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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Responsible Travel in Sierra Leone - Peninsula, Provinces and Palm Wine (Part 2)

Following on from the first installment of his adventure, Thomas recounts his experiences on his journey through Sierra Leone to discover tourism projects which work towards implementing the responsible tourism concept of "making destinations better places to live in, and better places to visit"

Part 2: The provinces - Waterloo to Bo & Beyond

My next mission was to visit another community tourism project based around an Island of outstanding natural beauty and rich in biodiversity found on the Moa River, and on the fringes of the Gola Forest in the South-East of Sierra Leone. Tiwai Island is owned by 8 communities who live around it, and, in theory, they all benefit equally from tourism. I am planning on basing my MSc Responsible Tourism Management dissertation on how this can be done successfully.

To reach Tiwai, I was to take a 'Poda Poda' (local mini-bus) from Waterloo to Bo, then travel from Bo to Potoru from where I was told to catch an 'Okada' (motorbike taxi) to Kambama where you can take a speedboat to reach the Island.

One of the villages dotting the side of the highway

The journey from Waterloo to Bo went without any incidents. We stopped a few times to pick people up or drop them off and this gave me the opportunity to learn a bit more about the differences between the coast and the hinterland. At every stop, tradesmen/women would come to the vehicles windows selling plantain crisps, 'Benny Cake' (sesame seed and sugar), grilled meat, bananas, oranges, corn, water, etc... you could never go hungry. The road was perfect. No pot-holes anywhere. I later learnt that an Italian prospecting company had invested in tarmacking the road which has now made a big difference between a day-long journey and a 3-4 hour journey.

The image which says: "West Africa" to me.

Arriving at Bo, I noticed a lot of social campaigns which were going on. Billboards denouncing domestic violence, encouraging family planning, addressing the AIDS/HIV issue, promoting agriculture and community, and many more. It was also my first reminder that there had been a civil war not so long ago. Billboards promoting the 'Guns for Development' campaign where an NGO was buying guns off people (very successful), 'Social Integration' and 'Peace Development' were common words around the city, even Diamond re-sellers were called 'Peace & Love'. Bo and the Provinces were the hardest hit by the civil war and where the worst atrocities were committed.

Example of social development billboards (terriblyfabulous.wordpress.com)

From Bo to Potoru - a ‘junction town’ leading to several villages, one of which was my destination - the road was less favorable. The rainy season was just ending, so heavy rain showers were common place. Pot-holes and mega-puddles dotted the road, and our driver - who's name is William 'Bobo' Decker - expertly guided the 'Poda Poda' without even breaking a sweat. Orange vendors and Plantain Crisp sellers were everywhere. The smell of 'the bush' is something you never forget. The sweet scent of tropical flowers mixed with the damp earth smell, the odour of oranges and limes; this coupled with the landscape of lush green vegetation, small streams meandering across the dirt road, the bridges crossing over fast flowing mighty rivers; time seems to go slowly yet you don't see it fly by.

Road to Potoru. Notice the storm in the distance.

Potoru, which I later learnt was a rebel stronghold during the 1992 to 2002 war, was a quiet village which had a certain vibe about it. People were very friendly, respectful and eager to please. It was noticeably a trading hub too, being at the junction linking several villages together. We briefly stopped before we headed direction Kambama. Bobo Decker kindly offered to take me all the way as he had noticed that a tropical storm was brewing in the distance and knew that I would've gotten soaked if I had taken an 'Okada' (motorbike taxi).

The road was still dirt but was much better than the Bo to Potoru route. This was partly due to the small amount of vehicles that rode this way. We could see the storm approaching. Like a grey blanket, it covered the landscape, engulfed the forest, roads and villages. I thanked Bobo, as you can imagine. Finally, we arrived at Kambama. It was dusk and the distance rumble of thunder reminded us that we didn't have much time before another storm would unleash its wrath. I was guided down a path, from the village to the river bank and got on a speedboat captained by Ibrahim who told us a story about how crocodiles in the river and villagers had a mutual respect for each other.

Tiwai Island

Local guide from Kambama leading me into the jungle

When we set foot on the island, I felt like an explorer. This was the real jungle! Creepers were hanging from the forest canopy, the sound of insects was overwhelming, birds were nesting above us. We started walking towards the camp where I would stay the night, and suddenly I heard something moving in the branches above me. I looked up and saw a black and white blur. A double take revealed that it was a monkey, a Diana monkey to be more precise. Ibrahim said: "This is a good start, you have already been very lucky!" and he was right.

Can anyone identify this spider?

Red Colobus Monkey

The next morning, after a beautiful night's sleep, I went with a local guide on a 3 hour jungle trek where I saw a group of Red Colobus Monkeys, Black & White Colobus', Diana Monkeys, Suti Mangabe's, Hornbills, 'big-as-your-hand' spiders building their webs which shone golden-greenish hues when reflecting the sun’s rays, and the cream of the crop: 2 duikers; a very rare sighting according to my guide. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, we did not come across the elusive pygmy hippo. Maybe next time.

Solar power at Tiwai. Tent hut in the distance.

Traditional building where the food was prepared

During my stay, I also took a canoe onto the Moa River and learnt about traditional fishing techniques, wildlife, plants and pygmy hippo habits, as well as how to call monkeys by pinching your nose, mouth and emitting a cry so that they come to you thinking that you are a baby monkey in distress. The local language is Mende (from the Mende tribe) of which I learnt how to say:

'Hi Man/Old Man/Young Woman/Children' = 'Dake/Keke/Niande/Dupui Boaa'
'How are you?' = 'Ka hui ye na?'
'I am fine' = ' Ka ing goma'

The next morning, I took the speedboat at 4am in the morning to catch the local transport back from mainland. I will never forget speeding up the River Moa lit only by moonlight. That was definitely an experience.

In the next installment, Part 3: Back to the Peninsula - Coconut & Poyo Paradise, Thomas visits the communities located on the Western Peninsula to discover the tourism projects already put in place and the potential for implementing the responsible tourism concept.

To learn more about Responsible Tourism in West Africa, you can either visit the West Africa Discovery web portal, or join the growing community of West Africa passionate people here.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Travels in Sierra Leone: Peninsula, Provinces and Palm Wine #1

After coming back from Sierra Leone, and having had one of the most amazing times of my life, I decided to share my experience with others to hopefully inspire more people to go and explore this beautiful yet misunderstood part of the World. This is the first part of Travels in Sierra Leone: Peninsula, Provinces and Palm Wine.

When I first mentioned that I wanted to travel to Sierra Leone, I would have been a rich man if I was paid for every time someone either said: "Isn't there a civil war in Sierra Leone?" or "It's dangerous in Sierra Leone, are you crazy?". My answer to them was: "Sierra Leone has been at peace for 11 years" or "You're crazy for not going!". The misconceptions of Sierra Leone's current state are still rife, partly because of the 2006 film Blood Diamond, which wasn't even filmed in SL, and the lack of people willing to go there themselves to bring back true stories about a country struggling to change their image and grow in a positive way. Needless to say that I wanted to be one of those people: a bringer of news from a land which deserves to be viewed as a beacon for hope and World historical heritage rather than for a brutal civil war built around greed and deception.

I arrived at Lungi airport at 9:30pm. The first thing that you experience is the difference in climate (if you had come from the Northern Hemisphere). I went through passport check. No problems there. Collected my bags quick sharp. Outside was the usual bunch of porters, taxi drivers and name card brandishing guys. I was then directed to the Water Taxi ticket office -Lungi airport is on a different peninsula to Freetown, and to get to the other you need to either take a Water Taxi, Ferry, Speedboat or Helicopter. In not time, I was speeding towards Freetown. When we approached the Aberdeen port, I got a small insight into what to expect from Salone, little electricity, candle light, humidity, a slow pace of life and a community feel. I disembarked and changed my money (current rate: $1 = 4500 Leones) with a guy called Solomon, just in time for my ride to arrive to take me to my first destination, John Obey beach.

Part 1: John Obey - Community-exchange & Sustainable Living Tourism Project

When I arrived, I was greeted with a big plate of chop (food in Krio) and a Star beer (national beer of Sierra Leone) by Kat, a volunteer overseeing the project. We got along straight away and then I was introduced to the night security guards, Momo and Mister Alou Sene who is also the village Imam. I was shown to my accommodation and after debating about the differences and similarities of Islam and Christianity (SL is 50/50 and there are no conflicts) until 4am, I called it a night.

Mister Alou Sene & Momo, the security guards

The next morning, I awoke to the sound of waves crashing and birds twittering. I slowly rose from my mosquito net covered 'four-poster' bed and opened the door to my beach shack to discover Sierra Leone in the daytime. It was beautiful! Just outside my accommodation was a lagoon which rose and fell with the Ocean tide, multicoloured butterflies flew gracefully between the palm trees, a gentle breeze carried the smell of jasmine around the shack. Welcome to Sierra Leone!

The lagoon at low tide

My beach shack for 3 nights

After breakfast I was shown around the project. Solar tower, recycling area, compost toilets, earth bag 'honeydomes', permaculture garden, bucket showers, all the signs of a sustainable development project that works. The project also employs 30 people from the local community, 10 of them were working on a new structure using the skills they had learnt over the past year to build earth bag domes as accommodation for guests. I was told that this was the main project, so I lent a hand on the 'building site'. By the afternoon, after lunch, the structure was nearly finished. I was given the honor of laying the last earth bag on the top which we then celebrated by playing drums and singing. Such a good feeling!

From left to right: Solar tower, recycling center and compost toilets

Happy faces after the earth dome was completed

For the next couple of days at Tribewanted, I learnt how to cook 'special sauce', practiced yoga, went to visit the local school, cooked an amazing 'lime and spice mackerel wrapped in banana leaves and baked in the mud oven' dish, swam every morning and every night at sunset, went baby croc spotting, drank palm wine, visited the market at Waterloo, experienced tropical thunderstorms, visited the improvised turtle sanctuary on the beach, listened to local legends around the hot stove, learnt about the local communities' aspirations and positive ambitions. As you can imagine, it was hard to leave, but my feet were itching to walk other paths and discover more of hidden Salone (Sierra Leone).

John Obey School photo...

A John Obey sunset...

To be continued... next time: Part 2: The provinces - Waterloo to Bo & Beyond

To learn more about my project, visit www.westafricadiscovery.co.uk or join us on Facebook.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Tips on How to be a Responsible Tourist (in West Africa ) by Sandy Asuming

Sandy Asuming, a student from the Gambia, shares with us her passion for the development of the responsible tourism concept in West Africa by explaining how the tourists themselves can help implement very simple changes in behaviour which can have major impacts on the sustainability of destinations and the local communities living there.

Responsible tourism is about tourists making environmentally friendly, sustainable, ethical and respectful choices when travelling and minimising the negative impact of tourism. Being responsible is something all tourists needs to take into consideration when making a decision on travelling to a destination.

Responsible travel can be considered as the most enjoyable way to travel because it brings you closer to local people and culture, it gives you the chance to experience the authenticity of the destination. It shares some of the benefits of tourism more widely with local communities, and helps minimised some of the negative impacts tourism might often have. No matter the type of travel you’re involved in, tourism brings both positive and negative impacts to a destination but responsible travel and tourism maximises the benefits of tourism and reduces some of the negatives.

The majority of us travel to experience new cultures, take on new challenges, experience new activities, or even to discover ourselves. Travelling gives us the opportunity to take a break from our typical daily routines and to reflect on the importance of life. But yet almost all travellers show an abject ignorance of anything other than a westernised world view. Being a responsible tourist can make a big difference by supporting the type of tourism that is not harmful to the environment and is supportive of local communities who lead the effort to gain or maintain sustainable livelihoods.

Contact between tourists and local people may result in mutual appreciation, therefore tourists need to be aware of local customs, traditions and to show respect to the host community in question. Residents will then be open minded and will be more willing to be educated about the outside world without leaving their homes, while their visitors significantly learn about a distinctive culture. Local communities are benefited through contribution by tourism to the improvement of the social infrastructure like schools, libraries, health care institutions, internet cafes, and so on. If local culture is the basis for attracting tourists to the region, it is important to preserve the local traditions and handicrafts.

If tourists’ attitudes change and they allow themselves to become responsible travellers, the host communities will benefit from this by protecting endangered wildlife, as the importance of preserving and conserving this resource will become more apparent. Many of West Africa’s countries depend on their wildlife as tourist attractions and if it’s not protected, there will be a decline of tourist numbers and as a result will have a bad effect on the economy. For example every year around 23000 tourists visit the Bijilo forest park in the Gambia and because the park is close to Banjul which is the capital city, it is easy for tourists to commute from the park to the town. However, the number of incoming visitors tends to be high which causes overcrowding. This causes damage to local wildlife especially the green monkeys which no longer find the need to look for food but instead sit beside nearby road sides and wait for tourists to feed them. In addition, tourists purchase bags of peanuts for the animals and litter the grounds with the empty bags. This is a danger for the monkeys who attempt to ingest them. Also, by over feeding these monkeys, they become over-friendly and become susceptible to theft by poachers.

Bearing this in mind, it is advisable for tourists to be educated on the effect of their ignorance. In doing so, tourists will become responsible for their actions while enjoying the experience.

At the end of the day by protecting and enhancing favourite destinations, future enjoyment for visitors and local resident will be sustained.

Another point is that tourists need to recognise that water and energy are precious resources which need to be used carefully. It’s important to buy from the local stores, use local taxis, local tour guides etc. All these little transactions help the local community. In the Gambia, for example, there is an excellent selection of good quality restaurants, therefore by eating in local restaurants you are ensuring that your visit benefits the wider community.

Applying the WCED’s definition of sustainability¹ to tourism, as coined in Bruntland’ Commission, the reason for responsible travel to be practised is “to meet the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability to meet the need and aspiration of future generations.” The core issue is conserving resources. There is a need to balance social, economic and environmental impacts for both tourists and host communities.

To learn more about projects that work towards implementing responsible tourism principles in the Gambia, you can view out selection here.

You can also learn more about travelling in and around West Africa by joining our growing community of 1000+ people passionate about West Africa and its beautiful local heritage.

¹ World Commission on Environment and Development (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Tourism as a Tool for Poverty Reduction in West Africa - by Sandra Asuming

Every year different NGO’s, and other private organisations come together with one purpose: to raise money to reduce poverty in the world. This gesture extends to the whole of the African continent. The idea of these fund-raising activities is to help improve the lifestyle and betterment for the poor. There are numerous NGO's with different aims to reduce poverty in Africa. Orphan Aid Africa helps families of children at risk of abandonment and gives them secure futures within their communities in Ghana, Igbo Charitable Association Inn is an organization delivering community level poverty alleviation support to people in Eastern Nigeria and creating employment opportunities for young people in all of Africa and the Helping Hands Healing Ministries Inc is also another charitable organisation helping the poorest of the poor with educational, medical, social, and spiritual needs. All of these organisation have one thing in common to provide any help they can in education, employment, security and safety for the young and old.

Poverty alleviation is an important issue for many developing countries within western Africa. It is believed that poverty can be alleviated mainly through achieving higher sectoral growth and ensuring that the poor have a share in that growth. Both the tourism industry and community development are still at a very early stage of understanding what will actually work most effectively in reducing poverty through tourism development, there is evidence that tourism contributes a lot to the economic growth, especially in countries with poor economies through foreign exchange earnings, creation of employment opportunities and provision of public revenues. Therefore with proper intervention, such economic benefits can play a crucial role in the process of poverty alleviation.

Tourism can be a tool for poverty alleviation but the challenge is 'how' and 'where' tourism can intervene to provide opportunities, employment, and security for the poor at the local level and boost economic growth at the national and regional level. It is a fact that tourism is one of the few industries in which many developing countries actually have a comparative advantage over developed countries in term of cultural heritage, climate, wildlife etc. Therefore tourism can be an effective tool to bring about these synergies. By focusing on rural areas instead of the urban areas (capital cities) in western Africa, pro-poor tourism can be used to not only promote tourism in unknown areas but also to provide opportunities and access for both tourists and local residents.

Since tourism operates through different geographical areas such as remote mountainous, coastal and forest environments, it can be an important tool which could reduce poverty at national, rural and urban levels. For example when visiting Ghana, instead of spending all their time on Labadi beach in Accra, tourists can be more adventurous and go on a mountain biking excursion on Mount Afadjato in the Akwapim-Togo Ranges. In doing this tourists’ spending can provide economic gain through the creation of full time or part-time employment, it has the potential to reduce rural ‘out-migration’ to urban areas, or create other livelihood benefits such as access to potable water, roads which bring poor producers through, improved access to markets, improved health or education.I therefore believe tourism is an appropriate mechanism for poverty reduction. Tourism contributes to economic growth, and also has a positive effect on social, environment and cultural benefits; but having said that, it also has it negative aspect to it. Tourism can create high level foreign ownership which leads to a high level of economic leakage and minimizes local economic benefits; however this can be seen in any other industry. This has led to the creation of The Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET) by the British High Commission in 1999 and established in 2000 in the Gambia. ASSET brings together 40 small and micro enterprises including craft market vendors, tourist taxi drivers, official tourist guides, juice pressers and fruit sellers. It also includes a number of small hotels, guest houses and ground tour operators. Its main objective is to enable small-scale tourism enterprises to benefit from the industry by putting pressure on the government and local leaders to do more for them such as tax relieve easy business set-up processes and infrastructure development such as markets. Also, through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the government received an International Development Assistance (IDA) to help build road networks linking the hotels, the airport and the main urban centres.

So, considering the above, with the effect and contribution of the tourism industry to the world and especially developing countries, the continuation and improvement of these measures will surely help sustain and improve the local economies at the receiving end of tourism.

For more information on tourism projects in West Africa which are working towards reducing poverty and creating opportunities for local economies through their activities, visit the West Africa Discovery web portal, or join a community dedicated to travel in West Africa by clicking here.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

How Tourism can Benefit Destinations: The Gambia - by Sandra Asuming

At West Africa Discovery we are always looking for stories, photos, videos and articles as to how tourism can benefit local communities in destinations. The following contribution has been put forward by Sandra Asuming who spent some time in The Gambia discovering how, if sustainably and responsibly managed, tourism can have positive effects for underdeveloped countries.

Travelling to Gambia for the first time was odd as I didn't know what to expect, if am being honest, Gambia as a tourist destination was something I never considered when planning a holiday until I entered Leeds metropolitan university in 2008.

Studying international tourism management meant I would have the opportunity travel. The first trip on this course was to the Gambia and the main purpose was to explore the country, as well as discovering the benefit of tourism to one of the poorest country in the world. As a tourism student I have leant that tourism is an important sector in the economy, as it provides employment opportunities for local residents, earns valuable foreign exchange for the host destination, it can help improve social lifestyles. Tourism has been accepted as a tool for development in developing countries such as the Gambia. The industry generates a lot of employment opportunities especially for the youth in Gambia. Through tourism around 26000 people are employed either directly or indirectly. The employment figures are for full-time jobs or part-time job equivalents in the case of persons. These jobs include tour guides, beach vendors and souvenir traders. Tourism in the Gambia is thus essential to the economy and to the people. The end benefit of this is income earned by parents which goes towards their children education and the betterment of their living conditions.

My experience in the Gambia was extra-ordinary as I witness the importance of international tourism; their export earner is a big factor in the balance of payments of the Gambia. The global foreign currency receipts overtake the exports of oil products, motor vehicles, telecommunications equipment, textiles or any other product or service. Tourism jobs and businesses can be created in the most underdeveloped regions of Gambia by providing an incentive for residents to remain in rural areas rather than moving to overcrowded cities. Travel and tourism stimulate enormous investment in new infrastructure, most of which helps to improve the living conditions of local residents as well as tourists in Gambia. Tourism development projects often include airports, roads, marinas, sewage systems, and water treatment plants, restoration of cultural monuments, museums and nature interpretation centres. The tourism industry provides governments with extra tax revenues each year through accommodation and restaurant taxes, airport taxes, sales taxes, park entrance fees, employee income tax and many other fiscal matters. The Gambia has established itself as a tourism destination which caters for people who want to exchange cold weather for sunny sandy beach and sunshine. Therefore travelling to Gambia also has a benefit for individual needs and desires.

The Gambia is a peaceful and stable destination which offers the best climate in the world all year and has amazing landscapes. The country is known as the smiling coast of Africa. This makes the Gambians warm and friendly people with a contagious relaxed attitude to life. A visit to Gambia will give you the chance to interact with local people, try local cuisines, and visit historical site and most of all relaxing on the beach. During my week in the Gambia I visited a lot of interesting places such the craft market, there the local men and women craft interesting art to take as a souvenir to take back home. Serekunda market was one place worth visiting; the place has items one would not think existed. A Gambia holiday excursion consists of bird watching, boat rides on the Gambia River, a tour of the national park to see the monkey sanctuary, eco-tourism for those of you who are interested in the conservation and preservation of unique areas of Gambia.

I thoroughly enjoy my time in the Gambia and there is plenty more to explore there. It is definitely a ‘must-go-and-see’ for everyone. It is important to travel to this country as it helps increase the awareness of tourism and increase revenue to the economy and improves local lifestyles.

For more information on responsible tourism, sustainable travel opportunities in West Africa or just to get in touch, you can visit our web portal at www.westafricadiscovery.co.uk, or connect through facebook or twitter.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Asabaako Festival: a Celebration of Music, Peace and Culture on a Beach in Ghana

At West Africa Discovery we love to hear about community based events organised in West Africa for the people by the people, especially if it entails amazing music, a fun loving atmosphere, beach parties and loads of dancing!

Our friends at Blogging Tracks have recently organised, in association with the Moringa Tree, a festival in Ghana aiming to bring people from around the World, Ghana and the local community together to experience the fundamental universal constant which is Music! Below is an account of the organisation that went in to the event, how it all went and the vibe that transcended the whole festival. Enjoy, it's a great read and there are some amazing artists that you may want to check out.

AND SO...The Asabaako Music Festival train pulled into Busua village last weekend for two days of live music and SERIOUS beach parties!! After 2 years of figuring out how this might work and a mad few weeks of preparation, everybody came together to make the Asabaako Music Festival a very special event, combining the most beautiful beach setting with a mix of traditional to modern African and African-inspired music. People came from around Ghana and mixed with those from around the world, alongside a village of people whose energy, enthusiasm and welcome left everybody awestruck.

Our Asabaako DJs Kobby Graham, Rita Ray, DJ Juls and Guynamite made daytimes chilling by the beach, sipping on coconut milk and rum, just that little bit more perfect, spinning anything from Afrobeat to hip hop, afro-funk & soul to high life, reggae and loads more.

Asabaako is a way for us to provide a platform for younger artists with Bless the Mic, bringing a bus full of underground MCs from Takoradi to tear up this usually quiet village resort. Performances from Sketches, Spooky, Nero, Jay Billz, Pictures, King Arthur, Scurry plus Macho Rapper, while Kweku Ananse brought a whole different vibe with his solo balafon performance.

The Agona brass band got everybody moving, while one of Ghana’s hottest rappers, Yaa Pono, took the crowd in the palm of his hands with his distinctive flow and hard hitting punchlines.

Wanlov the Kubolor, our headline artist representing Pidgen Music, had already got the village’s attention by strolling through town in his trademark dreadlocks with nothing but a tight pair of swimming trunks. But things got really interesting when he introduced his African Gypsy band, including a French accordion player and violinist, to bring something completely different to Asabaako.

And the after parties...WOH. Man....they were serious. They were serious beach parties man. I can’t even really put them into words. Big ups to our Busua DJs, Shocka and Andy Stoner!

Smashed it.

It was a fantastic community effort, with boys from the village helping to put the stage together, running around picking up last minute generators, getting food together for our artists...and best of all, the village LOVED it. I’ve been walking through the street since having anyone from kids to old women shout “ASABAAKO!” at me as I go by. Which is nice.

OK, so preparation was a little complicated. What was supposed to be a 2-day beach party about 5 weeks before, took an interesting turn when US hip hop legend Talib Kweli tweeted to his 260,000 followers that he wanted to perform...despite the difficulty we knew we’d face, we gave it a go, had it lined up, but were then forced to cancel due to sponsorship problems...eventually taking us BACK to our original plan... (That’s a very long story short)

The past year has been an amazing experience of highs and lows, and it’s as if that was all building towards some crescendo of madness that carried into the last few hours of Asabaako 2011. Talib, no Talib....sponsorship, no sponsorship, bit of sponsorship maybe....but we got there, we did it, despite the various and plentiful challenges and pitfalls, we did it, and not without thanks to the dozens of people who helped us, along the way and on the day itself. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster like nothing you would ever imagine, but we’ve got there.

BIG LOVE to (in alphabetical order)...The first Asabaako is done, and preparation is underway for the next with an increased programme and international artists currently in discussions. And I’m telling you...BIG tings about to happen here in Ghana!

So I guess this is where we say thank you...It’s quite a list. So let’s get on with it. Thank you EVERYONE for EVERYTHING you’ve done to help us get where we are, for those who helped us out when times got hard, who believed in us when doubt reared its ugly head. Your support, guidance, advice, contacts and stress relief techniques have started something that more and more people now see will really, truly grow into something very special.

Achoo, African Rainbow (Bill, Sewa, Nana and the team), Africa Cola (Aicha, Pierre and the team), Akua and Louise, Akwaaba UK (Eben and Elliot), Ameyaw Debrah, Amy Clark, Bob Gallagher, Bibie Brew, Bill Bedzrah, Ben Bish Clark, Black Star Surf Shop (Naiomi, Yaw, Kofi, Charles, Ernest, Nat and the team), Bless the Mic, Busua Inn (Daniel & Oliver), Brown Berry, Dadson Lodge (Mama Betty, Julie and my many Dadson wives), David Thomas, Ebeneezer Bentum, Entertainment Revolution (Regis and Ben), Fayzbuqbwoi AbeikuQuansah Breezy, Fiona Stewart, Ghana Facebookers (Nana Yaw, Bizzy Mill, Eli, Gamel et al), GhanaWestCoast.com (Lorena and Stephen), The supportive family!, Green Turtle Lodge (Tom and Jo), Ian Bowden, Iso Paelay, Jay Hill, Jean Berthon, Jambo Lafferty, Jon K Fidler, Kajsa, Kate Marriage, Kobby Graham, Kofi Amponsah, Kweku Ananse, i-cr8 (T, Alima and the team), Lisa Lovatt-Smith of OrphanAid Africa, Macho Rapper, Macjordan, Mantse, Marie Howell, Melody FM and Gyandoh, M3nsa (next year I'm telling you!!), MMRS Ogilvy (Miguel, Nathalie, Fred and the team), The Moringa Tree (Chris Vaughan & the team), Nana Chillin, Nana Queci Otu Nketsia, Ms Naa, Neon Comms UK (Sam, Rols and the kids), Nick, Tom, Steve and the “overlanders”, Nii Ayertey Aryeh, Nii Sai Doku, Paa K Holbrook Smith, Paa Kwesi aka

RASTAMAN, Panji Anoff and Pidgen Music, Paul Stagg, Pete Nardini (Surf Shop & Black Star Development NGO), PY, Quantas, Rita Ray, Sidique, Skyy TV and Radio, The SRK, Stak Dollar Bundles and the OC crew, Takoradi Facebookers, Tacitus, Trenton Birch, Uncle Ralph Casely-Hayford, Valerie Lesbros, Vodafone (Cynthia and the B&S team), Wanlov the Kubolor, Yaa Pono, Yemisi Mokuolu of Out of Africa, and everyone else who's pointed us in the right direction or lent a helping hand along the way.

And a special thanks to all the people of Busua for letting us party on your beach, partying alongside us, helping to get everything together and for your continued support. We hope the festival will continue to bring business your way and show the world what a beautiful place you have here.

So, another mighty step... and now we continue. Join our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/asabaako or visit www.asabaako.com for updates on the next event.

For more information on West Africa, its rich local heritage, and tours, accommodations and volunteer projects which will give you the opportunity to discover first hand how beautiful this region is, visit the West Africa Discovery website, or you can join us on Facebook.