Today was a great day. It was time to get to work on the system. However, before heading to the ground and getting down and dirty, we needed to establish some rules with the community members. Now, for some of you who may not know, Project RISE is a multi-phase project. The trip that I am currently on is phase 1, or the pilot project. Before we attempt to incorporate the irrigation system with the entire community, we have decided to use a test group of 10 farmers/10 farms first. These farmers have been chosen based on criteria that takes into account their work ethic, their roles in the community, and the tribes or groups they belong to. This morning we had a group meeting that included me, the 10 farmers, and Professor Bawa and Mr. Ayariga from the University of Development studies. Basically, the Professor translated and communicated my message to the community members. This project was to help them help themselves. We have given them the means to start dry season farming, but it was up to them to make sure that the project is sustained and eventually expanded. He emphasized that irrigation systems like the one we are building have succeeded in the past and mentioned that if they showed signs of a lack of commitment, the pumps and pipes could be moved to a different community. It was apparent that members of Ekumdipe got the message.
The head linguist then spoke on their behalf to me (in English now) that they felt very grateful to be selected for this project and were going to do whatever they could to make sure it would succeed and expand. Finally, Dr. Bawa asked me if I had any words for them. My mind was racing and so many parts and messages that I wanted to give about the logistics of the project came to mind. However, I eventually decided to speak words of encouragement instead. You see, I have studied these subjects in school for some time now. I was familiar with what the effects that technological advancements and labor efficiency could have on total productivity. I knew the sociological theories that have developed over the course of history on how the “haves” of a community interact with the “have-nots.” However, what I was observing now was not something that could be simply read and understood from a textbook. Living in a community that many of them believed was forgotten and abandoned by their government and the rest of Ghana, they were now being hit with the fact that people far away in America were thinking about them enough to try and pool resources to give them a new chance and opportunity with this project. They did not want to let those people down, they did not want to let me down and you could see the hope in their eyes. Rather then speak about the logistics of the project or how there would need to be a tax system eventually to sustain the pumps, I decided to take a different direction with my words. “I want you to know that I believe in you. My team believes in you. And finally, a whole lot of other people back in America that gave to this project believe in you.” Later, Dr. Bawa told me that they wanted me to go back and tell these people in the U.S. that they were deeply grateful and that is what I’m doing now.