Battling terrible roads and dangerous ‘cars:The travails of rural dwellers, (Monday, August 25, 2013) Pg 20


Every crack of dawn, while most people are coiled in warm or cold beds, Wekem Akaba,a trader, wakes at 3 a.m. to get ready for her two-hour truck ride to work in the Walewale Market.

Living in Tuvvu, a quiet little village in the Yagba-Kubori District in Northern Region, Wekem journeys routinely on bumpy and pothole-filled roads to the market, where she sells millet and rice

Tuvvu is among scores of communities in the Northern Region known as ‘Overseas’ because they are cut off from civilisation during the rainy season when floods occur. The Tuvvu community’s most prized asset is a 35-metre steel bridge completed last year on River Gongowu. Three other bridges meant to connect the villages on the Wa-Walewale stretch are on hold because of lack of funds. 


A tough journey


On days that drivers of two vehicles decide to do the journey together, visibility becomes so poor because of the dust that clouds the road. The journey on a KIA truck begins with loading the truck with all the goods. Bags of maize, millet, sorghum, tubers of yam and any other commodity that could be sold in a market find space in the vehicle before the passengers climb in. 


Crowded trucks like this dominate rural transportation in Ghana.
A typical journey on a truck in the Northern Region
A tough journey

At every village, a passenger with goods joins —no space is spared. Gallons and mats find room on the rails of the truck on the journey that leaves the passengers  dusty. Passengers squeeze in like a packet of matches, with some hanging on the rails. 

“Most of the time when I get to the market, I have to wipe all the dust from my body before I start work. I have my head covered all the time before we set off,” she said with a sigh, through an interpreter. 

The daily routine takes her through Kpasenkpe where she crosses the White Volta Bridge, then Wulugu before Wawale —a voyage, to and from the market, that leaves her worn out.  

“It is not easy going  to the market and coming back home. If only the roads could get better, I’m sure we could get much better commercial vehicles operating  in this area. For now, it is tiring,” she said before her KIA truck which was making its way back to her village roared to life and took off. 
Ideally,  that two-hour  journey could take about 45 minutes or even less on a good road.

Wekem’s story is a tip of the daily struggle people in Ghana’s rural environment have to endure to put food on the tables of their families.

The roads are notoriously bad —dusty, rough and bouncy — so commercial vehicles keep to the town roads. This makes a few of the drivers who venture on such roads milk their passengers. The only  public transport that forays into these terrains is  the Metro Mass buse service which is mostly limited  to peri-urban areas. 

Wekem’s daily fare varies  between GH¢5 and GH¢7 and she said it was much better than the days she had to walk to the Fumbisi Market in the Builsa South District in the Upper East Region. This could take almost two hours. Sometimes, the fare depends on the driver’s mood and the weather. 
On some occasions, she had to fall on motorbikes to the market. Although motorbikes are faster, she is never comfortable with the dangers they present. 

“During the rainy season, the motorbike riders and the drivers increase the fares arbitrarily. This happens because they know we have little choice. They know you you can’t walk all the way back home on this long journey.” 

In the absence of cars,buses and trucks, motorbikes, tricycles  and bicycles fill the gap. Motorbikes are the main means of transportation, so the roads in the rural environments are teeming with them.  They serve as everything — a mule and  vehicle for carrying goods and passengers. 

Tricycle business
However, in recent times, people in rural areas, particularly those in the three northern regions have found a good use for tricycles. 

A tricycle owner, Mr Dawud Alhassan, who owns a fleet in Bolgatanga, said the tricycles were taking over from the motorbikes and the bicycles because they could carry more goods and people at the same time.

“It is a thriving business. The only difficulty is that most of the time, they have to be bought and moved all the way from Accra. Given that almost all communities are using it in our rural areas, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to open a factory here to assemble them.”

Bicycles
Long before motorbikes and tricycles became popular bicycles held the sway. 

As Talata Abdulai, a Tamale resident, would recall, her family used to haul food crops from the farm  home and then to the market with her father’s ‘Busanga Volvo’— a rugged bicycle that is the beast of burden in most rural communities in northern Ghana. 

Without the mule and bicycles, transportation in most of the  communities in northern Ghana would be crippled virtually. 

Unlike cities in Ghana, where riding bicycles on busy roads is a veiled suicide attempt, bicycles in northern Ghana carry more clout than any other thing that keeps people on the move.  

On a typical market day in Fumbisi, different types of bicycles are always on display — both men and women jockey for space to park their ‘iron horseS’ as the bicycle loosely translates in Buli — the local language. 

The bicycle has several advantages for the rural dweller. Apart from holding its own against the terrible roads, they are cheap and they don’t need fuel. 

Beside the terrible roads, however, the rural dweller is constantly in danger. The motor traffic regulations are thrown out as almost every car, motorcycle and even bicycles on roads in rural Ghana trample on one road regulation or the other.

 From congestion to roadworthy issues, vehicles  constantly  pose danger to the rural dweller and the motorists  themselves.  Regard for road safety is non-existent because police officers are usually nowhere in sight.

It is a common sight to see rickety vehicles that are better described as ‘coffins on wheels’ plying routes  in these areas. Lives are constantly in danger on these roads.  

There are a few questions to ask.  Does Ghana have a rural transport policy? if we do; how effective is this policy in dealing with the dangers and health hazards rural dwellers face in commuting from one area to another. That is a subject for another day. 

Writter's email: seth.bokpe@graphic.com.gh

Every crack of dawn, while most people are coiled in warm or cold beds, Wekem Akaba,a trader, wakes at 3 a.m. to get ready for her two-hour truck ride to work in the Walewale Market.
Living in Tuvvu, a quiet little village in the Yagba-Kubori District in Northern Region, Wekem journeys  routinely on bumpy and pothole-filled roads to the market, where she sells millet and rice.
Tuvvu is among scores of communities in the Northern Region known as ‘Overseas’ because they are cut off from civilisation during the rainy season when floods occur. The Tuvvu community’s most priced asset is a 35-metre steel bridge completed last year on River Gongowu. Three other bridges meant to connect the villages on the Wa-Walewale stretch are on hold because of lack of funds.
A tough journey
On days that drivers of two vehicles decide to do the journey together, visibility becomes so poor because of the dust that clouds the road. The journey on a KIA truck begins with loading the truck with all the goods. Bags of maize, millet, sorghum, tubers of yam and any other commodity that could be sold in a market find space in the vehicle before the passengers climb in.
At every village, a passenger with goods joins —no space is spared. Gallons and mats find room on the rails of the truck on the journey that leaves the passengers  dusty. Passengers squeeze in like a packet of matches, with some hanging on the rails.
“Most of the time when I get to the market, I have to wipe all the dust from my body before I start work. I  have my head covered all the time before we set off,” she said with a sigh, through an interpreter.
The daily routine takes her through Kpasenkpe where she crosses the White Volta Bridge, then Wulugu before Wawale —a voyage, to and from the market, that leaves her worn out.
“It is not easy going  to the market and coming back home. If only the roads could get better, I’m sure we could get much better commercial vehicles operating  in this area. For now, it is tiring,” she said before her KIA truck which was making its way back to her village roared to life and took off. Ideally,  that two-hour  journey could take about 45 minutes or even less on a good road.
Wekem’s story is a tip of the daily struggle people in Ghana’s rural environment have to endure to put food on the tables of their families.
The roads are notoriously bad —dusty, rough and bouncy — so commercial vehicles keep to the town roads. This makes a few of the drivers who venture on such roads milk their passengers. The only  public transport that forays into these terrains is  the Metro Mass buse service which is mostly limited  to peri-urban areas.
Wekem’s daily fare varies  between GH¢5 and GH¢7 and she said it was much better than the days she had to walk to the Fumbisi Market in the Builsa South District in the Upper East Region. This could take almost two hours. Sometimes, the fare depends on the driver’s mood and the weather.
On some occasions, she had to fall on motorbikes to the market. Although motorbikes are faster, she is never comfortable with the dangers they present.
“During the rainy season, the motorbike riders and the drivers increase the fares arbitrarily. This happens because they know we have little choice. They know you you can’t walk all the way back home on this long journey.”
In the absence of cars,buses and trucks, motorbikes, tricycles  and bicycles fill the gap. Motorbikes are the main means of transportation, so the roads in the rural environments are teeming with them.  They serve as everything — a mule and  vehicle for carrying goods and passengers.
Tricycle business
However, in recent times, people in rural areas, particularly those in the three northern regions have found a good use for tricycles.
A tricycle owner, Mr Dawud Alhassan, who owns a fleet in Bolgatanga, said the tricycles were taking over from the motorbikes and the bicycles because they could carry more goods and people at the same time.
“It is a thriving business. The only difficulty is that most of the time, they have to be bought and moved all the way from Accra. Given that almost all communities are using it in our rural areas, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to open a factory here to assemble them.”
Bicycles
Long before motorbikes and tricycles became popular bicycles held the sway.
As Talata Abdulai, a Tamale resident, would recall, her family used to haul food crops from the farm  home and then to the market with her father’s ‘Busanga Volvo’— a rugged bicycle that is the beast of burden in most rural communities in northern Ghana.
Without the mule and bicycles, transportation in most of the  communities in northern Ghana would be crippled virtually.
Unlike cities in Ghana, where riding bicycles on busy roads is a veiled suicide attempt, bicycles in northern Ghana carry more clout than any other thing that keeps people on the move.
On a typical market day in Fumbisi, different types of bicycles are always on display — both men and women jockey for space to park their ‘iron horseS’ as the bicycle loosely translates in Buli — the local language.
The bicycle has several advantages for the rural dweller. Apart from holding its own against the terrible roads, they are cheap and they don’t need fuel.
Beside the terrible roads, however, the rural dweller is constantly in danger. The motor traffic regulations are thrown out as almost every car, motorcycle and even bicycles on roads in rural Ghana trample on one road regulation or the other. From congestion to roadworthy issues, vehicles  constantly  pose danger to the rural dweller and the motorists  themselves.  Regard for road safety is non-existent because police officers are usually nowhere in sight.
It is a common sight to see rickety vehicles that are better described as ‘coffins on wheels’ plying routes  in these areas. Lives are constantly in danger on these roads.
There are a few questions to ask.  Does Ghana have a rural transport policy? if we do; how effective is this policy in dealing with the dangers and health hazards rural dwellers face in commuting from one area to another. That is a subject for another day.

Writter's email: seth.bokpe@graphic.com.gh
- See more at: http://graphic.com.gh/features/features/29426-battling-terrible-roads-and-dangerous-cars-the-travails-of-rural-dwellers.html#sthash.431xIO0F.dpuf

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