The "Working in Ghana" Project

Agricultural Development Coordinator

[Mr. Abingya has recently taken duties as an agriculturist for a church mission in Ghana's Upper East Region. He is on leave from the Ministry of Agriculture, where he had served as an extension officer for five years. A man in his late 30's, Mr. Abingya holds a diploma in agriculture. He lives with his wife and three young children in a town only a few kilometers from where he grew up. Philip Awekeya interviewed him in his office at the mission.]

My daily duties as agricultural development coordinator are multiple but interesting, especially in the rainy season. We serve both Christian and non-Christian communities, but I would say that my efforts benefit non-Christian communities more, because they are more numerous in this region. My sole aim is to help eradicate poverty and enable rural folk to improve their living conditions through improved farming techniques and through the formation of cooperative farming groups that can qualify for bank loans.

I spend most of my working hours visiting rural communities to organize young men and women to form farming groups. I also give demonstrations on contour farming to reduce soil erosion, and encourage farmers to grow trees. I provide them with seedlings which can create new vegetation cover in this region which is fast becoming a treeless zone.

I also organize farming groups and talk to village elders about the need to begin to cultivate newly introduced food crops. These crops include soya beans and an improved millet, both of which are drought resistant. With such new plantings food production can increase and thereby curb the periodic starvation among the rural communities of the north.

My work is quite interesting. There is so much to do I am never bored. I constantly meet various groups and individuals within the region to share new ideas related to general agricultural practice. My job allows me to put my expertise into full use. There is a vehicle at my service, which enables me to travel to the villages and neighboring towns to assist the farmers.

Unlike civil or public servants, who work five days in a week, I work six days. I spend most of my time in the villages and on farms.

In my previous job as an agricultural extension officer with the Ministry of Agriculture, there was practically no equipment nor other resources to work with to benefit the farmers. My present job offers me greater opportunity to render effective service to the rural farming communities. For example, there is a stockpile of improved seed--soya beans, Naga White (a variety of sorghum or millet)--as well as fertilizers and drugs for treatment of animals. These supplies are available for sale to farming groups and individual farmers. My performance has improved remarkably as compared to the time I was with the Ministry of Agriculture. I feel happy about the availability of resources provided by the Mission to facilitate my work.

I am liked by my supervisor, a clergyman in charge of all of the our church development projects in the Upper East Region. These projects include women in development, health delivery service, and agricultural projects. He has not found fault with my performance since I started work with the Mission. My relationships with co-workers and subordinates are quite satisfactory. So far there has not been any confrontation with them. There is a free and open relationship among all of us engaged by the Mission's developmental projects.

My remuneration in terms of pay and advancement is the same as I obtained in the Ministry of Agriculture because I am on temporary assignment to the church. I have the usual civil service promotion and salary grading. I enjoy a handsome monthly allowance on the strength of the job I do for the Mission. I also have a vehicle at my disposal for both official and private use and enjoy free medical care for myself and family.

In order to insure that the Mission treats us (laymen) with care and respect, the lay workers engaged by the church throughout Ghana have, of late, formed a national association of development workers. It is aimed at insuring stability in our respective jobs. We strongly believe that the association will negotiate with the church to procure job security for all development workers engaged in the Mission projects throughout Ghana. Personally I value the activities of the association because it will reduce the rampant dismissals of laymen and women engaged in the church's development projects.

Because this new job gives me the chance to use a vehicle to work as well as for my private errands, my wife and children as well as extended family members view my present position as a big promotion for me. In their view, once someone has access to the use of a vehicle, then that official is a "big man." They should not be blamed for this; most Ghanaians associate the use of state or agency vehicles with high social status.

People in my village see me these days as a person whose social status has changed just because I have access to the use of one of the Mission's vehicles, and besides I occasionally get them donated used clothing and U.S.A. donated food aid during the lean season.

I feel happy about my new job because it offers the chance to learn extra income in the form of allowances to attend workshops and seminars in Kumasi, Accra and Tamale. Moreover, my salary is topped up by the Mission to cushion me sufficiently to be able to carry out my duties. The job has also helped open me up to many people at the local and national level. I have the chance to interact frequently with a good number of local, rural farmers as well as with officials of donor agencies. Some of these new friends send me presents.

I feel I have the chance to help spread the Christian faith to the non-Christian community through my work in assisting the rural poor to provide sufficient food for themselves. I indirectly introduce them to the Christian faith. Personally, I am of the view that when one seriously performs one's job well then one is serving God on earth. Hence one stands the chance of being amply rewarded on judgment day.