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Life without lights in a Ghanaian village

The village of Wantugu, Ghana, has power poles but no electricity – yet. They keep the dark from encroaching with kerosene lamps, flashlights, and a little solar power.

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With high-tension power lines in place since 2000, Wantugu seems to be a village several steps ahead of many others in Ghana's northern region. However, the people of Wantugu are still lacking one key element: electricity flowing through those wires and into village homes.

For most people in developed countries, living without electricity is unthinkable. But in Ghana's north, Wantugu's situation is the norm, rather than the exception.

Only 22 percent of households in the northern region have electricity, and 77 percent use kerosene lamps as their primary source of lighting,

In the Tolon/Kumbungu District, made up of many small villages and 19 larger villages including Wantugu, only four communities have electricity.

Even without electric power, though, the 3,500 inhabitants of this rural farming community are active after dark:

Every night, young people get together to study English homework or the Koran. And villagers gather to watch an American, Nigerian, or Indian film on the one TV in the village.

Occasionally, the midwife will stay late to deliver a baby at the town's clinic, working under the dim glow of solar-powered lights donated by two nongovernmental organizations, New Energy and the Ghanaian Danish Community Programme.

And every few nights, men, women, and children dance to traditional drumming. "Even if you are tired and are lying down, if they play the music, you will feel it, and you will want to come out," says Fusini Mohamed, a college student who lives with his family in Wantugu between school terms,

Like many others in the village, he believes that dancing at night provides the energy to farm the next day.

The task of supplying electricity to the village began under the government of the National Democratic Congress just before the 2000 national elections. But when the rival New Patriotic Party took control of Ghana's government that year, the work came to a standstill.

"Both political parties leave it until election year, and then they use it for campaigning, so people will see the work and vote for them," says Assemblyman Adam Yakubu, Wantugu's representative in local government.


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