If I were any livestock species. I mean if I were any one of the domestic animals.
That is if I am a goat, a sheep, a cow and a donkey, there is a place in Ghana I
will not like to live. If I were ever reincarnated and I am asked to choose a
habitat to live in, i will carefully exclude Zebilla from the possible check list
of probables. If I were ever asked by God to make a choice of place to live in,
I will carefully embark on a research trip which will study the character of the
people and their culture, and their attitude towards animals before settling
Zebilla is a small town and the district capital of the Bawku West District in the
Upper East Region of Ghana. The indigenous people speak the Kusal language;
they are largely farmers and often cultivate grains and cereals. Dry season
farming is rampant in Zebilla. Most farmers, after the short rainy season,
exploit the presence of the many dams and rivers to cultivate vegetables and
Zebilla is centrally clustered but has adjoining sprawling communities. The
market is the most central point in town. From here the town spreads to the
eastern side reaching Sakom and the western part being Teshie. Lamboya is
the most southern part of the town and to the north is Ankpalinga, a town
noted for the production of good dawadawa, a local spice. From the central
location to these four cardinal points is an estimate land side of about forty
Within this land are sprawling human habitations interspersed with farm
lands. Indeed, the whole of Zebilla is farm land. Typical of the Upper East
Region, human settlements are scattered and families build houses mindful
of creating wide spaces in between for farming. Livestock rearing is also a
mainstay of the people.
In Zebilla no land is spared during the raining season which lasts not more
than 5 months. When the rain season begins, farmers busily cultivate lands
for various crops. These same farmers also keep livestock in either semi-
intensive or free range style. The typical Zebilla animal fends for itself. To
prevent these free range animals from grazing on farm lands, they are tethered
in the rainy season.
In Zebilla, during the rainy season, all animals are tied to a tree or a peg.
Grazing fields are left for this purpose. During the rainy season it is common
to find tethered animals thrashed by rains. It is the duty of children to tend to
tethered animals and when they fail on this, the animals are left to the mercy
of the weather. Most often tethered animals will make attempts to seek shelter
from rains but are unable to move into shelter because they have been held
back by ropes which keep them fixed in the rains.
Vagabond! You are the son of an accursed woman!! These are insults from a
father to a son who failed to rescue the animals from rains on Sunday
12 July 2015. It is said that lazy and reckless owners leave their animals to sleep
in open fields, and to avoid this social ridicule fathers will spleen their anger on
sons and may go to the extent of spanking.
During the rainy season when the grass is green, is the time all animals, by
some cultural dictates, have their movement strictly controlled. This is done to
restrain the movement of animals in order to stop them from destroying farm
crops. Any animal that strays into farm lands are captured and the owner
charged for his/her recklessness. Farmers who are unable to constrain their
vexation end up killing the marauding animals. The killing of such animals has
often triggered new or revives old inter-family and clans feuds.
In Zebilla animals have unfettered freedom in the dry season. Sadly, this is the
time the vegetation is tinted brown and dry. At this time a new visitor may
consider the township and its environs to be arid and or a semi-dessert. At
this time the grass is dry and the water bodies have lost their hold to the sun’s
heat which has caused evaporation. The entire environment becomes hot
and dry. Temperatures rise beyond 35 degrees C.
At this time the only good feed for livestock is rice straw, corn, and guinea corn
stock. These feeds last up to the latter part of January. After these months,
animals simply adapt to unnatural eating styles. They eat to fill their tummies
and not for nutrition. And getting water is left to the mercy of humane
livestock owners or at the boreholes where troughs are created to collect spill
water. Sadly, these boreholes are not ubiquitous, there are only a few of them
on which the animals rely for water. Even where they exist, human beings
become so stingy they allow very minimal spillage. Regularly the animals have
parched throats and strive hard to quench it. Goats, which are characteristically agile, forcefully maneuver their way for water when the people at the wells or
bores fail to respond. The meek donkey humbly waits until a generous person
serves it. When the waiting gets unnecessarily long, it will try its luck elsewhere.
The plight of livestock worsens as the dry season travels further. In the months
of March and April the situation becomes dire for the Zebilla animal. This is
the time most livestock become adventurous. They then venture into unknown
terrain to explore for feed. And this is the time bandits also take advantage of
their vulnerability. During this lean period, when the animals travel far to graze,
rustling becomes common. Reported cases of peasant farmers losing animals
become common then.
The predicaments of the upper east animals are many but could be categorized into
dry and wet season problems. In the rainy and wet season when the grass is green
and fresh for them to graze becomes a time when the movement of animals are curtailed and during the dry season when they have unlimited freedom is when
they grass becomes dry and or do not even exist. This dry season spans from
October to April longer than when the animals are in chains.