Rabbits and snails provide
reliable income for the disadvantaged

Training and more in “Bremen Village”

In 1945, when Germany was razed to the ground and many people were poor and hungry, there was a meat supplier that today is regarded as a funny cuddling animal for children: the rabbit. Grass and dandelion grow everywhere and one can exchange the animal for another article or commodity. Many people in Ghana today are poor and often hungry. And in Ghana, who is the meat supplier with growing popularity? The rabbit. German and African Churches should jointly disseminate ideas about other forms of agriculture and put this into action through model farms.

A master example is the "Bremen Village"/Ho Farms: A Model Farm near the Ho town, linked with a Training Centre with support from the Bremen Mission, with the Headquarters in Bremen (hence the name). The Mission, with the States Development Co-operation Agency in Ghana is a supporting bridge between their six Partner Churches, therefore between Africa and Europe. Through their participation in the establishment of the model they have shown the signal for "helping with understanding". "Solidarity overcomes human indifference" is their Christian experience, "to respect and protect their cultural differences, and to look for and bring out what unites them", was their motto. The purpose of the joint project in Ghana is to alleviate their acute misery, to promote individual initiatives, and to help them attain a long term, excellent continuous means of livelihood.

At the same time the Bremen Mission (NM) is concerned that the living conditions of the people in Ghana and the global conditions in Germany is made known.

The "Bremen Village" in the catchment area of the Ho town in the South-Eastern part of Ghana is a further training centre, and an advice centre for farmers and lady teachers and for many other purposes, for women as well as for the physically handicapped (disabled) groups. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana is responsible for the centre. Their development department has become an important area. In conformity with their motto: "The whole Gospel for the whole Human Being", they see their work not only as the proclamation of the Gospel, but also to improve the living conditions of the people. The Church has already since the 60s established schools and health stations and has continuously concerned itself with the pressing social questions and problems.

Family planning and breeding of rabbits

In the Training Centre, the following areas are taught: Background information on agriculture together with ecology and durability, long term planning, fundamental information on health and hygiene, family planning and HIV/AIDS. This does not mean that the people in Ghana should henceforth live and develop according to European standards. The objective is mainly to use the existing opportunities in the land to attain the best possible and at the same time considerate results: To replace completely useful plants and animals, growing of mushrooms, vegetable cultivation for example, and rearing of rabbits, goats, snails and bee keeping instead of cocoa. It offers special tutorial classes for the physically challenged, with the aim of equipping them with skills to be independent, instead of being dependent on alms. For the people in Ghana with handicaps that is a very important step for survival.

"We have organized courses for women on nutrition and planning of projects aimed at helping them to create an excellent income" remarked Vida Ahiati, the Director of the centre since 2002. "We offer courses in bee-keeping, breeding of snails and growing of mushrooms, sheep and goat rearing and breeding of birds – and recently – rabbits". Other areas include: Bio-Agriculture, forestry and family planning – a mighty duty catalogue for a small team: Four co-workers are paid salaries whilst the other three are given allowances. That works, because they are all highly motivated, remarked Vida Ahiati.

In addition to this whole practical methodical instruction to earn one’s daily livelihood, is the theory on further development for the people of the countryside: Basic knowledge about healthy nutrition, information about improved methods of cultivation and animal rearing, sustained domestic economy, preservation of natural beauty and wild life and soil care – for example the careful joint cultivation of maize and beans, the use of natural pesticides and different methods to check soil erosion. The subjects of health and nutrition in Ghana are considered to be the domain of women.

"In Africa, many things are done separately when it comes to men and women groups", remarked Agnes Asamoah. As a female co-worker in "Bremen Village", she has exceptional access to the women: "It is easier for me to discuss questions like family planning, hygiene, health and nutrition with the women".

The advice centre is a conference centre with 33 beds and tutorial classrooms which serve as a second supporting leg. It is often used for conferences and also for private occasions – for example funerals, which in Ghana, it is greatly used for on rented basis. Church groups pay reduced prices. "This income relieves our budget a little", remarked the director of the Ho Farms. "Since we have accommodation possibilities every year groups from the Ohio State University in the USA numbering about 20 students who are interested in our work, visit us".

Snails and rabbits

The majority of people in Ghana depend on agriculture. The advice centre helps the farmers and it is done in such a way that during the farming activities nature is also at the same time being protected. "The people here need possibilities to improve upon their income and they also need good nutrition – that means, once in a while, meat", remarked Vida Ahiati. "So far, in Ghana rabbits were not known as meat suppliers. But we have already organized many courses and have taught participants, how to breed rabbits and how to market them. One does not need much place, the feed is cheap and the meat is delicious.

Sometimes, we chance upon new ideas, but often they come in an inconspicuous and slow manner – for example at snail’s tempo. This impression was made by women in Ghana, who were privileged to take part in one of the programmes organized by their Evangelical Church: Breeding of snails as a source of income generation. Today widows who cannot automatically seek protection and assistance from the extended family and also young people without perspectives now have the possibility to earn their own money. A welfare system after the European model does not exist in Ghana.

Snail breeding does not need much space and it is possible with little expenditure. This crawling animal is a delicacy, it is rich source of protein, prevents malnutrition and it is used a lot in Ghana as food and there is also a good market for it. The breeding is not difficult: About 200 snails can occupy a space of one square metre. They can be fed with green leaves and kitchen refuse. To protect them from ants, one needs to cover the floor with a fail and a wire-netting cover as a protection against hungry birds. In the dry season, the snails under normal circumstances creep into the ground to protect themselves from drying out. Moisture should be provided, so that when the time comes when they are rare to come by, they can then be sold for a good price.

The Training and Further Training Centre at "Bremen Village" offers distant courses in cassava cultivation. The cassava is an unassuming, many-sided plant and suitable for many things. The cassava grows on dry soil and can also withstand the tropical down pours. A flour (Gari) is made from the roots which can be stored for some time and has no problem with transportation. The tuber is steamed or cooked with water.

The leaves of the cassava plant are prepared with groundnut paste, oil palm fruits or coconut milk and eaten as vegetable. The cassava contains minerals, vitamins, proteins and carbohydrates which are very important for a healthy nutrition.

Work for the physically disabled

Anyone who wants to reorganize his small farming activity needs a start capital. Besides the training courses, small credits are urgently needed. Anyone who wants to produce and sell batik, soap or bread needs a start capital for materials, colours and implements. Such a combination of farming and trade is encouraged by the Training Centre – this guarantees them a minimum income spread over a year. Poor harvests, bad weather, pests and parasitic insects or plagues no longer threaten their whole existence.

In a country like Ghana, people with a disability are a great burden on their families because there is no government assistance. Considering the big poverty, notwithstanding, everybody is trying to contribute something towards his/her livelihood. This is where the "Community Integrated Rehabilitation of the Blind/CIRBS" joins in. The Centre for the blind, those with vision problems and wrong vision is to be found in the district Headquarters, Hohoe, east of the Volta Dam/River from here. Honoraries pay visits to the nearby villages in order to assist those who have problems with their sight and the blind, and to help them become independent and overcome the problems they go through daily in the lives.

Information on how they can build their own livelihood is also shared with them. Following courses are run for them: Animal rearing, bee-keeping, snail breeding, baking, and small trading.

"We are very proud that the Church’s presence is felt here" remarked Pastor Yao Adjakra. He is a Senior Minister of the district that Hohoe belongs to. "In Africa, working with the disabled is relatively new and is not seen as a matter of course or a foregone conclusion".

The radio and press report

In order to let the further education programme reach more people, the radio and the press have been involved. In the long term, "Bremen Village" is to be turned into a National Training Centre where participants would be trained in book keeping and management. The Church however cannot meet the cost of the institution from its own means. Therefore the Presbyterian Church of Ghana as the supporter still needs financial assistance of the German Partner Churches in the Bremen Mission. But the long term plan "Help for Self Help" is in the meantime carrying its first fruits. New capabilities and sustained agriculture in productive niches are creating new workplaces, contribute towards the protection of the environment and bring about hope.

"Bremen Village" is still small but it is like a pebble thrown into water which always continues to make many more circles.