About 20 communities inside Bolga-Sherigu, a suburb of the Upper East regional capital, Bolgatanga, are being confined to the use of round pots locally made from red clay to refrigerate drinks not only in homes but also at bars.
This is because the communities, since they came into being centuries ago, are yet to be connected to the national grid. With the electrical refrigerator not compatible with that deprived setting for now, the clay pot has remained a disappointing alternative.
Generally, stuffs stored in any water-filled clay pot naturally get cooled, but bar operators and households who rely on the improvised cooler made from red earth are getting discouraging feedback from consumers and visitors. The red pots are not providing the same freezing effects sought by many who are used to drinking from a fridge or a deep freezer.
“Even aside from the fact that the cool water in the clay pot cannot chill the drinks properly like a fridge can do, how many drinks can a clay pot hold as compared to a fridge or a deep freezer? I buy four or five of crates but only a few bottles can go inside the pot. My business is moving at a slow pace because the demand outweighs the supply. It is not that I cannot afford a fridge, but there is no electricity. Besides, the clay pots are breaking apart. A fridge will not just break like that,” Rosemary Akari, a distraught-looking bar operator at Zuribisi, one of the communities, told Starr News.
Over 2,000 schoolchildren study in darkness
Saddened development watchers have described the situation in those communities as “a Stone Age in a Rocket Era”.
There are about 10,000 people in all the areas combined with over 2,000 schoolchildren found not to be in touch with the rest of the country as they have no electricity both at school and at home to prepare for all kinds of examinations including the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
Whilst the six schools shared by the communities do not have computers and, even if they had the machines, are without electricity to power them for a nationally examinable subject like Information Communication Technology (ICT), scores of school-going children do not have access to news on television and have continued to miss out on the educative programmes their contemporaries do watch on TV sets in the endowed parts of the region and beyond.
Insecurity as residents live in obscurity
Residents of the areas have complained strongly about some cases of robbery raids and about a general feeling of insecurity because of the obscure outlook of the deprived communities at night.
“Robbery is as common as anything in Sherigu now. The armed robbers just come to your house and clear all your animals. The whole area is dark. They just come and break [into] someone’s ranches and take all the animals away. You can’t detect the armed robbers especially because this is farming season and the crops have grown tall. When they hide within those crops, you can’t see them, and they can shoot at you or harm you from there,” a resident (name withheld for security reasons) groaned.
No poles in holes as assembly ‘fails’ communities
Efforts made some years ago by some agitated leaders of the communities to get the areas connected to the national grid reportedly were not accorded any serious attention by the Bolgatanga Municipal Assembly.
“They came to do this rural electrification project. They came and dug some holes in one of the communities. After digging the holes, that ended it. We never saw any pole planted there. And they have left the place. Right now, animals are falling inside the holes. The holes are now deathtraps. Our people are falling there, day in and day out. Recently, a motor rider hit one of the holes and had his leg broken,” Francis Amoah, the Assemblyman for Basengo/Pumpuugo, one of the electoral areas under Bolga-Sherigu, told Starr News.
He added: “We agreed that they should cut down our trees so that the wires could pass through. They cleared some economic trees and we agreed because we need light to solve our problems. Now, they have cut down the trees. For them to come and give us the light, that one, too, is a problem. We can’t get our trees back; we can’t get the light. What have they done to us? They have cut down the trees in vain.”
Women struggle to feed families with millstones
The lack of electricity in multi-deprived Bolga-Sherigu, where poverty is pronounced with a depressing emphasis that some children go to school on empty stomachs, is also taking a crushing toll on women.
“The situation is affecting the women a lot. Most of the women are peasant traders. Some trade in basketry. They need light to weave at night to boost production because they engage in farmwork during daytime.
“They walk about six kilometres to Bolga town to grind grains and walk back through the same distance to prepare food for their families. Those who cannot endure that distance are making use of local millstones to grind their grains,” Johnson Ayamga, Assemblyman for Kumblingo, said.
Following the reported neglect on the part of government, leaders of the communities have announced their intention to register fresh protests through a news conference this Tuesday.
The event, they further disclosed, will also touch on some other “disappointments” they say have been meted out to them over the years by successive governments.
Government in 2013 extended its rural electrification project to the Upper East Region with an assurance that about 500 communities in the region would be connected to the national grid. Several communities have benefited from the project across the region.
Efforts to reach the Municipal Chief Executive for Bolgatanga, Philip Aboore, to explain why Bolga-Sherigu is yet to be provided with electric power did not yield any results as he did not answer his telephone calls. A text message sent to him after the ignored phone calls, highlighting the plight of the communities, had not yielded any feedback for 24 hours as of the time of filing this report.