August 2009

Book Cover

On Thursday, August 27, I will be at the Maidstone Pharmacy on Main Street from 1:00 to 3:00 to sign copies of my book, Rainbow Round the African Sun. If you are in the area, be sure to come in for coffee and doughnuts, and pick up a signed copy of the book at the same time.


The Town of Maidstone tackled the challenge of economic development 30 years ago. They looked at the way that prairie small towns were going and decided that they had to be pro-active if they were going to keep their town economically viable. They zoned an area as an Industrial Park, provided services to the area, and actively promoted their community as an excellent location in which to do business. The Industrial Park was removed from the residential and business areas in the town, ensuring that those areas were not disrupted by the noise and machinery of that area.

Industrial Park 2WHAT CAN WE DO?

Town Planning departments are already zoning for commercial and residential areas in towns although they often do not enforce their own by-laws when industrial businesses are established in areas which are not zoned for that purpose.

District Assemblies could be much more proactive in generating economic activities in their areas if they were to take an approach similar to that which Maidstone took. By focusing some of their attention on industrial parks they could create more employment and give young people more reason to stay home instead of moving to the cities in search of work.


Before there were villages, mankind lived in nature and we have not forgotten our past. We all enjoy being in “natural” places, where we can be in touch with our ancestral past. That is why western societies have placed such a value on “green space.” A man-made lake was created on the edge of Maidstone, with trout introduced. The area is very popular for those who walk for exercise and families who gather for picnics. In the downtown area, a lot became vacant when an old building was demolished. Rather than rebuilding on the lot, a small “green area” was created with benches to sit on and flowers and shrubs to enjoy.


Town planners can insist that areas be set aside within communities which provide shade and healthy places for children to play, and for adults to gather and visit. This is increasingly important in larger centres where urban living takes people further away from their rural roots.


Communities need a place where they can gather for various events. In Saskatchewan ice hockey and figure skating remain popular sports and Maidstone constructed and continues to operate and maintain their Arena for this and many other purposes. A Trade Fair  is held each year to attract and maintain economic growth in the community. The High School hosts two invitational volleyball tournaments annually and the Arena is used for this purpose. The building and its equipment are maintained through a combination of operational revenue, tax grants plus a substantial amount of volunteer labour by active citizens.


Most towns and villages have playing fields which serve a dual purpose, for football, and for funerals and durbars. Occasionally those areas are sacrificed and sold – let us insist that our leaders remember the importance of community gatherings. Not all communities may be able to afford to build structures, but all can keep an area open for that purpose.


One result from the onslaught of consumerism in modern society has been an increase in the amount of GARBAGE that is produced. The cost of operating and maintaining landfill sites has become prohibitive. Many Canadian communities have attacked this problem by reducing the amount of materials which are sent to the municipal landfills by sorting those materials which are can be recycled. The list of these materials has grown to include glass, aluminum, certain plastics, newspaper and cardboard. Community residents are also encouraged to separate biodegradable items and these are then composted. The recycled materials provide an economic opportunity, the reduced “garbage” at the landfill sites has created savings to municipal authorities, and the compost is a profitable commodity.


The garbage problem has become more and more evident in Ghana as consumer patterns change. Towns and villages which were at one time very clean are now filled with litter. The most obvious examples are the use of plastic bags in the sale of water (sachet bags) and other products (black poly bags). In addition, more and more plastic bottles and jugs and more recently aluminum cans are found in the marketplace and once their uses are exhausted, they are discarded.

Recycle 1

We can adapt recycling programs which are suitable to the Ghanaian situation. Plastic sachet bags can be gathered in point-of-sale containers and returned on the trucks that transport the water. Other plastic containers can also be sorted and gathered. Black plastic poly bags can be made with biodegradable components so that they breakdown in a reasonable length of time.

Compost-able matter can be collected separately from that which is not compostable, and once it has broken down, the results can be used for fertilizer for food crops. In larger centres where there is a large amount of biodegradable matter, methane gas can be collected off of these landfills and be used to generate electricity. (The city of Kumasi has already embarked upon such a program, although there has been no effort to separate biodegradable material from solid waste).


Street and sidewalk repairs are a very costly item for municipal authorities anywhere in the world. Frost in the winter causes damage every winter in Canada and cannot be prevented. However the town council in Maidstone sets aside funds each year to repair the damages done by this natural phenomenon, keeping the streets maintained and passable.


The concept of a “MAINTENANCE CULTURE” is more frequently discussed in Ghana but it is still rarely practised. It is time for that to change. We all like new things, whether it be houses or automobiles or roads or schools, and we know that keeping those things in good condition requires maintenance. We must insist that our authorities set aside funds out of their annual budgets to ensure that the infrastructure that we have is maintained.

Road Repairs 1

It is very unfortunate that my Traditional Area with its seat in New Edubiase has become well known by travellers who ply the route between Kumasi and Cape Coast because of the very bad condition of the highway, with crater-like potholes which cause damage to vehicles and death to drivers and passengers when vehicles try to avoid them. At one time the Highways Department regularly patrolled and repaired such holes before they became a dangerous threat to travellers. When will we see that policy put in place again?

Maidstone 2

Here is a quiz for MCE’s and DCE’s, Town and Planning Officers, Assemblymen and Assemblywomen, and all of Nananom.

Study these photos carefully to find the things which are CORRECT with them. I am currently in Canada visiting my home town, and I recently walked around, taking pictures of features which have captured my attention.

The quiet town of Maidstone, located in the province of Saskatchewan in Canada, is home to 1200 residents. Agriculture provided the impetus for the establishment of the town just over 100 years ago. It remained the mainstay until oil was discovered in the area about 40 years ago. The community has benefited from the influx of jobs that accompanied the exploitation of the oil deposits, and through the active participation of citizens, the town has remained viable at a time when most other small towns and villages on the Canadian prairies have disappeared. As a result, the population of the town includes a healthy mix of young and old, of children and seniors, supported by the generation who are in their prime productive years providing the economic drive to keep the community vital.

So, what can we learn from this example? What lessons could we apply to the Ghanaian situation? Agriculture still provides the backbone for the economy of the towns and villages in Ghana, and the recent development of offshore oil reserves can potentially provide the additional revenue to enable communities to be attractive places in which our youth can live and work. In turn, this can stem the urban drift that has put our major cities under so much pressure.

Keep these ideas in your mind as you look at the photos to see if you can see “what is right with these pictures”. Posts to this blog will follow to point out some of the aspects of this small town which I believe could be implemented in our towns and villages in Ghana to make them better places in which to live.

Display pic

The following dates have been set for reading and signing of my collection of poems, Rainbow Round the Sun. As we say in Ghana, you are all invited…

Book signing: August 27, 1:00 to 3:00p.m. Maidstone Pharmacy, Maidstone

Reading and signing: September 1, 7:00p.m. McNally Robinson Bookstore, Saskatoon

Reading: September 13, 8:00, FLINT, located on 2nd Ave just north of the Galaxy Theatre, Saskatoon

Cover photo of the rainbow around the sun

Cover photo of the rainbow around the sun

Copies of Rainbow Round the African Sun are now available in Canada. Place orders on the internet from the Book Order page.