Author Archives: Daniel Kresnyak

About Daniel Kresnyak

Danny Kresnyak is an artist, musician and journalist. He holds both a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Regina. A borne adventure seeker he is unsatisfied with second-hand revelations and chooses to lead a life less ordinary. Danny has worked in radio and television for CBC Regina and has written for numerous mainstream and alternative publications throughout his career in journalism. Danny will be working as a Rights Media Radio Intern at CITI-FM in Accra, Ghana.

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Meet the Tognis: Las familia Circo

Yecid’s clothes don’t fit him quite right, his shoes are four sizes too large, his left wrist sometimes pops out of place and it always aches with arthritis. The mangled joint is a painful reminder of a fall he suffered at work. At the same job he’s had more than forty years, where every night his employer beats him and a gathered crowd of spectators applaud his humiliation.

This may seem exploitative, but Yecid has passion for a craft he hopes others find silly. He’s a clown in the Darix Togni Italian National Circus. His employer is the tiger-tamer and both say the Circus is more than work, it is a culture, a family and a lifestyle they will perpetuate.

“When you are born into it (the circus). It is a part of you, it’s in your blood,” Yecid says. He sits on a concrete park bench between two temporary alligator ponds. He’s forty-five and at this point has done every job under the big top. In addition to clown duties he is also the crew’s chief animal wrangler and makes nightly cameos with the trapeze act. “The circus gives me joy, I live for the adventure.”

 This clown’s nomadic path began at birth in a caravan in Venezuela. His father was a trapeze artist and his mother dazzled audiences with graceful precision on the aerial silks (aka ribbon trapeze). “Her performance was the most beautiful,” he says, pausing a moment to wipe nostalgic tears from his face. “All eyes in the crowd were on her. It inspired me.”

As a toddler, he takes his first steps into the performance ring. The act is child- clown, but by five he is on the trapeze and in his teens he is seen on television screens across South America.

“I became famous, people in the streets of towns I’d never walked knew my name.” Yecid’s performance is an rigorous display of refined acrobatics executed above the heads of frenzied fans. During one of these spectacles his hand slips. Momentum carries him outside the net while gravity brings him down with force. He attempts to break his fall but his left arm shatters on impact. The accident leaves him with broken ribs, bruises and an arm no longer capable of strenuous trapeze maneuvers.

The last moments before showtime are critical. Backstage is an open-air yard fortified by strategically placed shipping containers, fences and temporary animal enclosures where five tigers, two alligators and one kangaroo watch the performer’s final preparations. A group of men converse in Spanish and Italian. They spin wrenches, tell jokes and fine tune the motorcycles used in the “Globe of death” act. Circo showgirls Astrid, Alessandra and Alissa plume their head-dresses while others gather around an octagonal pedestal beneath a canopy. Vera, a Brazilian acrobat, goes through a yogic stretch routine while Mongolian contortionists Inga and Tsatsral apply shimmered eye make-up to their faces.

Martina, a blonde Italian clown, and Ali, the resident mystic, sit on the edge of the octagon. The pair are already painted and take a few moments to entertain a baby while the child’s parents prepare. The infant is the seventh generation of Togni to travel with the circus. His parents are Francisco, the strong man, and Elis Togni, the solo trapeze artist.

“It’s an extended family,” says Elis, in a pleasant maternal voice. “We look out for each other, help each other.” She scans the group of artists gathered before her, “I know if I need help with the baby they are here. And they know they are safe and protected. If an outsider caused a problem it would be handled.”

The family patriarch is tiger-tamer and master of ceremonies Davio Togni. He and his brother Livio, a former Italian National Senator, keep a watchful eye over the circus and its naturalized offspring. This family tradition descends from a legendary Italian performer.

“In Milan, Darix Togni is synonymous with Circus,” says trapeze artist Daniel Togni, while reviewing the playlist for the night’s performance. He is the son of Davio, brother of Elis and heir apparent. “Darix was the first man in Italy to master the art of animal taming.” Daniel never met his famous ancestor, but the family moniker has defined much of his life. From youth, he studied circus performance in Italy, and the United States where his mother works as a costume supervisor for Cirque de Soleil. “Traveling with the circus is never boring,” he says.

It has been forty-four years since the Togni family last appeared in Ghana. Times have changed, and the entertainment market is unforgiving. In the interval several major circuses closed their tents permanently. However, the Togni’s continue to electrify their audience. At times the journey takes them into exotic, conflicted, and dangerous territory. In 2009, the circus was nearly stolen in Iran when an opportunist sponsor used the Twitter Revolution as an excuse to keep their tent and everything in it. They were forced to escape on a late night cargo ship organized by Uncle Livio and spent the next year entertaining a mysterious Oil Sheik in Qatar.

The Togni family owns a three uniquely arranged circuses. “When we come to places like this (Ghana) we bring the small circus. This is most peoples first time, so they are still amazed by the traditional acts.” The family business is headquartered in Lombardy, Italy. Their home-base is a large compound house on a ranch where family, friends, performers, giraffes, elephants and tigers are a welcome and common. But many of these performers haven’t seen home in years. Constant travel can weigh heavily on group dynamics and mileage with animals, artists and loads of burdensome equipment can revert to utter chaos.

Patriarch and animal trainer Davio, has a substantial scar on his abdomen. When asked how he got it he is quick to redirect the discussion. His son Daniel is more willing to tell the story. “He didn’t get it from the tigers,” he says with a laugh. The wound was left by one of two Brazilian brothers, once a part of the Togni’s circus. “It was the moto-boys. They were with the circus a while but they were drunkards,” says Daniel. “One night, they got drunk and one punched up his girlfriend’s face (a fellow performer- name withheld),” says Daniel, shifting to a serious tone. “My Father was teaching him a lesson when the other brother stabbed him.” He says, thrusting his right arm in front of him. “They took off and left my father with the knife still in him.”

Davio bled profusely but retained consciousness and enough strength to secure medical attention. The brothers fled to the nearest Brazilian embassy, leaving their bikes and other articles behind. The incident left the Togni family’s leader in hospital, a female artist unable to perform and no-one able to execute the final act. Rather than shut the tent, the crew rallied together. The Wonderboys, a pair of juggling, tight rope walkers from Colombia decided to give the Globe of Death a shot. By the time Davio was released the pair had mastered the act and perform it nightly ever since. “This is the way in the circus,” says Daniel.

Now, Yecid has performed with the Togni family’s circus for more than two years and his clowning has brought smiles to international faces of all ages. He sleeps backstage in a shipping crate cluttered with over-sized wardrobe changes, prop jokes and other more banal necessities of life. He has five children of his own, all in Venezuela, some in the circus and others who are not. “It is their decision, I would never force them into this life. But they know it is the only life for me.”

The Togni’s “Il Florigielo” Circus Ghana tour has been extended. The big top will continue to host shows six nights a week in Accra’s Children’s Park opposite National Theatre until May 20th.

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Down the road to BASCO

Vida sits in a scratched wooden chair beneath the only coconut tree in a clearing. She has a series of line scars next to her eyes and mouth, three sets of four, twelve marks in all. “I got them from my mother,” she says. “When I was a baby I was sick she gave me them to keep me healthy.”

The fifteen year-old is outgoing, pretty and popular amongst her classmates at the Baptist School Complex and Orphanage (BASCO). “I was only a small girl when I came here. I don’t remember who brought me,” she says. But her eyes convey a knowing sadness as she speaks of the past. She made the trip here a decade ago, up a rugged and isolated path cut through dense jungle brush. Many children have walked the same path since.

Pastor Victor is BASCO’s director. He is tall, dressed all in white with gold trim and refers to the students as his children. He says he remembers Vida’s first day, “we didn’t even have buildings yet. Taught the classes standing under the shade of cocoa trees.” He says Vida had to overcome several challenges. “When she got here she would never talk. For two years she would never say anything. Just a sobbing little girl. She would eat sometimes but she didn’t trust anyone yet. It was so serious you could see she had been traumatized,” says the pastor.

“I wasn’t scared just sad sometimes when I would think of my mother,” says Vida. She shrinks in her chair, stares at the ground and drags lines in the sand with her feet. It is clear she is uncomfortable with the topic.

“Her father died in an accident and her mother was murdered in front of her not long after. Her family thought she was a bad omen. Strange where people find Satan,” says Pastor Victor.

The sobbing little girl is now a young woman and well adjusted survivor. Her development is paralleled by the institution’s. She is one of many success stories in a facility that now feeds and houses eighty-six children and educates more than two- hundred. The schools budget is stretched thin but the staff has developed ingenious methods of assuring students are well taken care of. The compound has evolved to include classrooms,dormitories, washroom facilities, a kitchen, health centre, computer lab and their most recent project, a snail and pig farm.
“The farm will help make us sustainable and self-sufficient,” says Pastor Victor, while examining the wooden boxes filled with snails. “We want to use the money to help our older children continue their education,” says Victor. “We plan on offering vocational training here soon, but these kids have the potential to be anything they want. All they need is funding.” Currently, BASCO is dependent on the donations of benevolent individuals and agencies. The school teaches students between the ages of four and fifteen. Vida is studying for the last round of the final exams the school has capacity for. She wants to be a medical doctor and dreams of a future unimaginable when she took her first steps under the shade of BASCO’s cocoa trees.

One more round for Little Rabbit

We met at a bar in Adabraka.

He’s short, just shy of five and a half feet, though powerfully built. His rowdy appearance intensified by an ill-fitting shirt and trousers. His lips crack a smile to reveal gapped teeth and fermented breath, yet he moves with remarkable grace for a drunkard.

He says his name is Kweku Abraham Jafar. He’s the son of a fisherman, a boxer and people once called him Adanko Deka. The moniker loosely translated means, Little Rabbit who owes, a nod to the Ga fables and an indication of his agility. He says, in his prime he wore title belts, became a symbol of national pride and earned every scar in the ring.

The seam of a stitched cut is still noticeable over his left eye despite the passage of time since it opened. This is one of many flaws marking the man’s forehead and brow line. His knuckles are scratched, misshapen and damaged, all traits of someone who earned a living with their fists.

“Tattoo man, cedis for a star?” he asks.

Probably not best to enable, I think. But my hand is already in my pocket pulling out some spare change.

“Medaase,” he says, counting the coins in his palm.

The pub is the closest place to my office to buy cigarettes. I was there on lunch break and running short of time. We part ways as he orders another bottle from the bartender.

Back at work, I ask one of the sports reporters, Afrane, if he had heard of the man. His answer is an emphatic yes. Little Rabbit, he says, is from his neighborhood. Bukom square in Jamestown, the heart of boxing in Ghana. Afrane tells me about the time Little Rabbit went to Lagos to fight for the West African Featherweight title.

In 1988, the champion is a Nigerian called Stone Punch, and the eyes of both nations are fixed on the ring. Afrane is just a boy watching his hero fight on the only television in Bukom. “It was a small black and white box in the back of a busy tailor’s shop. Everyone was crowded in the there. Even the old fish ladies came to watch,” he says.

Deka wasn’t much older than the reporter. He turned pro at 12, barely 17 as he enters the ring. His opponent has age, experience and a home town crowd behind him. But Little Rabbit is always hard to catch.

Afrane and I decide to hunt through drinking spots, dives and notorious hang-outs to find Deka. We hear he has been there but always arrive just a little too late. In each pub, we leave my business card and instructions to tell Little Rabbit we are looking for him.

Third round, Stone Punch lurches forward in an attempt to pin Little Rabbit in a corner. He clinches to neutralize the younger fighter’s speed. The two clash heads and a cut becomes visible over the Ghanaian’s left eye. The tailor’s shop goes silent. Everyone fears a stoppage as the referee inspects the wound. The ref asks Deka if he wishes to continue. Blood trickles to the canvas as he nods confirmation and the tailor’s shop become raucous once more.

“He was our fighter,” Afrane says, as we walk along the causeway in a neighborhood called Asylum Down. Nearly everywhere we hear myths about the mysterious figure but nothing solid we can use to track him. We seek guidance from Barmaids, Tenders and assorted Rummies. Some say they’ve seen him working a steel mill in Tema or pushing a rock kart on the shoreline of Lake Volta.

“His wife and daughter sell fish in Apam. Try there,” says a woman with a gold tooth.

“He died years ago in an Achimodo flophouse,” says a grey-haired man. Most know him, but none know his whereabouts.

Round five, little rabbits fight best when they are cornered. Perhaps the sight of his blood ignited survival instinct, for Deka has become ferocious. Stone Punch is on his heels trying to keep the challenger at a distance. Little Rabbit closes the gap with targeted straight punches. The attack climaxes with a right hook to the liver, left upper cut to the breadbasket and a right cross to the jaw. The combination almost propels the champion out of the ring, but the ropes keep him in bounds. He falls forward his face hits the mat and it is clear he is unconscious.

“Everybody screamed, danced, and went crazy,” recalls Afrane. “We were sure he’d be the next World Champ.”

March 6th, is the anniversary of Ghanaian independence and an otherwise slow news day. Afrane and I are standing in the parking lot killing time when Little Rabbit walks through the gate. He has a friend with him, a giant of a man who introduces himself as Shapiro.

“He stays with me,” says the giant. “I make sure he chops (eats) everyday, give him some clothes if I have them. Sometimes when he drinks he says he wants to die. I tell him not to drink.” Shapiro says they share a room in Accra Central. The pair were both orphaned in boyhood. Back then, they spent their time roaming around Jamestown. “He was always wanting to go to the ring (Bukom square). He’d watch the fighters, tell me he could beat them. Imagine that, even as a small boy he say he can beat men.”

“I need to fight again,” says Little Rabbit. He lunges forward steadies his balance then strikes, locked in battle with an invisible opponent. He says he is sober but his eyes remain clouded by a compound of head trauma and prolonged alcohol abuse. He smiles, removes his shirt and continues his combat dance through the parking lot.

“All those times, I’d stop four men a month but I could never get good money.” He says he was given 2 million cedis (old currency equivalent to $125.00 Canadian) for each match. Promoters promised more but he was black-listed after he came to collect. “They rob me, took my title even though I knocked him (the challenger Bilal Mohammed) down three times. People still ask me how the other man won.”

The man Deka says robbed him is Samir Captan. Once the country’s principle fight promoter, now the President of the Ghana Boxing Authority. Captan refused comment on the story but approved our request for access to the GBA’s archive. Officially, Kweku Abraham Jafar had 65 professional fights and holds a dismal record of 22-42-1 with 16 wins coming by way of knockout. This ratio fails to recognize a peculiar trend. His first lost cost him the West African Featherweight belt and left his record at a respectable 19-1. Nearly all the the matches after are against opponents much larger than him.

“I fought Bazooka,” says Deka. A reference to former World Welterweight Champion Ike “Bazooka” Quartey. “He was too big, the ref stopped it in the first round.” There were more fights like this. Deka sent in to be punished by opponents with notable size advantages. His last official bout was five years ago. It ended in the fourth round with Deka face down on the mat. He says in the time since, he’s competed in non-sanctioned bouts organized by a slew of Ghanaian promoters. “I needed to fight to eat. I still do.”

Afrane writes a piece called “Down but not out” it announces Deka’s plan to return to the ring. A few days pass before Little Rabbit comes in to get his copy. Now he’s in his forties, and his fighting prime has passed. A circumstance even the greats often fail to accept. Boxing and alcohol have left heavy imprints on his life. His career ended with him broke and he began to drink. His wife left him, taking their daughter and he began to drink more. He descended into alcoholism and despair, but his eyes twinkle as he shadowboxes in front of me. It may seem the ring was unkind to to him yet on any given day between the sun’s rise and set somewhere in Accra is Little Rabbit waiting for one more round.

Justice be done in public: Ghanaian identification parades

She wears an intricately woven blue dress, fresh black high-heels and ties a matching scarf around her head to keep long braids away from her face. She is cautious not muss her outfit and avoids the shallow puddles as she walks through the rain damp courtyard of Accra-Central’s police station. Her wardrobe is no accident as she had been rehearsing this day for months. She inspects the line-up of men against the wall, then stops. Her arm raises, hand trembles slightly and comes to rest on one of their shoulders.

“How do you know this man?” asks the police officer in charge.

“He is the one who attacked me,” she says. Her eyes now fixed on a face she had perhaps seen in dreams nearly every night since.

The young man refuses to meet her stare. He is smaller than the other suspects, barefoot and marked with with a diagonal scar across his nose. He is sixth in a row of ten. Each man chained by their wrist to the one next to them with the entire group flanked by officers holding clubs and well-worn AK-47s

“Do you know her?” The officer asks.

“Daabi,” replied Scar, choosing to answer in Twi a question he was asked in English.

“No? You don’t remember me? Liar, you came in the house where my children sleep and you raped me.” Her voice raises but doesn’t crack as her hand remains firm on his shoulder.

Scar mutters something inaudible and hangs his head toward the dirt between his toes.

An officer marks the accused man’s number down on a form affixed to a clipboard and hands it to her. She takes it in her right hand and keeps her left in place. After a few moments tension she lets go, signs her name and walks away.

The woman in blue was the first to identify him and there will be more. In total, seven people, three women and four men, accuse Scar of perpetrating acts of violence against them. The men he remembers and admits to robbery at gun point. When the women approach he stares at the ground and offers monosyllabic denials. When the procession ends, victims disappear into the crowd while Scar and the others are hustled back to their cell.

“We understand it’s not the best way to do this but we don’t have the means for more complicated options,” says police spokesperson K.W. Kuffour. “The victims are kept safe when they come to identify their attackers.” However, no system is perfect and police admit safety is never guaranteed.

In the west, there is a barrier. A one-way mirror separating the accuser and the accused. The suspects are marched into a dark room with bright lights shining in their eyes. They stand against a wall and wait. They wait for the someone they can’t see to identify them, or to be set free. The process is cold, anonymous and institutionalized. In Ghana, this is not the case. The ritual puts victim and alleged assailant face to face. Close enough to hear the other’s breath and remember the last time they met. This method presents critical concerns and unique opportunities. The Victims become vulnerable once outside secure police compounds, yet many describe the experience as empowering. “I knew he’d be there and I had to be there to,” says the woman in blue. “He knows my house, but I’m not afraid anymore.”

Scar was in custody on charges unrelated to the crimes he was identified for in the queue. Police caught him after he snatched a man’s cell phone in the Nima district of Accra. Nearly all of his line-mates were arrested on similar offenses. Every few months, district police stations advertise an upcoming public identification and empty the cells of petty offenders. The event attracts a large crowd of on-lookers, accomplices, victims and family members on both sides of the law. Suspects are chained together and organized in single file. One-by-one victims walk the line and search for the person they say violated them. The resultant verbal confrontations are explosive with armed officers present to maintain a hold on this demonstrative form of justice. The spectacle itself is known as an “identification parade” and it nearly always ends in a circus.

Going home: The first plane out of Budum buram

Martin stands in cue outside Budum buram's counselling office

After more than two decades in Ghana, some Liberian refugees will soon board planes bound for home.

This first step in repatriation comes after the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) reported the West African nation’s political climate has stabilized and placed a time-line on the status of Liberians abroad. In Ghana, most of these people live outside Kasoa, near Accra, in a camp called Budum buram. Most are excited by the news but not all are planning to leave.

Martin is a forty-eight year old father of two. He and his wife escaped Liberia after armed men besieged and burned his parent’s house. His forearms are still marked with a series of small circular scars. “I got them that day. They are cigarette burns,” he says, while rubbing the bubbled marks dotting his skin. He says, his family was targeted at the outset of the chaos. “My father was a high-ranking security force official. I escaped many I knew didn’t.” He has established roots in the camp and visited Liberia only once. He says he has no interest in returning, “I’ve been away too long. My children were born here and we are staying.”

Others have a more hopeful outlook on life after Budum buram. “This place is no good for children,” says Emmanuel, while cradling a toddler in his arms. He was a boy when he, his mother and older sister came to the camp. “We were some of the first here. My son has never seen his home. Now that there is peace I will show him.”

In 1989, the first asylum seekers arrived at Budum buram. Their country decimated by military coups, tribal violence and the sparks of a ruinous civil war. Originally, the area was a temporary shelter and the people were slated for re-location. However, the mass and speed of migration made finding sufficient space nearly impossible.

Charles assists in the daily operation of the camp. He says the location has always been contentious. “If you look at Kenya they (refugees) are nowhere near the Capital. Here, there are too many people in a small-small area. It’s no good for security.”

Now, the UNHCR is preparing to close the camp and is counseling residents on the options available. The first 45 take off on Friday Feb. 24, followed by the same number on Sunday. A plan for all must be in place before their refugee status expires June 30.

Clemente stands in front of his neighbour's house

Who Owns the Land?: Deconstructing Joma

Clemente stands in front of his neighbour's house

Clemente’s house is one of the few buildings in Joma with a roof. In fact, it’s one of the last structures still standing in the devastated area. From his front porch he can see the smashed bricks and mortar that were once the homes of his friends and neighbours. “Afterward, it looked like a tornado (had) blown through. Ripped and broke everything. You can still see where the foundations were.” He said, while surveying the damage in his neighborhood. But this destruction was no act of nature, weather or plate tectonics. In Joma, the catastrophe was man-made.

The village was once home to nearly four-thousand people and sits in a river valley just outside of Accra. Clemente lives in the pristine region with his mother, sister and brother. Everyday he commutes to work in the Capital’s business district. He says they’ve been here six years, but many of the displaced people had lived and fished along the riverbank their whole lives, “we watch more go everyday. I don’t know where they go. I guess they just have to move on.”

Francis and family outside their house

At dawn on December 10th, residents were rousted from their homes and told the settlement they’d spent generations building was being torn down. Francis is a fisherman and a single father of eight. His house was destroyed that morning, “I was out on the water in my boat. Didn’t know what was happening until I saw my children on the shore-line calling me to come. They said military men were here breaking down houses.” He says he has received no warnings before demolition and no offers for compensation since. By evening, nearly 500 homes, several businesses and a school had been destroyed.

The disputed territory lies along the banks of the Densu river. The river is a part of the water table feeding the Weija dam reservoir. The Ghana Water Company (GWC) says the Joma settlement is illegal. In an official release, the GWC stated Weija is the critical fresh water source fueling Accra and say they can’t risk the possibility of encroachment contaminating the supply. However, Joma is several kilometers from the dam site and larger settlements exist along the reservoir’s edge.

While military carried out demolitions, many villagers sought refuge at the Chief’s palace. Their respite was only temporary as the palace was also destroyed by order of the GWC. Chief Nii Ayittey Mayatse, says he thinks there are other motivations at play. “They tell us we are making the water dirty. We aren’t, we’ve fished here, lived here, died here for centuries. We take care of the river, it gives us life. They don’t want this land for them. They don’t benefit, they want to sell it. How can they? It’s our’s,” he says the dividing lines between government property and his ancestral territory is clear. “My Great-Grandfather started the building here. The land was his, the people (villagers) came and buy (it) from him. Now they want to take it and say we are here illegally. We are not.” A recent court injunction confirmed Chief Mayatse’s account. The decision ordered an immediate halt to the demolitions, but provided no provisions or compensation for repairing the damage.

WIth their homes in pieces, no school to send their children to and no money to rebuild many were forced to leave. The court-order stipulates un-occupied land may be annexed, but many have vowed to remain amidst their rock-piles and broken timber. The hold-outs say they have seen surveyors and trucks bearing the logo of Regimental estates, a real-estate developer specializing in pre-fabricated condo complexes, exploring the territory. They also say the have noticed an increase in military and police presence and report regular instances of harassment.

Their school was knocked down.

Gutter gardens: MH-37’s toxic run-off

Accra’s Military Hospital No. 37, was built during the Second World War and it’s obsolescence is becoming evident. About a year ago, the pipe carrying raw medical waste from the mortuary, maternity and surgical theaters to the treatment tank was damaged. Unable to fix the line, the hospital began dumping bio-hazardous material into the city’s open-gutters. Now, the sewers are overflowing and downstream the stench of contamination and concern is growing thick.

Nuuna, works in one of the vegetable gardens growing in the shadow of Military Hospital No. 37. The tall, bearded, 24 year old is the eldest of five children living in his Mother’s house. He works hard to maintain a balance between family obligations, time in the field and pursuit of an education. He

and his siblings struggle together earning their pay with the cuts and callouses tempering their hands.
Each day, they pick, trim and prepare assorted greens for sale. They pluck crops from the soil, remove the small leaves, sever the stock and bind the individual sprigs together with lashings cut from the discarded end pieces. The bundles are put into corrugated boxes bound for markets both local and international. “Some stays here, but almost everything we pull up gets sent to the UK or Europe,” Nuuna explained, while slicing a fibrous strip from a handful of leaves.

The land is irrigated with water drawn from both a well and a stream fed by run-off from city sewers.He says the property is government owned, but not on the supply grid. “I went to see them (the water and housing commission) about pipes many times. They would never talk to me, always said to go andcome (back later). I think they wanted a bribe or something.” Without fresh water, farmers like Nuuna are forced to grow crops using the sources available.

In the city, clean water is a critical commodity and it doesn’t come cheap.Drinking from  faucets is rarely advised and potable sources are most likely found in a bottle or sachet. Open sewers carry liquid and solid waste material of all sort. When gutters overflow the result can  be devastating.

Last year during the rainy season, Accra was rocked by flooding and the rapid tide of a cholera epidemic. Nearly 6 thousand people fell ill with 80 eventually dying from  the disease. Cholera can be treated with rehydration fluids, but amongst infants, the elderly and the infirm death can occur  within hours. The youngest victim of the outbreak was only eight  days old when her tiny body succumbed to the bacterial infection.

At this point, no solid connection between hospital waste and the outbreak has been established. However, many living nearMH-37 have complained of general poor health and the World Health Organization (WHO) advises that epidemics become virulent when water caches are contaminated.

The Globe newspaper and CIti-fm, developed and broke the medical waste story near the end of January. The news sparked public outrage and in response the AMA (Accra Metropolitan Assembly) formed an emergency fact-finding committee. The investigation found deplorable conditions at the hospital and authored a series of recommendations.The list includes an overhaul of the drainage system, repairs to deteriorating hospital infrastructure and opened the door to charges of criminal negligence.

Hospital administrators were unavailable or unwilling to comment on the situation. The AMA’s official report states the target is to prevent future dumping and endangerment of public health. However, the committee failed to acknowledge the residual realities faced by farmers in the fields of Accra.

Nuuna says, without access to a consistent water supply he has no choice but to continue with current practices. Nearby reservoirs have a high probability of contamination, making crops suspect and continuing to place the public at-risk.

At the market, boxes overflow with produce grown locally, as well as, on farms worldwide. Vesta buys her fruit and vegetables at a well-established stand a few kilometers from MH-37. She picks through each item looking for bumps, bruises or other tell-tale signs of corruption. Her inspection is thorough, but danger is not always visible. “I think they inspect everything before it gets here. The standards boards should be held accountable. I mean, they must test for those kinds of things,right?” She asked, while market girls stayed silent and loaded bags of cabbage, tomatoes and bundled greens into the trunk of her idling jaguar.