Berekum, GH

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Overcast Clouds Humidity: 75%
Wind: S at 2.75 M/S
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The Berekum Project

The Berekum Project

Introduction

After the 2nd World War, the whole of Europe was in tatters and the Marshall Plan was carefully crafted to reconstruct.

I suppose Berekum now needs a carefully crafted plan to help rebuild. There is the need for intellectual discourse on not necessarily what went wrong but on the way forward. My submission is not based on any research but rather a reflection on historical antecedents leading to a much-neglected pool of physical, technical and intellectual resources, rusting sadly in our mist.

This article will focus much on these said resources as well as the micro governance of our locality. By neglected resources, one is referring to the brain and brawn-drain that Berekum as a whole has ‘suffered’ over the years and by micro-governance, our approach to local administration within the context of a struggling country like Ghana.

The Drain

In the ’50s and 60’s a few people travelled overseas and these were mostly students. Dr Kwame Nkrumah even turned down a request by the German government to recruit Ghanaian workers arguing that it would be a perpetuation of colonialism.

The early ’70s saw a gradual influx of Ghanaians to the West, mainly Germany and the United Kingdom. This group, especially, which targeted Germany were not students but what has become popularly known as ‘huzzlers’. The majority settled around the northern part of Germany, Hamburg and its surroundings to be precise, earning the tag BURGER, the German word for a local inhabitant.

By the late ’70s and early 80’s the migration continued but the latest twist to this was the desire to gain established status, citizenship etc. This same trend was occurring in the US and Canada, the only difference being that students chose these places while huzzlers chose Europe.

This phenomena, getting out there and making it big shook Berekum to its roots. Cocoa farmers would invest in their children by sending them abroad and they, in turn, helped their brothers, sisters and cousins over. It became the order of the day to see fathers driving cars sent over by their children.

It may not be far-fetched to say that by localities, Berekum comes first in terms of the population of citizens in the diaspora. A second and third generation of Berekum citizens in the diaspora is now a fact.


I dare say Berekum lost out on the sheer number of its citizens that left Ghana. We lost out on the number of indigenes who could have held lucrative and sensitive positions to help our town. We could point to a reasonable number currently but it would have been massive because for all the attractions of ‘aburokyire’ the average Berekum family sent their children to schools and were more interested in them acquiring academic knowledge.

There is, however, a bright side to this brain-brawn drain that Berekum experienced. There is a great wealth of technical, intellectual and financial pool of our citizens all over the Americas and Europe which if properly harnessed should surpass any aid that any government can give us.

It is common knowledge that our citizens are employed and have gained a wealth of experience in security, IT, banking, health, urban planning, waste disposals etc. in developed countries! We have real giants all over, with cutting-edge know-how of any field of endeavour.

If one looks at Israel, it was almost a desert in 1949 when the first Jews started arriving in Palestine. They have transformed the land into a 1st world country not as much as with money but technical know-how. They left Europe and the Americas with technical knowledge.
How can we get our own to help?

It begins by organizing ourselves into groups and sensitizing each other about what is happening at home. People over here are very busy and have little or no time due to the prevailing work ethics.

A more effective way is to sponsor our Nananom to abroad to rally us and get as many as possible on board.
It is also important that we make them feel valued. As I write, the average Berekum diasporan who hears about the tussle between the Council and Berekuman on the station toilet issue would find every reason to reinforce their decision to ‘leave Berekum alone’ if that is their stand.

Being valued also means considering their ideas even if they seem far-fetched. A few days ago I was listening to a radio programme in which one of the panellists, a diasporan, mentioned that all the water sources of Berekum have been destroyed and it was like from which moon did you land, dude? Who is thinking about water when it is flowing now?

A new wind is blowing. Modern communication methods have made it easy for our people to monitor what is going on at home. Diasporans want Berekum to at least to resemble where they live. Let us welcome them as patriots, shed our party affiliations and help Berekum rise again.

Local Governance

There is a huge difference in the way local governments are run in the developed world and as we have it in Ghana. This piece is not a critique of our local administrations but a frank self-reflection of how Berekum can take the lead in local governance.
First and foremost our local administrators should see the area as a small country in its own right. That is why we have a President,(MCE, DCE), a parliament, ( the Assembly) and members of parliament, all the numerous 'honourables'. There are replicas of every government ministry at the Councils and these should simply sit up, plan and work! Plan. Plan. Plan!
If our main streets are choked with traffic, is it the duty of Mahama or Akuffo Addo to deal with it? Can we not consider ONE WAY traffic route? Any Urban Roads representatives around?

Is it the government's responsibility to ensure that our town planning officers do a good job?
Is it Akuffo Addo’s job to make sure Asuo Koraa, Kankoma and other river sources do not dry up?
Having fallen all the trees in the town whose responsibility is it to replant?

It is very easy for local councils in Ghana to always look up to the central government and dim their own eyes around themselves.

If we consider Berekum as a country we would think about investment. One thing that is very rife here in the developed countries is local councils carrying out investments as extra forms of income.
What are our Assembly-investments in Berekum? We need to think about this.

Berekum is centrally placed. Can we develop our potential as a market hub? The Sunday second-hand clothing market can we think of maybe relocating for its full potential to be realized? For all you know some traders are not coming because either they do not have space or a rainy day ends their dream for a day.

Techiman survives and thrives on this concept. Many other things have come to Techiman because of the market. Local investment generates funds for the Assemblies as well as create jobs for the locals.

A source hinted me that the Mfensi forest is a virgin forest with rare plant species. It is the same type of forest which has been put on the world tourism map as the Kakum forest. Every day the local assembly is making money from tourism in Kakum. Can we find out if that potential is there for us? Can we also for once think outside the box?


As I mentioned earlier we need an intellectual and technical discourse on these issues to have our development plan for our assemblies. We need not rely solely on a few market tolls and government handouts. The question of our potentials and endowments need to be critically assessed.

 

Kofi Kyere Diabour

Global Chairman, Berekumman Citizens'Association

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