Inspired by Norway

Ghanaian Vincent Subbey lived and worked in the north Norwegian city of Tromsø during the 1990s, and was so inspired by the way Norwegians take care of the weakest in their society that he dropped his academic plans in favour of doing the same in his home country.

Text: Teresa Grøtan
Photos: Teresa Grøtan and Trax Ghana

This story is related by Vincent’s brother Sam, who came to Norway several years before his sibling and remained. He currently works as a scientist at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research in Bergen. Vincent studied fisheries management in Tromsø and could have taken a PhD in the UK, Sam reports. “But he went home. I was completely convinced that this was a doomed project.

“In my view, it would be impossible to realise his idealistic ideas in Ghana. I tried to convince him to continue his studies, but Norwegian society had ignited a spark in him.”

Goats

Vincent came into contact with Trax Ghana, which was founded by British students in 1989 and works to improve living conditions in the north of this west African country. He took over as its head when his predecessor left.

Sam himself became seriously involved three-four years ago. Trax Norway was founded in 2016 with him as secretary. Its purpose is to secure funds for the Ghanaian organisation’s work in three main areas: food security, education and health.

Sam and Trax recently won support from the Kavli Trust to establish a project aimed at schoolchildren in northern Ghana.

 

Huge differences exist between north and south in this small country, with people living in relative affluence in southern Ghana while the northerners are poor and have high infant mortality. A large proportion lack education, particularly women.

“We discovered that the bottleneck is education beyond the primary stage,” reports Sam. “The fact is that pupils receive a daily meal at primary school, which encourages them to attend even if teachers aren’t always present.

“When they no longer get fed, the drop-out rate is high – especially among girls. The reasons could include teenage pregnancy, early marriage and child labour.

“Many also fail to attend because they cannot afford sanitary towels and sanitation at the schools is poor, so they remain at home during their periods.”

Model farm

Trax had to find a way of keeping the children in school, but both they and their families needed an income. Then the idea of goats came up.

“Goats like the heat and they’ll eat anything,” Sam points out. “So they’re a good choice in a region which is both dry and hot.”

The project supported by the Kavli Trust involves giving goats to poor and able secondary-school pupils, particularly girls.

“We’re going to start a farm with around 100 animals,” Sam explains enthusiastically. “A veterinarian will train selected individuals in the local community to be responsible for operations.

“The farm will serve as a model for sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry. It’ll also allocate goats to the children, who’ll be responsible for them at home.”

Each child will get three goats to raise. They can sell the droppings for fertiliser, and eventually market the kids in order to fund their education.
Project targets include food security and sustainable agriculture, education, capacity-building and equal opportunities for girls.
“This is a viable project,” explains Sam. “We’re training the youngsters to escape from poverty by working for it themselves.”

Enthusiastic

Sam is campaigning to raise funds for an organisation he is now enthusiastic about, after observing for a long time how his brother worked – and did not fail.
Asked what persuaded him to change his mind about Vincent’s choice and become involved himself, Sam reports that he paid a visit to his brother in Ghana.

“He introduced me to four women and related how they had lifted themselves out of poverty. I saw what he was doing, and I reflected on my own activities. The students I supervise manage fine without me, but these women could not have done without my brother’s work.

“And when I saw how much pleasure he gets from what he does … I didn’t believe he would succeed, but he’s now shown me that it’s possible.