Villages surrounding the towns and cities supply the markets and roadside stalls with produce to sell. Many people have moved to the towns mainly to find work. But most of these people still maintain strong links with the country. The country is important to them both as a source of food and because of family ties.
Research has found that most people rent rather than buy their homes in the towns. It is not that they do not have enough money to buy houses. They prefer to send back to their relatives in the villages. Many people look forward to spending their savings on building their own houses in the villages. The style and appearance of villages depend on where they are located. In the more luscious south the huts cluster beneath the trees and are surrounded by bushes and banana groves.
In the savannah land of the north they are stark and unprotected in the hot sun. Round, thatched, mud huts encircle open courtyards where many of the daily chores are done. There people gossip sitting on wooden benches or the ground.
Along the coast the huts are more likely to be made of screens woven from coconut fronds, and spread out underneath coconut palms. Prosperous villages have several concrete one or two-room bungalows.
In the rural areas village life remains primitive. Few people have running water or electricity in their homes. The national grid, with electricity from the Volta Dam, is gradually being extended to more of the country. Women and girls still pound cassava and maize with heavy mortar and pestles, as they have done for centuries. Water is carried in buckets and pots on their heads from the nearest standpipe or steam. Washing is done entirely by hand and cooking is usually done over fire in the courtyard.
Fifty-nine per cent of the Ghanaian workforce is in agriculture and almost everyone living in rural areas is involved in farming. Some people work on large cocoa farms but there is very little large scale farming and most of the land is divided up between families. The families farm their plot with hand implements that have been used for generations. There is very little modern farm machinery. Even when it is introduced it may fall quickly into disrepair because of the problems of running and maintaining modern machinery in isolated and impoverished rural areas.
On market days people travel many kilometres to bring their produce to sell and to buy things they cannot grow. Mammy-wagons laden down with people, animals and goods for sale travel along dirt tracks. In market towns such as Kpandu, on the shores of the Volta Lake, people also arrive by rickety, over-laden boats.
At the market, dried fish, tomatoes, plantains, groundnuts, chillies, chickens and goats from the countryside are exchanged for tools, colourful cloth, soap powder, plastic and metal pots and pans from the towns. Hordes of vultures gather along with the people to scavenge what they can.
Most of the villages are prettier and cleaner than the squatter towns that surround the cities, but access to the benefits of modern life is much more limited. Conditions in the towns, though far from good, are considerably better than conditions in the villages.
Ninety-three per cent of the urban population has access to safe drinking water, compared to 35 per cent of the rural population. Sanitation and health provisions are twice as good in the towns as in the countryside.
The infant and child death rates are also lower in the towns. Village dwellers are unlikely ever to see a doctor and rely for medication on roving salesmen who pass through the villages on their bicycles with a case full of medicines strapped to the saddle. They sell aspirin, quinine, antibiotics and ointments.
Education is also much more limited in the countryside. In a prosperous village or small town in the south, there may be several teachers to a concrete school building with several classrooms under a sturdy corrugated roof, filled with desks and chairs.
But in the countryside one or two teachers, in classrooms with disintegrating mud -walls and leaky thatched roofs filled with rickety benches, may serve several villages. Children may get only two or three hours a day of schooling. Often they have to leave after primary school. A child who wants to go on to secondary school will have travel to the nearest town, possible several hundred kilometres away. Only two thirds of Ghanaians can read and write, but people are very excited about getting educated.
Transport and communications
Railway lines connect Accra, Teme, Kumasai, Sekondi-Takoradi and the mining areas, and are used for transporting heavy freight.
Most of the main towns and cities are now connected by metalled roads, though the quality of these depends on their age and their importance. There has been a massive effort to improve roads in the last five years. Some foreign aid has helped.
There are now good quality roads on the Ghana section of the Trans-Africa Highway running between the Cote d’Ivoire and Togo borders via Takoradi, Cape Coast and Accra; the Kumasi-Cape Coast road has recently been rebuilt with aid from Japan; and the Kumasi-Tamale road.
Most people rely on major transport to travel any distance. Mammy-wagons carry large numbers of people to work in towns from the outlying shanty-towns and villages. Mammy-wagons are wooden frames on a lorry chassis. Often they have names on their head boards like “No Worries, Time Changes”, “Allah Saves” and “The Lord is My Fortress”.
The Mammy-wagons are being replaced by coaches and buses which carry people, often packed in like sardines, over longer distances. Taxis carry people around the towns and cities. Trucks carry freight to and from the ports and between the towns and cities.
People who can afford it buy their own cars, and large hoardings advertise off- the- road vehicles. You need these kind of cars to survive the terrain beyond the main, metalled roads.
The telephone network does not reach beyond the main towns and cities. But there is a growing market among entrepreneurs and the better-off for the mobile phones advertised on large billboards around Accra and Kumasi.
Life in Ghana, for people living in the urban or rural areas, is not easy. The low level of development means that most people do not have access to many of the things that people in this country take for granted. Things like electricity and running water or health care and education are hard to come by in Ghana.
Anyone who visits Ghana, though, will be struck by the optimism that Ghanaians have for their country. They want Ghana to become a modern, developed country. The names on the stalls that line the roadsides express the Ghanaians’ hopes for the future: Success Brings Happiness Saloon, Chez Juliette Beauty Salon, Engineering Enterprises Ltd.Sometimes we think that people in the underdeveloped world are better off without modern technology. But not many Ghanaians think so. They want access to computers, mobile phones, good cars and other forms of high technology as quickly as possible so that life can become more than just a struggle for survival for the vast majority of people.
Urban Ghana: Facts and Figures
Most of Ghana ‘s population of 17,690000 live and work in rural areas(the countryside). Only a little over a third of the population lives in urban areas (the towns and cites).
The capital, Accra, is home to about 1 million people and the region around Accra (Greater Accra) is the most densely populated in the country with 1 78 100 people in 2592 sq km.
The other major urban areas are Kumasi (385 200), Tamale (151 100), Tema 110 000) and Sekondi -Takoardi (103 600).
The urban population grew at a rate 4.1 % in the 1980s. That was a lower rate of growth than in the 70s (5.2%) and the 60s (4.6%).
Most towns are in the south of the country, in the triangular area formed by Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi, where the population density reaches 400 people for every square kilometre.
The average population density nationally is 63 people for every square kilometre. In the rural North, there are 17 people for every square kilometre and in the Volta Basin there are only ten Ghanaians for every square kilometre.
Nearly half of all town dwellers live in the two largest towns of Accra and Kumasi. Nearly two-thirds of the urban population live in slums or shantytowns.