News from the Savannah Region of Togo, West Africa

Going to Gando Namoni

This time of year, the sun is hardly shining because it’s Harmattan season. A cold wind sweeps south across the Sahara Desert, stirring up so much dust. But though the days get up to 100 degrees F during the day at night they drop to a comfortable 65. The dust covers everything, the Neem and Mango trees, the roofttop of the house.

I arrived in mid January and I see my village, Gando, is no longer a small village. It has changed a lot. The population has tripled since I was last here, 10 years ago. It is no longer part of a larger administrative district – it is now its own. The village has 24-hour electricity and, perhaps most odd, the water pumps sit idle – water is piped into many houses now and available for delivery for a fee.

The village now has a City Hall, a courthouse and a very big, brand new public health care center waiting to be opened. There are even private health clinics.

Everyone has a phone now and it seems like everyone is watching videos shared on WhatsApp. And it seems that pedal bikes have disappeared, replaced by small motorcycles.

But many things have not changed. Many people in Gando still farm – though now they are growing a lot of soy beans. Children eat fried tofu as a treat as they head to school. And of course, women still make shea butter. I sat with some women who make shea butter the same way it has been made for hundreds of years, maybe thousands of years.

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