A Jingle from Ghana’s Famine of ’77

Forty years ago, Ghana (and much of West Africa) was suffering under a famine. Starting around 1970, the Sahel Drought brought a dramatic change in rainfall and crops began failing year after year. By the late 70s, it was a serious crisis and the people of northern Ghana were suffering horribly.

This all came to my attention recently when a Mamprusi friend shared an jingle he remembered from his youth:

Alikaama zamaanni, Baba yi kyɛŋŋi Gambaga
Alikaama zamaanni, Baba yi kyɛŋŋi Gambaga
“Baba, kulim ka labi na, kyɛm ka labi na”
Ka Baba gyɛ suuri.
“Kulim ka labi na, kyɛm ka labi na”
Ka Baba gyɛ suuri.

I asked another friend who lived in Gambaga at the time if she was familiar with the tune and she sang it for me to record.

It translates to:

At wheat time, Baba went to Gambaga,
“Baba, go home and come back, go and come back”
And Baba was ticked off.

They both recalled how in 1977-78 the government promised food relief and rations of wheat to the starving people of Mamprugu. They would head to Gambaga, the district capitol, for the handouts but they were disappointed over and over at the lack of aid.

One friend recalls that they hired the youth to unload the grain from the trucks. She would haul huge heavy bags all day long until the trucks were empty. Then they would pay her in grain. It was just a small bag that she’d receive but she recalls being happy because they were so desperate at the time. Read More

Animal Names in Mampruli Medical Terminology

We often forget that the fancy medical terms we use in English usually have their roots in Latin and Greek and are actually just simple descriptors. Epilepsy is a classic example coming from the Greek epilēpsia, which is comprised of epi ‘upon’ + lambanein ‘take hold of’.

Mampruli also does that with several sicknesses. For example, stomach issues are described as pukpeeŋŋu  – literally, “hard stomach” – and malaria is called dunsidooru or “mosquito sickness.”

There are also several diseases that are simply named after creatures believed to either cause the illness or that reflect the disease’s symptoms. In traditional African medicine, the preventative and/or curative measures can also be influenced by the animal namesake of the sickness. Read More

“Dr. Haun” by Dr. Melinda Roney

Poaa kuuri u daana ka wa la ya?

If the hernia kills its host, where will it go?

Mampruli Proverb

Ghana’s Historic Mosques: Banda Nkwanta

This is one of a series of posts about Ghana’s only six remaining historic mud mosques built in the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style.


Banda Nkwanta is a small town sitting at the intersection of the Bui Dam road and the Wa-Techiman highway. Its Sudanic-style mud mosque stands tall – very tall – right at that junction. Of all the mud mosques in Ghana, it has the tallest towers. Read More

Happy 3rd Birthday, KJ!

This weekend we celebrated KJ’s birthday at our home in Nalerigu. KJ’s grandparents had come to visit and Granny Sarah’s birthday is the day before KJ’s so it was a dual-birthday party!

Lots of KJ & Trey’s friends came as well as some of our colleagues and visiting volunteers from the hospital.