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Bonsaaso, Ghana
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Bonsaaso, Ghana

Bonsaaso Cluster: 6 Millennium Villages | approximately 30,000 residents

Bonsaaso is a village located in the Amansie-West District of the Ashanti Region of Ghana. The area is characterized by hot, humid tropical climate conditions. The Millennium Villages are separated from one another by thick rainforest and diverse vegetation. While the villages are spread out, they are not very large. Most farmers must make do with small plots of land, relying on small-scale cash crop farming which results in low yields and limited production of food for consumption. Getting goods in and out of the isolated communities can be arduous due to travel on uneven dirt roads that were carved by gold mining and lumber companies years back. Infrastructure has slowly degraded since the decline of these two industries in the region.

Village Characteristics by Sector

Most of the able-bodied youth of the area prefer to work in illegal gold mining sites for money instead of engaging in food production. Consequently, farm labor is scarce and expensive and mainly undertaken by older people who are not strong enough for the task. In addition, the process of land preparation is laborious because of the nature of the vegetation. Weeds also grow very fast on the farms because of the high rainfall. A few farmers overcome the latter challenge by using herbicides, but this is something most of the farmers cannot afford.

Most of the fertile lands which are closer to the communities have been used for cocoa production, pushing food crop production to distant lands. Farmers have to walk long distances, sometimes more than five kilometers, before reaching their farms. This leaves very little land for food crop production. A partial solution is to introduce technologies such as improved fallowing, agroforestry and crop rotation that will enable farmers to crop on the same piece of land for a very long time.

The diets of the people are made up of carbohydrates with little and inadequate protein sources. The major food crops produced in the area are cassava, plantain, cocoyam, yams and maize—all carbohydrate-rich foods. Cultivation of leguminous crops, which could provide richer protein sources, does not form part of the cropping culture of the community. There is no commercial poultry farm to supply eggs and chicken, and the rearing of livestock is limited to a few households that keep small ruminants on free range. Some communities even forbid the rearing of sheep and goats, and fish farming (aquaculture) is also absent in the communities.
Farmers have difficulty in finding a ready market for their farm produce because of long distances from market centers and the poor condition of the road network. This in turn becomes a great disincentive and does not motivate the farmers to produce large quantities of farm produce.

Until the inception of the Millennium Village project, the communities had never benefited from any form of agricultural extension services. This has made it difficult for the farmers to accept and adopt recommended agronomic practices, thereby slowing down the pace of food production in the area.

The main health problems as reported by local health clinics in order of importance are malaria, buruli ulcer, anaemia, malnutrition, risk to women in pregnancy and delivery, hypertension, low tuberculosis (TB) detection rate and HIV/Aids.

There are very few functional health facilities in the entire Millennium Village cluster and community members have to travel long distances—between 2 and 40km depending on type of health facility—to access health care.

There are not enough medical doctors, nurses, midwifes and other paramedical staff in the district to handle the health-related problems of the communities. The bad nature of roads coupled with lack of sufficient vehicles make transportation of health workers to the communities for outreach health care delivery difficult. Similarly, the movement of sick people to health facilities is equally difficult, sometimes with fatal consequences.

There are not enough primary schools to support the population of the village cluster. This results in primary school pupils having to walk long distances, in some cases more than 5km, to and from school. This is a big disincentive to many of the students who find going to school unattractive.

All school children who have to travel to neighboring communities to school have to walk since means of transport such as buses, motorbikes and bicycles are completely absent. None of the schools in the Millennium Village cluster have an adequate number of qualified teachers.

In most of the schools, suitable tables and chairs for the pupils are not available. Teaching and learning materials as chalk, exercise books, pens and pencils, charts, etc. are not available to facilitate teaching and learning.

In most of the communities there is only one toilet facility for both boys and girls. This is enough to make some people shy away from going to school. The project is addressing this challenge with the construction of separate toilet facilities for the different sexes.

Water from boreholes in some of the communities is of questionable quality because of high concentration of iron. A number of communities in the cluster do not have adequate water points.

The road network in the Bonsaaso cluster is untarred, lengthy and bad. When it rains, portions of the road become very slippery and dangerous. In the dry season the road becomes very dusty and provides potential health hazards to users without air-conditioned vehicles. The poor nature of the roads virtually cuts off the MV communities from the rest of the country.

Intervention Highlights

The Ghana cluster has made great progress in diversifying crops and increasing average yields, helping decrease the prevalence of malnutrition. Significant improvements in the areas of health and education have also contributed to early yet dramatic changes in the quality of life for community members.

Great strides were made in the first half of 2007 to improve the overall healthcare available to more than 30,000 people in the Bonsaaso cluster. Three new clinics were constructed and two renovated, and there are plans for additional improvements underway. Having better access to health facilities is critical to the villages, because most residents must travel anywhere between 2 to 40 km to receive the care they need. Buruli ulcer, which is endemic in the region, is a debilitating skin disease which can lead to functional disability and restricted joint movement. Prior to the start of the project, only one hospital within 40 km of the villages had the proper facilities to treat the disease. With the addition of new clinics, local villagers can hope to combat buruli ulcer and many other diseases before they are incapacitated.

There has also been dramatic progress with respect to malaria control. The project has worked with local officials to train community health workers about effective bed net usage and malaria diagnosis, treatment and prevention.


In 2007, the Millennium Villages project has focused heavily on increasing student enrollment and improving the quality of education for both students and teachers. Before the start of the project, none of the 22 existing primary schools in the cluster offered school meals and very few had any type of accommodation for teachers. As a result, qualified teachers were lured to the bigger cities, leaving children with little incentive to travel the necessary distance (often several kilometers) to attend school.

The first half of 2007 showed some significant improvements in education in the cluster. Roughly 1,000 school children from three schools began receiving mid-day meals after the construction of environmentally-friendly kitchens, which burn less firewood and produce little smoke while providing sufficient energy. Nine more schools will start school feeding programs soon with the aim to have lunches for all students in the cluster.

Water and Sanitation

In 2007, the project has focused on increasing access to water and improving water quality and safety across the cluster. Results are now coming in from tests conducted at 54 water points to determine mercury and lead levels, which are particularly important in the Ghana cluster given the high concentration of gold mining in the region. Water from existing boreholes in some of the communities is also of questionable quality because of a high concentration of iron. A number of communities in the Ghana cluster additionally do not have adequate water points; in these areas, people are required to queue with their containers at collection points for water. Some of the community members prefer to drink untreated water collected from rivers and streams rather than wait for water from the collection sites.

The project is also utilizing other methods to secure clean water, including rainwater harvesting. Collection systems have already been constructed for three schools, supplying an adequate flow of water for cooking, sanitation, and drinking.

Agriculture and Business Development
The focus on cash crops, especially cocoa, has resulted in insufficient production of food crops and a diet made up entirely of starches. The wide use of slash-and-burn farming techniques puts increased pressure on the environment and further limits opportunities for crop diversification. In an effort to diversify outputs and increase nutrition and income, the Ghana cluster has been integrating food crops into agricultural practices while at the same educating farmers on techniques to increase yields of existing cash crops without further environmental degradation.

Farmers participating in the project have been trained in improved agricultural techniques including cultivating maize, cowpea, vegetable production, post-harvest handling and storage, and cocoa establishment and management.