Northern Heritage is highly pleased to bring to you an insightful and thrilling encounter from our My Northern Experience session as we engage Mr. Sumaila Abudi who is a professionally trained teacher, at his spare time he works as a tour guide at the famous Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary in the Upper West region.
Our guest is someone who upholds strong positive image of Northern Ghanaian culture, traditions and tourist sites.
The moderator to engage with the guest - who will be taking us through a ride of his northern experiences, lifestyle and perception tonight is Shamuddeen.
Shamuddeen: Can you please tell us about yourself?
Mr. Abudi: Thank you for the question and the opportunity to have me here to share my experiences with members here. I will go straight to the point, my name is Sumaila Abudi from Wechiau in the Wa West District of the Upper West region of Ghana. Am a Teacher by profession and also a tour guide at the only tourist site in the district called the Wechiau hippo Sanctuary. I am a Wala by tribe.
Shamuddeen: Can you please take us through your life journey, where you grew up, places you have visited and some exciting memories?
Mr. Abudi: I started my education at Wechiau D/A primary, proceeded to the JHS and went to the only senior high school in the district as at then call Lasia Tuolu Senior High School.
I progressed to NJA College of education in Wa and completed in the year 2015. I have been to Daboya, Tamale and Bolga. I grew up in Wechiau and what I keep in mind is the communal spirit: those days where every elder was a father to every child growing up, were the elders could correct and nurture children through the introduction of good moral values.
At Bolga I realized how busy the market is and their way of observing market days every three days. I also travelled to Zuwarungu to see Mr Joseph Abarika where he was doing agroecological farming. I proceeded to Macdan at Mr Fuseini’s farm where I saw an Apple tree/plant which is not cultivated perhaps in the entire Africa as a continent and I was so amused to be there.
I also been to Tamale and Daboya and was amazed at their high priority on chieftaincy issues.
Shamuddeen: How will you describe your experiences of the north?
Mr. Abudi: My experiences at the north is memorable because we always put priority on our culture and traditions. I do enjoy my stay in the north, the fact that it is my home makes it memorable.
Shamuddeen: Which tourist sites or famous places in northern Ghana have you ever visited?
Mr. Abudi: I have been to Mole National Park beside the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary, where I am currently a tour guide. And I wish to travel to other places as well. I actually became a tour guide because of my love for the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary.
My community is part of the sanctuary community where the visitor office is positioned. It is the visitor’s first stop for info and to make choices prior to activities in the sanctuary and price list is also display there. The sanctuary is a community based ecotourism site established in 1998 by the local people and the benefits go back to them indirectly like scholarship to brilliant but needy students at SHS, boreholes, CHIP CPD, basic schools, school supplies, bee keeping etc.
We operate at the Black Volta River, the border between Ghana and Burkina where we protects 40km2 area of the river including the vegetation, floodplains, island etc.
We do canoe safari to see hippos, plant walk justifying the economic and medication attached to plants, bird walks, marketing the culture of the Brifor and traditional dance performance.
Let me just add that Northern Ghana has several tourist sites some are popular with visitors touring the place ones in a while but there are several other tourist sites that are underdeveloped as such people are not even aware of them or they are not appealing to visitors in some cases because they are located in remote areas that makes it difficult to access the sites.
Shamuddeen: Which northern festivals have you experienced?
Mr. Abudi: The hippo festival is the festival I witnessed. The hippo festival is celebrated by the people of the sanctuary, the sanctuary is made up of different tribes: the Brifors been the majority, few Hausas, Dagaati and the Wala that live in Wechiau. The festival occur every may without a fixed date because it was a new festival by the people in the year 2016 just to reintroduce culture and traditions to the children growing up. It is celebrated within 3days, people usually come from all part of Ghana including even foreigners particularly reps from Calgary Zoo (our partners).
The Day 1 is always arrival day characterized by traditional dance by Gonjas (the people of kin) they entertain the guest, locals throughout the night with their drums and this day is always a day declared as free tour at the sanctuary.
Day 2 is always the main day characterised by speeches and others, an interlude (Brifor dance) is used to get audience attention. A brief introduction is made to dignitaries, sanctuary board and staff, the sanctuary chairman gives details history to the crowd. The sanctuary manager also speaks on the sanctuary activities, source of funds and challenges. The patrons through a representative who gave their contributions towards the establishment of the sanctuary also addresses the audience. Lots of products are displayed by the indigenous people within the sanctuary for exhibition. Products like clay hippos, hippo cards, moringa soap and organic oil and Shea butter, clay twin bowls etc. then traditional dances like Brifor dance, Bawa dance by the Dagaati, Dugu dance by the people of Tokali etc. are observed to introduce our culture to the audience.
Day 3 of the festival is for departure were every guest and participants leave Wechiau to their destinations.
Shamuddeen: What’s your perception of northern culture, traditions and unique way of life?
Mr. Abudi: My perception about northern culture and traditions is that, is outstanding and unique particularly the food, greetings and hospitality. The communal spirit of the north made me whom I am today. Wherever I find myself I make sure to exhibit my identity and to portray it in a positive light to those around me.
Shamuddeen: What is your fondest memory of the north?
Mr. Abudi: My fondest memory of the north is the communal spirit, the greetings and the hospitality. And the great tourist places I have gotten the chance to visit and working. It has exposed me to the world.
Shamuddeen: Can you please tell us something peculiar to your lifestyle that was as a result of the northern experience?
Mr. Abudi: Something peculiar about me is me considering every elder as a parent through running errands for them, greetings and sitting with them for morals such as stories and proverbs.
Questions from Audience
Q. I have a question for him. Could he please address how the Bui Dam has affected the endangered hippopotamus populations of Ghana - for good or for bad?
Mr. Abudi: Thanks for the question. Indeed Bui was the first largest place to sight hippos in Ghana follow by the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary but ever since the dam was constructed it has affected the numbers. Due to the noise, we used to count our hippo population around 27 the time Bui was still active but now our hippo population has increased to around 33- 40. So in a nutshell we anticipate the dam has affected the numbers at Bui forcing in favour of Wechiau.
Q. How much does it cost when one visit the facility? And it is allowed to swim with them?
Mr. Abudi: You can swim you need seek permission from your tour guide to take you to only areas were we allow swimming. The above is our price list however it is always updated annually.
Q. Does the hippos attack human beings? Or are they also friendly like the crocodiles in Paga?
Mr. Abudi: Indeed the hippos are dangerous but ours are a bit friendly. However on our tour we don't get so closed to them. We create a respective distance between them and the canoe. So we don't touch or get closer like what happens in Paga.
Q. We are giving you the platform to promote the facility to us. How will you convince Ghanaians to patronize the facility?
Mr. Abudi: Indeed life devoid of fun is nothing.am encouraging people from all walks of life to experience a tour at the hippo sanctuary where we offer canoe safari to see hippos, plant walk justifying plants economic purposes and the medication attached, bird watch and traditional dance performances
Shamuddeen: Time is far gone. So we will like to know your final words before to draw the curtains for tonight.
Mr. Abudi: Thanks honourable members for the opportunity to be a part of the team and also sharing my sentiments prior to northern tourist sites and our culture at large.is my prayer God Almighty should grant us the wisdom and capacity to take the north to the ultimate. Once again am grateful and wish everyone the very best in life.
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