INFORMATION ON THE WESTERN REGION
The Western Region covers an area of approximately 23,921 square kilometers, which is about 10 per cent of Ghana’s total land area. The region has about 75 per cent of its vegetation within the high forest zone of Ghana, and has an average rainfall of 1,600mm per annum. It is bordered on the east by the Central Region, to the west by Côte d’Ivoire, to the north by Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo Regions, and to the south by the Gulf of Guinea. The southernmost part of Ghana, Cape Three Points happens to be situated in this region.
The Regional Co-ordinating Council (RCC), which is the highest decision-making body, comprises the Regional Minister who is also its Chairperson, District Chief Executives, Presiding Members of the various District Assemblies and two Paramount Chiefs nominated by the Regional House of Chiefs. There is also a Regional Coordinating Director, who is the Secretary to the RCC and the head of the civil administration of the region. The Region is divided into 17 districts. Each of the districts has a District Assembly headed by the District Chief Executive. The District Chief Executive is appointed by the President, but has to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority of members of the Assembly. Meetings of the Assembly are chaired by a Presiding Member elected by members of the Assembly. Majority of members of the District Assembly are elected by secret ballot on a non-partisan basis. In addition to the elected members, there are also members nominated to represent various specified stakeholders, in accordance with the constitution. The Region has 22 Parliamentarians representing the people at the constituency level at the National Assembly. The Members of Parliament are also members of the various district assemblies in the districts in which their parliamentary constituencies are located. At the community level, there are two urban councils, thirty town councils and several unit committees under the jurisdiction of the district assemblies. These local authorities complement the functions of the district assemblies.
Socio-demographic and cultural features
The Western region constitutes 10 percent of the country’s population that is approximately 1,924,577.Currently, the population growth rate stands at 3.2 and with the massive urbanization taking place in the region, it is expected that population growth rate would double by 2020. There are five major indigenous ethnic groups, namely, the Ahantas, Nzemas, Wassa, Sefwis and Aowins. About 18.2 per cent of Ghanaians by birth in the region are Fantes, even though these are not indigenes of the region, but are settlers who migrated several years ago from the Central Region, and have subsequently totally integrated into the indigenous population. The Ahantas, who form about 6 percent, and the Nzemas (including the Evalues) 11 per cent of Ghanaians by birth in the region, occupy the entire coastline from Shama on the east to the western border of Ghana. Both the Ahanta and Nzema celebrate the ‘Kundum’ festival in remembrance of their ancestors. The Wassa people, who form about 12 per cent of Ghanaians by birth in the region, can be found further inland off the coast into the interior. Their annual ‘Eddie’ festival is celebrated to coincide with the harvest period of farm produce. The Sefwis who represent about 11 per cent and Aowins who constitute about 3 per cent of Ghanaians by birth in the region are in the northern part of the region and share a boundary with the Brong Ahafo Region. Both groups celebrate the annual Alluolie (Yam) festival. The languages/dialects of the Sefwis and Aowins are very similar to each other, and to the Ahanta and Nzema languages.
Ahanta, Nzema, Wassa, Sefwi and Aowin are the languages spoken by the indigenes of this region, Fante is widely spoken as a second language in the southern part of the region while Twi is more widely spoken in the Sefwi and Bibiani areas .
The region is blessed with mineral resources as it remains the largest producer of cocoa and timber as well as the second highest producer of gold. Agriculture and mining are the main industries in the western region and there are vast palm oil and rubber plantations scattered in the forests parts of the region. There are five major gold mines, namely Teberebie and Iduaprem goldfields, both now owned by Ashanti goldfields, Prestea/Bogoso mines now owned by a South African company, Tarkwa goldfields, and Aboso goldfields located at Damang near Huni Valley. There is also a manganese mine near Tarkwa at Nsuta, which has been operating for the past seventy years.
The region is also the largest producer of cocoa and coconut as well as one of the largest producers of raw /sawn timber as well as processed wood products. The major occupations in the region are agriculture including fishing, professional and technical work, mining and quarrying, manufacturing as well as wholesale and retail trade.
The Western Region can boast of effective educational facilities, though more can be found in the urban than rural areas. There are 1,320 primary schools in the region and 694 junior high schools constituting 10.9 per cent of the total number of JHSs in the country. There are 29 senior High schools, most of which are concentrated in the Sekondi /Takoradi Metropolitan; 13 secondary technical schools and 3 nursing training colleges namely – Nursing and midwifery Training College in Sekondi, Community health Nursing College in Essiama in the Jomoro district and Agogo nursing training college. The region also has 3 teacher training colleges, 1 polytechnic in Takoradi, 2 special schools – Sekondi School for the Deaf and The twin city special school, all in Sekondi as well as two technical institutes – the Takoradi and Kikam Technical Institutes. There is also the College of Mining and Mineral Engineering which is affiliated to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
The region has an estimated number of 261 medical facilities with the greatest number situated in the regional capital towns of Sekondi and Takoradi. Apart from the Effia Nkwanta Hospital which is a regional hospital, the metropolis has the Takoradi Hospital, Kwesimintsim and Essikado Polyclinics, Private Clinics, Government Health Centers and Community and Maternity Clinics. Importantly, there are several industrial clinics in the metropolis. Other hospitals in the region include the Bibiani Government Hospital, Father Thomas Rooney Memorial Hospital in Asankragwa, Nana Hima Dekyi Hospital in Dixcove, Saint John of God Hospital in Sefwi-Asafo and the Saint Martin de Porres Hospital in Eikwe
The Castles of the Western Region
The Western Region is another region with a rich heritage demonstrated by the number of castles still open to visitors. The best examples in the region are:
Fort St Appolonia at Beyin
Fort cross at Dixcove (1693)
Fort Batensteyn (1656) at Butri
Fort Groot Fredericksburg at Princess Town
Fort S. Antonio at Axim (1515)
Fort Dorothea (ruins) at Akwida
Fort Sebastian at Shama
The Village on Stilt of Nzulezu
An amazing village where life goes on in the centre of lake Tadane, just 90km west of Takoradi. The houses are built on stilts, and traditional village life adapts to the watery conditions. The excursion from Beyin involves a walk through the reeds at the lake’s edge, and a trip in a dugout canoe to the village. The village welcomes visitors everyday except Thursday, which is a sacred day.
The Beaches of the Western Region
Western region is famous for some of the best beaches in Ghana. Some of the most popular beaches are:
Busua Pleasure Beach – only 5km from fort metal cross
Sports Club Beach – behind the Atlantic hotel in Takoradi
Ajua Beach – just 200metres from Dadowa lagoon
Princess Town Beach – off the Takoradi/Elubo highway
Mimia Beach – a secluded beach with rocky cave perfect for picnics.
Dr. Nkrumah’s Grave
The original grave of Dr. Nkrumah, first President of Ghana and now buried in the mausoleum in Accra, can be found at Nkroful, 83km west of Takoradi.
Akatekyi crocodile pond
30km west of Takoradi, at the Akatekyi Lagoon, you will find a pond where crocodiles are enticed from the water by the incantations of a fetish priest and the protests of a live fowl. You can observe this ritual every day except Wednesday (a sacred day). Although there is no formal admission fee, you should bring a bottle of Schnapps for the libation ceremony and some cash (in cedis) for the cost of the fowl.
Ankasa Conservation Area
Ankasa Conservation Area is twin Wildlife Protected Area comprising Nini-Suhien National Park and the Ankasa Resource Reserve. It is about 500km2 situated in the Western Region of Ghana. Ankasa is the only area in the Wet Evergreen Forest Zoo. The Southwestern corner of the reserve is about 5 kilometres from the border town of Elubo. Takoradi is about 120 kilometres east. Being the area with the highest rainfall in Ghana, Ankasa is the richest forest in terms of botanical diversity in the Country. Its natural resources are enough to announce its presence on the world tourism map as haven and Ghana’s tourism address therefore, there is no wonder that Ankasa remains as one of the natural treasures of the nation.
Its attractions include:
Being the area with the highest in Ghana, Ankasa is the richest forest in terms of botanical diversity in the Country. About three hundred (300) plant species have been recorded in a single hectare. Notable among the plant is: Makore, Dahoma and Khaya. Ankasa is home to many well know plants including: Marantas, Glory bower, Bloody Lilly. There are also spectacular ferns and orchards.
Charismatic and tourist-pulling animals such as the bongo and forest elephant as well as ten (10) primate species including the endangered Diana monkey and west African Chimpanzee abound in Ankasa. Bird fauna is also rich – at least 263 bird species have been recorded so far.
The Water Fall
The Ankasa rainforest serves as shed for many steams and rivers. Three of them from which the forest derives its name are the Ankasa, Nini and Suhien. The fascinating characteristics of these rivers are the rapids found on them. The breezes along the rivers and rattling noise of the rapids are a delight to tourists. The potential canoeing is been explored.
The Bamboo Cathedral
The spectacular Bamboo Cathedral is located at Nkwanta about 8km from the Ankasa gate of the Park. Though not a church building and has no human Bishop, a priest nor a creed, the site showcases nature’s perfect architectural design. The giant and suppliant bamboos bow and criss-cross at their apex as if in a handshake to form a dome. The bamboos plants forming a canopy give the semblance of a cathedral over which the breeze presides a perfect habitation for relaxation.
There are tourist camps here for those wishing to stay for a few nights in the park. The camping facilities are made mainly with local building materials are located at the Ankasa Gate, Elubo Gate and Nkwanta. These have floor space for sleeping; one can use hammocks. There are toilet and bath places as well as running water. Each facility also has fireplace and kitchen. A staff is close by the fruits abound around the area.
Access at all times from Accra through Takoradi on the Elubo – Cote d’ Ivoire highway by a 365km first class international road. From La Cote D’ Ivoire the part can be reached through Osei Kojokrom and Dadieso.
The Amansuri Conservation Area
The Conservation is a project been undertaken by the Amansuri Conservation & Integrated Development Project with the aim of managing the pristine Amansuri wetland and its fresh water lagoon. The wetland has the stand of intact swamp forest in Ghana and home to varieties of animals like monkeys, crocodiles, marine turtles and birds. It has been selected as one of the Important Bird Areas in Ghana based on Birdlife International criteria.
The project is located within the Western Nzema Traditional Area in the Jomoro District, one of the 11 districts in the Western Region. The area is about 360km west of Accra, the nation’s capital.
Bia National Park
Bia National Park is bordered to the south with a 563 square kilometer Resource Reserve and is an International Biosphere Reserve Park. The reserves are situated in the transition between the moist evergreen and semi-deciduous tropical forest and cover much of the drainage for the Bia river. Bia became a protected area in 1935 and an official national park in 1974. Some of the tallest trees left in West Africa are found in this park. There are 62 species of mammals known to exist in the park including 10 primate species (three species of colobus, the Diana monkey and the chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, among others), leopard, buffalo, the forest elephant, Loxodanta cyclotis, and the bongo, Tragelaphus euryceros. Over 160 species of birds including hawks, eagles, bulbuls, flycathers, the black-collared lovebird and the threatened white-breasted guinea fowl live in this habitat. The park is the only known home of Agama sylvanus, a newly discovered species of lizard
The Kundum festival is the main festival celebrated in the western region, mainly by the chiefs and people of the Nzemas and the Ahantas. It is believed that Kundum originated from Ahanta Aboade, a village on the Tarkwa—Takoradi road. Oral tradition states that a hunter from Aboade saw dwarfs dancing to the rhythm of strange music while on a hunting expedition. The hunter watched these strange creatures perform their strange dance for one month and later brought the dance home. Another legend also says that there existed in the village of Aboade a palm tree which is associated with the origin of the Kundum Festival. The fruits of this tree used to ripen once in a year, and with time, this period became a symbolic calendar in the lives of the people. The ripening of the palm fruit became the signal for the festival to begin. Kundum was later adopted by the Nzemas. The Sekondi people also adopted Kundum when they settled at Sekondi. Although there are similarities in the way Kundum is celebrated among these people, there are some unique features in the way it is celebrated in every district. Through these festivals, the people remember their ancestors and ask for their help and protection. The festivals are also used to purify the whole state. It is a belief that, during the period of the festival the people encounter bumper harvest of food-stuffs and plenty supply of fish hence, Kundum is seen as an agricultural festival and associated with the goddess of fertility by the people. Kundum is mostly celebrated in the month of either June / July/August.
Odedi or Eddie is the annual yam festival of the chiefs and people of Wassa Fiase. It is held in the month of September every year. Odedi is the eating of new yam by the Omanhene. The Divisional Chiefs, who begin the celebrations in their respective areas from September are expected to finish celebrating the festival in October. The Paramount Chief then commences the Odedi festival in the first ‘EDIM’ in November. The beating of gong gong, purification of stools, a ban on funeral celebrations and noise making in the Traditional Area during the period of Odedi, signals the commencement of the festival. Scarifies are made to the family stools, and stools, drums and houses are sprinkled with a mixture of yam, palm oil and eggs. The feast in practice occasions merry making, the offering of presents and the purchase and airing of new garments. Significantly, Odedi is a period for the remembrance of great ancestors (Atofo) who fought great wars to establish and preserve the sovereignty of Wassa Fiase.
The people of Sefwi and Aowin share a similar festival, the Alluolie yam festival .They celebrate the end of the farming year, and offer food and drinks to their ancestors and it is being projected and celebrated every year between the month of November and December. During the celebrations all chiefs, elders and the people of the traditional area will simultaneously converge at chiefs’ palace of their respective town and villages to perform variety of cultural activities to herald the occasion. The youth elegantly amidst singing and dancing carry shoulder high their chiefs in palanquins.