. The beads are then smoothed by hand using fine sand and water.

Not all beads are made from bottles. Some very brightly coloured ones are made from antique beads which are no longer wanted. The ‘factory’ is in a lovely setting with three large work areas, under cover but open at the sides. It employs 24 workers. There is a shop and so, of course, we had to stage a retail raid, possibly of more interest to the men than the women in the group.

It was a short distance from there to our new hotel, The Afrikiko Hotel, on the Volta River. It was beautiful and Christine and I were assigned a chalet at the far end of the grounds with a stunning view from our veranda over the river. The place was alive with lizards which skittered over the ground as we walked towards the dining area and our lunch.

The afternoon was spent visiting the Volta / Akosombo Dam. This was quite a thrill for me as I had taught it as a case study for nigh on 30 years. The dam was completed in 1965 in order to provide electricity for an aluminium smelting plant and for Ghana’s own needs. It created a lake of 8,502 square kilometres (3,283 sq mi), which is 3.6% of Ghana’s land area. Lake Volta is the world’s third largest man-made lake by volume and the largest man-made lake in Africa. It put Ghana heavily into debt and the initial benefits were doubtful. 80,000 people lost their homes in the flooding and had to be relocated. The edges of the lake attracted aquatic reeds which were breeding grounds for black-fly, mosquitoes and snails, which are the vectors of water-borne illnesses such as black-fly, mosquitoes and snails, which are the vectors of water-borne illnesses such as bilharzia, river blindness and malaria. A large area of valuable agricultural land was lost beneath the lake. Initially 20% of Akosombo Dam’s electric output (serving 70% of national demand) was provided to Ghanaians in the form of electricity, the remaining 80% was generated for the American-owned Initially 20% of Akosombo Dam’s electric output (serving 70% of national demand) was provided to Ghanaians in the form of electricity, the remaining 80% was generated for the American-owned Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO). The Ghana Government was compelled, by contract, to pay for over 50% of the cost of Akosombo’s construction, but the country was allowed only 20% of the power generated.(VALCO).

Today, according to the official who showed us around many of these problems have been dealt with. Ghana now has full control of the electricity and feeds much of it into the grid. However the rising population means that demand has outstripped supply which is demonstrated by frequent blackouts at peak times. Whatever the pros and cons it was quite something to stand on the dam and watch eagles soaring overhead and below us as fishermen manoeuvred their canoes into place below the dam. There are 6 turbines in place supplying now about 1,020 megawatts, but only 2 were operating at that time of day.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed a swim and then dinner before a good night’s sleep.

dsc_1023Unfortunately the internet access was not too good, so I was unable to blog or indeed check in for our flight. A  young woman at reception offered me the use of her computer for the latter so all was well!



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