Who? Elna Memelink (22), BSc International Land and Water Management
What? Internship with the Blue Deal programme
Where? Ada Foah, Ghana
‘The Blue Deal programme is an international programme run jointly by the Dutch ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Infrastructure and Water Management, and all the water boards. Its ambitious goal is to give 20 million people in 40 river basins around the world access to sufficient clean, safe water.
I was involved in the projects in southern Ghana, where the focus lies on the Volta Delta, the watershed of the River Volta in Ghana and its neighbouring countries, often referred to as the Lower Volta Delta. My thesis is about the extent to which stakeholders are involved in setting up and operationalizing a new management system for the Lower Volta Delta and around the nearby Keta Lagoon.
I lived at a local NGO in Ada Foah, a little village on the coast at the mouth of the Volta. The river and the vegetation around it make for a beautiful environment. Sadly, there was plastic waste scattered everywhere, and especially the beaches were covered in it. That is partly the local population, but a lot gets washed up that comes from big cities such as Accra. I lived among the locals and was immersed in Ghanaian culture. At the same time, I stood out of course. In the local language, the word for white person is ‘bofono’, and everywhere I went someone would call out, “Bofono, bofono! How are you?”
Ghanaian cookery classes
IA Ghanaian woman from the village cooked at our house every day. She was like a mother to us. She was very keen for me to learn to cook Ghanaian food so that I could teach my mother once I got back to the Netherlands. We stood in the kitchen together every evening and she let me fiddle about with all the spices and ingredients for making the perfect stew.
There is a great sense of community in Ghana. Everyone looks out for each other, and it is taken for granted that you help each other out. Everyone greets everyone else and has a chat.
Theory and practice
While you are studying in Wageningen you always learn that you should involve local stakeholders like farmers and fishers in policymaking, but in practice this turned out to be difficult to achieve. The Dutch team from Blue Deal only goes to Ghana four times a year for a week, and that is not enough time for a broad approach. You can get annoyed by such differences but I learned a lot from seeing how it works “on the ground”.