December polls: Upper West Akim in perspective

The Upper West Akim constituency, in the Upper West Akim District, is the only one in the Eastern Region that shares boundaries with the Greater Accra and the Central Regions.

It also shares boundaries with Ayensuano District to the east, West Akim Municipality to the north, Nsawam Adoagyiri Municipality to the south eastern part, Ga South Municipality to the south and Awutu-Afutu Senya District in the Central region to the west.

This interesting geography easily reflects the backgrounds of the people who live in the constituency.

The district has Adeiso as its capital. Other major communities in the constituency are Mepom, Okorasi, Nyanoa, and Obeng Yaw.

A lot of the houses in the constituency are built from mud, with rusty roofing sheets.

The constituency, which was previously under the West Akim district, has over the years voted massively for the governing National Democratic Congress NDC in both parliamentary and presidential elections. The ethnic makeup is heterogenous, majority, being Akans. A sizeable number are Dangbes and Ewe. A number of other tribes also live in the constituency.

About 50% of these migrants were born in the region, which can account for their voting history.

One of the most conspicuous landmarks in the constituency is the Adeiso market. Adeiso is popular for the processing of cassava into high quality gari which attracts a lot of traders from all over the country to trade. But the Adeiso market has no permanent structures. The women sit under temporary sheds to sell, while others trade in the open.

Some also sell on the street, making it difficult for both humans and drivers to maneuver their way into the market.

Interestingly, the gari sellers, who have brought much attention to the market, do not have a spot inside the market. They line up the street.

Juliana Akpalanyo, who has sold gari at the Adeiso market for some 20 years, told the Campaign Trail, they will appreciate it if permanent structures are built for them.
“We need to get a permanent place to sell. We sit along the streets to sell. This is not safe,” she said.

42 years old Mary Amankwanor, echoes Juliana’s concerns.
“Anytime it rains, we are unable to sell because parts of the market floods. We really need them to construct the market for us”, she said from behind a small table inside the market where she sells her wares.

More than half of the District’s population is engaged in one form of agricultural activity or the other. The major crops that are produced in the district include cassava, plantain, oil palm, and pineapple. The large production of pineapple, has led to the establishment of a processing company, Fresh and Dry that buys from the farmers.

This sounds like a profitable venture, for the farmers, but they seem to have their own reservations.

David Nyarko is a 32-year-old farmer now turned trader. I meet him standing behind a wheelbarrow, selling toothpaste, bathing sponge, batteries and more. He told me has been forced into trading because farming is no longer lucrative.

“I have a three acre pineapple farm. But because we get no farm inputs from the government, the farming is no longer lucrative. I sell my produce at the market but I am selling this now to make some money to support my farming. Our produce go waste if the people don’t come from Accra to buy.

The factory buys the fruits from the farmers who are supported by the government. Even with that, they buy at their own price.”

Other farmers, who have been in the venture much longer than Nyarko, also share similar tales with me.

“I am a cocoa farmer, but I also grow pineapple and cassava. These days, we get no fertilizers from the government for our farms. They have told us to submit our names, but we are yet to hear back from them. Because of this, I have pests on my farm, which is badly affecting my harvest. I used to harvest about 15 bags. Now, I get far less than that,” said an older farmer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Down the road from the market, a group of young men sit on their motor bikes, or okada, waiting for clients. This is the job most of the youth have settled for since they say there is nothing left for them to do. One of the young men is badly injured; covered in sore from a motor accident he had about a week before my visit. His name is Gideon Awuku.

“There is only one job avenue in this area; the Fresh and Dry Company. I have been operating the motorbike business for the past year. That is what all of us seated here do. But it isn’t fetching us much. I make between 40 and 45 cedis daily,” Gideon told me.

At the lorry station, the drivers also cry over the bad nature of roads they ply daily.

Akura Gyimah, who has been plying the Accra-Achimota-Bawjiase-Asamankese road daily, revealed he has voted for the NDC since 1992.

Gyimah has lived in the constituency for the past 40 years and tells me the NDC has brought some development to the area, pointing to some uncompleted stalls in the lorry station. He claims those are being built by the District Assembly.

He however added that their roads are in deplorable conditions, seriously affecting their work.

“Our roads are very bad. We have seen that they are constructing some of them. We hope that they finish it soon. All my shocks are destroyed as I speak with you.”

His colleague driver, who also revealed he has been voting for the NDC said he will vote for the New Patriotic Party NPP this year to “see what they will also come and do”.

H e said the “driving business” is no longer profitable because of the bad nature of the roads.

Even though the Nsawam Adoagyiri-Adeiso road is under construction, there were no workers on site when the campaign trail traversed it. Construction equipment had been left unattended to on the shoulders of the road.
Apart from the roads and temporary structures at the market, my interaction with the people in this constituency also showed their developmental challenges go beyond these.

The constituents have no access to potable water, relying on dug-out wells and boreholes.

“We find it difficult getting potable water here. We rely on boreholes. Our taps do not flow. We normally buy sachet water” a resident who refused to give his name said.

Many of the people in Upper West Akim constituency feel they have not benefitted enough from their many years of devotion to the NDC. Some of them feel they have only been taken for granted.

The upcoming parliamentary contest is a straight one between the outgoing District Chief Executive, Derrick Bekoe Ohene Assifo and a teacher, Eugene Sackey. The incumbent MP, Samuel Amankwanor who won the party’s primary stepped down because of health problems. Well, that was the official statement, but unsubstantiated information we picked up show he was forced to step down because he had dual citizenship.

This year’s contest will be the second attempt the teacher will be making at entering parliament. In 2012, he lost by some 3,763 votes. Against a contender who heads the local assembly and a part of the governing party, what are the NPP’s chances of winning the seat that has evaded them all these years?

With some 63 days more to the polls, it is only a matter of time for the teacher to dump his chalk and pen and head to the house of parliament or for the DCE to get a raise in status. The people of the West Akim constituency will soon decide.

By: Eugenia Tenkorang/
Follow @eugeniatenkoran