The History of Western North Region
The Western North Region is one of the six (6) new Regions of Ghana created in 2019.The main reason for the creation of the region is the difficulty of the people of Sefwi getting essential government developmental projects or services from the former Regional Capital i.e. Sekondi-Takoradi. Therefore the six paramount chiefs in the present day, the Western North Region became responsive to the calls of their subjects and united which had led to the creation of the Western North Region.
The Region is bounded by La Cote D’ivoire on the West, the Central Region in the South-East, and the Ashanti, Ahafo, and Bono Regions in the North and Western Region to South-West.
The political administration of the Region is through the local government system. The Region is divided into nine (9) Municipal and District Assemblies made up of three (3) Municipalities and six (6) Districts (MDAs). These MDAs report to the Western North Regional Coodinating Council. Each Municipal/District Assembly, is administered by a Chief Executive, representing the Central Government. The Municipal/District Assemblies in the Region are; Sefwi Wiawso Municipal Assembly with Sefwi Wiawso as its administrative capital, Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai Municipal Assembly with Bibiani as its administrative capital and Aowin Municipal Assembly with Enchi as its administrative capital. Sefwi Akontombra District Assembly with Akontombra as its administrative capital, Suaman District Assembly with Didiaso as its administrative capital, and Bodi District Assembly with Bodi as its administrative capital. The rest are Juaboso District Assembly with Juaboso as its administrative capital, Bia West with Essam as it administrative capital and Bia East Districts with Adabokrom as its administrative capital. (http://ghana.gov.gh/index.php/governance)
According to Ghana Statistical Service, the projected population for Western North Region is 949,094 with 2.9% Annual Population Change from 2010 to 2020 (Ghana Statistical Service Web)
Climate (Temperature and Rainfall)
The Western North Region, falls within the tropical rainforest climatic zone with high temperatures throughout the year between 250C and 300C and moderate to heavy rainfall pattern between 1200mm and 1780mm per annum. It comes with double maxima characteristics in June-July and September-October as its peaks. Humidity is relatively high, which is about 90% at night falling to 75% during the day.
The rainfall pattern is unique and suitable for agricultural activities in the Region. It has two long wet seasons separated by relatively short dry season. The dry season is marked by relatively low humidity with hazy conditions occurring from November to January. The Region experiences fewer or no bush fire outbreaks due to the relatively short dry season.
The Region often experiences concentrated downpours up to 178mm rainfall in a day, which often causes widespread flooding at some settlements due to the nature of the soil.
The implication of the climate of the Region is that it is suitable for the growing of various crops particularly both cash and food crops. This is the reason why the Region is one of the leading producers of the cash crop like cocoa in Ghana.
The Region’s vegetation is of the moist semi-deciduous (equatorial rain forest) type. The forest vegetation is made up of many different tree species including wawa (Triplochiton selerexylon), mahogany (Khaya invorensis), esa (Celtis), ofram (Terminalia superba), edinam (Entandro phragma ivorensio), onyina (Ceiba petandra), kyenkyen (Antiaris Africana) and odum (Milicia exelsa), Sapele etc. Hence, the Region is a suitable location for the establishment of timber firms. There are a number of forest reserves dotted in the Region, however, there is a high degree of depletion of the original forest due to improper farming practices, logging and illegal mining activities. Therefore most of them has become secondary forest.
Relief and Drainage
Most part of the Region is generally undulating and lies between 152.4m – 660m above sea level. The highest point is also the highest in the Western North Region at Attanyamekrom (Adiembra), near Sefwi Bekwai which is 660m. Other highest peak are the Krokoa peak which is 510m above sea level lies roughly to the South-West of Sefwi Wiawso.
Three of the major rivers in the country are found in the Western North Region. They are Rivers Ankobra, Bia and Tano. The Region is also endowed with some streams which serves as tributaries of these major rivers. These are Krodua, Atronsu, Subriso, Kroseini, Suraw, Chira and Akataso Suhien, Kunuma, Disue etc.
Soils and Crops Produced
The Region is endowed with rich forest ochrosols and oxysols which support the cultivation of a wide variety of crops including cocoa, coffee, oil palm, plantain, cocoyam and cassava, etc. and other vegetables. This makes the Region to have a comparative advantage in agriculture and agro-processing.
Geology and Mineral Deposits
The Geology of the Region is mainly Precambrian Metamorphic Rock of the Birimian and Tarkwain formation which contains the mineral bearing rocks. There are also granite rocks and deposits of minerals such as gold and Bauxite. The Oxysols are rich in mineral deposit, making mining the most important and lucrative economic activity in the Region.
The companies dealing in mining are Mensin Gold Limited at Biabiani, Chirano Gold Limited at Chirano and Bossai Mineral Limited at Awaso (Bauxite). There is also a colonial mining shaft in the Aowin Municipality which runs through Sewum, Mocherkrom, Atokosue and Achimfo. These mine shaft have been mined over the years by the indigenes. There are prospected mining concessions which can be developed into medium or large scale mining firms.
The ethnic culture of the Region is dominated by the Sefwis, Brusas and Anyins. Because of migration, most of the languages in Ghana such as Asantes, Fantes Ewes, Akyems, Gas, Krobes, Akwapims, and Mole Dagbanies etc are spoken in the Region in addition to French due to its closeness to La Cote D’ivoire, however, the indigenous languages are the Sefwi, Brusa and Anyin.
The official language spoken in the Region is English.
Paramonutcies in the Region
The Western North Region has six (6) paramountcies. These are Sefwi Anhiawso Traditional Area with Ogyahoho Yaw Gyebi II as its paramount Chief, Sefwi Bekwai Traditional Area, headed by the Odeneho Gyapong Ababio, Sefwi Wiawso Traditional Area headed by Katakyie Kwesi Bumagamah II, The rest are Sefwi Chirano Traditional Area Headed by Okogyeaman Kwaku Gyambra III, Aowin Traditional Area with Beyeman Brentum III, as its paramount Chief and Suaman Traditional Area with Odeneho Bentum IV as its paramount chief.
The Culture of the Western North Region
The cultural practices of the people of the Region is not different from the rest of the Akan speaking communities in the country. The traditional political system is centrally constituted by a single person or a group of persons i.e. the chief and his elders. The traditional political unit in the Region is based on lineage. The lineage is the collection of families either patrilineally or matrilineally. This means that for the purposes of succession or inheritance, a person who is reckon to belong to a lineage must have descent from a common ancestor or ancestress. The senior most male member of the family with the repository of wisdom is appointed as Abusuapanyin. In the day to day administration of the lineage, the Abusuapanyin is supported by Obaapanyin, the senior most female surviving member of the lineage.
The Abusuapanyin is regarded as the representative of the ancestors and speaks and acts on behalf of the ancestors. He is regarded as the chief priest of the family and thus perform rituals, pours libation and officiate family ceremonies.
There is the traditional moral code which regulate behavior. This moral code is believed to have the backing of the ancestors and the fear that anyone who violates the code would be punished severally by the ancestors.
Traditionally, in the land of Sefwi, a girl cannot get married unless she had experienced her first menstruation and has been so declared publicly at a special puberty or nudity rite, known as “manzaa-yire”. The performance of “Manzaa-yire”, which the other Akans called “Bragor”, makes her legible for marriage.
After this ceremony any man who is interested in marrying her inform his father, uncle or Abusuapanyin to approach the parent of the woman. In some circumstances, the man approach the woman’s father directly, without having first met the girl to commence marriage negotiations.
The first marriage process is called “Abobom and Nsere” (Betrothal). Here the groom’s family visit the bride’s father to convince the bride about their son’s interest in her.
Upon agreement, a betrothal fee, called “Abobom” or knocking fee (which the Fantes call “Abowmub)-dzeᴐ” is paid, which formally asked for the hand of the bride. (The “Abobom” is in the form of a drink e.g. a bottle of gin).
From the moment that betrothal takes place, the man is responsible for the general well-being of the bride. There is no fixed period between the betrothal and the marriage itself, at least among the Sefwi. The couple may live under the same roof. The betrothed cooks for the man and assist him on his farm, in return for maintenance by him. They may even have children. “Mensah-Brown (1968)”
Here, the relationship may be likened to a tolerated concubinage, known among the Sefwi as “Soma Egyaa” (“Soma”-concubine; “Egyaa”-marriage). Whilst a woman is in “soma egyaa”, a second betrothal to another suitor is not allowed. However, when the woman finds another man and had sex with him, her betrothed man cannot sue for “ayefer” (punitive cash) from the man who had an affair with his betrothal. The woman can also walk out of this “soma egyaa” when she feels unhappy.
After the performance of the second process of marriage called “abobom nsere” the marriage contract “Tiri Aseda” is performed. Here, the father of the bride accepts gifts and payments from the father of prospective groom. This gifts and payments are called “Tiri Aseda” (Head Thanksgiving), or “Tiri Nsa” by the Akans. Among the Sefwis, the “Tiri Aseda” include a pot of palm wine and a bag of salt, in addition to paying all the expenses for the marriage negotiation.
After the “Tiri Aseda”, the third process is the presentations (payments and gifts). The groom’s family continue to make further payments to his betrothed family to prove his worthiness as a future husband. This paves the way for the fourth process, “Asetena-bᴐ”.
When the man has proven himself worthy to his betrothed and her family, a day is scheduled, upon consultation between the two families for the marriage covenant known to the Sefwis as “Asetena-bᴐ”. Mensah-Brown (1968) explains that the “Asetena-bᴐ” ceremony, which is the marriage proper, is performed the very day that the suitor’s sponsor (father, uncle or abusuapanin) pays the standardized sum to the bride’s father, in which sum is included the marriage consideration.
The “Asetena-Bᴐ” ceremony or the marriage covenant ceremony, paves way for another important ceremony, called “Hom-bᴐ”. Here, the woman is proclaimed to the public as the wife of the man with all the rights and obligations. The man then provides the new wife with all the necessities that she would need in her new home, namely, clothes, trinkets, cooking utensils, head-gear, etc. This is known as “Ayeyi”. This used to be a strict, indispensable social requirement, to the extent that, upon its presentation, and the wife is not satisfied with them, she could refuse to accompany the delegation of the husband to her new home; and this could lead to a dissolution of the marriage even before its consummation.
Succession and Inheritance
The inheritance system of the people of Sefwis, Brusas and Anyins is matrilineal as far as traditional positions within the extended family are concern. The same applied to the nuclear family before the implementation of PNDC law 111 (Intestate Succession law- 1985). This law provides that the surviving spouse and the children are entitled to one house which means the wife may be compelled to inherit and use the property together with the children.
In spite of this law, nephews still succeed their uncle who passes on and play the fatherly role to the children. Moreover, in some communities within the Region, it is permitted for a man to succeed a deceased brother in recent times with strict adherence to the PNDL law 111.
When it comes to ascension to the position of Abusuapanyin or the Chief, the matrilineal line of inheritance is observed, and that is the preserve for only the male child of the elder’s sister of the dead person i.e. the Abusuapanyin or the Chief.
The Abusuapanyin is also the administer of the family land. He can apportion a piece of land to any family member to farm on or to do any developmental project. Also, if there are settler farmers on the family land, the Abusuapanyin is the one who collect the proceeds of the abunu and abusa and share it among the family members.
Installation of Chief
Unlike the Ashanti who groom someone to become a chief, in the Western North Traditional Councils the story is different. As the custom demand, when the stool becomes vacant, the Obaapanyin or Queen Mother from the royal family would nominate someone from the royal lineate to the king-makers who would intend critically assess the nominee. When they are satisfied, with the necessary traditional requirements, the nominee is made to go through enstoolment process to become the chief. These processes are observed in the installation of Sub-Divisional, Divisional and the Paramount Chiefs selection.
The Traditional Governance Structure
The traditional governance structure of the people of Sefwis, Brusas and Anyins are not different from any of the Akan communities in the country. The extended family usually refers to as Clans would have a head, refers to as the Abusuapanyin who constitute a member of the Sub-Divisional Council at a village level, headed by the Odikro.
These Odikros also constitute a member of the Divisional Council at the town level headed by a Chief.
The Chiefs of the various towns also constitute the council of the Paramount Chief in that hierarchical order.
At each level of the chieftaincy structure, the chiefs perform Judiciary, legislative and executive functions. In the olden day, chief lead their subjects to war and protect their territories against any external attacks.
According to Okyeame Yeboah (the Chief Linguist of Sefwi Wiawso Traditional Council), in the olden days, when their forefathers migrated and arrived at their present location (Sefwi), they went to the paramount chief who showed them a piece of land to till to feed their family. Generation after generation, the families grew and the settlement moved from hamlets to village and now towns. When a family member is of age and marries, a piece of land is given out to him farm to feed his family.
Initially, there was no formal agreement entered with the settlers who now classified themselves as indigenes of the land. However latter settlers from other tribes in Ghana such as the Ewes, the Akuapims, and the Fantes, a formal agreement is entered some of them are as follows;
Cultivate and Let Share
In this arrangement, a piece of land is shown to the settler farmer for him to cultivate and plant the crops and the crops are mostly cocoa, plantain, cocoyam, cassava etc. and a demarcation made between the farmer and the land owner. This arrangement is for a particular number of years normally for thirty to forty years.
In Abunu system of land acquisition, the settler farmer, upon request for the piece of land, the land owner entered agreement with him to cultivate the land with his labour and other implement and the proceeds divided equally and shared between the farmer and land owner. This agreement is also time bound.
In Abusa system, the settler farmer would also till the land with his money and implement and the proceeds divided into three, one for the cost of production, one for the farmer and the other for the land owner. However, there is another type of Abusa system, where the settler farmer would till the land with the support of the both the land owner and the settler farmer but the sharing of the proceeds is two for the land owner and one for the farmer.
Land Preparation for Farming
According to Okyeame Yeboah, in the beginning of a farming year, a farmer would go to weed the boundaries of where he want to farm and thereafter, cut a big stick and plot it on the boundaries. On top of the stick, he would cut open it and insert a leaf in it known as “Esipi”. It signifies that such a farmer would want to clear the said land for cultivation that planting season. If anybody has an objection to that, he would come to confront the farmer, else he goes ahead to clear it for farming.
According Okyeame Yeboah, there is “nnoboa” system where families come together to help a family member clear and plant his crops. This arrangement is rotated till all the family members had have their share of the clearing.
There is also a hired labour to assist in the weeding for a fee. Others resort to nuclear family labour. In modern times some farmers use weedicide to clear their farm land.
Land Acquisition for Building and other Projects
Currently, when any institution or individual want a piece of land for any developmental project, the Omanhene, can locate any land under his jurisdiction for that development. All he need to do is to consult his Divisional or Sub-Chief where the piece of land falls under his jurisdiction and if any of his subjects has farmed on it, a compensation is paid to the farmer. This arrangement is done with the knowledge that the land in which the Divisional and Sub-Chiefs occupied, originally belongs to the paramount Chief and allocated it to the forefathers of the sub-chiefs.
The people of the Region are religious and affiliated to one form of a religion or the other. According 2010 population and Housing Census, Christianity is the major religion followed by non-christian and those not affiliated to any religion.
Gods of Nature
The people of Sefwi believe in gods of nature such river gods, stone gods, tree gods etc. These belief makes them revere them and obey the priests who serve as a mediator between them and the people. For instance, when the annual “Aluelue” Festival is about to be held, the chief priests who believes in the gods of dogs has to pierce a live dog and insects his hand into it and bring out the heart of the dog to the gods.
Ancestors (The Righteous Dead)
They believe in the dead relatives which serves as a link between them and the Supreme God. It is the belief in the ancestors that makes them pour libation and other sacrifices to them during important occasions such as festival, marriage, funeral rites etc. They hold the belief that not all dead relatives qualifies to become an ancestor. A person must grow old before he dies and must not die through accident or suicide. Again, the person must not engaged in forbidden acts such as rape, incest, having sex in the bush etc.
The practice of witchcraft is also a belief in the land of Western North Region. Witchcraft is defined as a supernatural power, the craft or practice for which they apply knowingly or unknowingly to harm other people out of envy or to gain advantage over other people or to prevent other people to make progress or to compete successfully against them.
This belief makes the people attribute any misfortune to the practice of witchcraft and resort to Soothsayers for the interpretation of such misfortune situations. However, in the Western North Region, there is no designated place where the alleged practitioners of the witchcraft are kept as in the Northern Ghana where they have witch camps.
The main festival of the Region is Yam Festival called “Aluelue” (Ellue) which is celebrated annually on convenient dates by both the Paramount and the Divisional Chiefs. As side this festival, there is another occasion observed very three weeks (on Thursdays) called “Abiedue Huhue”. This festival is to pacify the royal stools and to perform ritual to appease the ancestors.
Apart from the usual rituals according to the tradition, the occasion is also used to think about the welfare of the citizens, settle disputes and evaluate the work they have done in a given period.
There are rituals proceeding the festival. After the Paramountcy of Sefwi Wiawso has celebrated its festival, the flood gate is then open for the various towns in the Traditional Area to also celebrate theirs. The last town to do the celebration is a town known as Kesekrom. In kesekrom the celebration take a very unique shape. As part of the celebration there is an aspect known as “Bomtrou”. The women in the kesekrom would dress in cloth and paraded the town and when one meets them and mention “Bomtrou”, they remove their cloth showing their nakedness to the men. It is however done with a token of money. This aspect of the festival attract tourists and on lookers from far and near.
Traditionally, the celebration “Aluelue” in Kesekrom marks the closure of the celebration of the festival in Sefwi for that particular year. If for any reason a town wants to celebrate the festival, they have to consult the Chief and elders of Kesekrom for rituals before such a celebration can be held.
There used to be a number of traditional games in the Region. Mentioned can be made of Adakamu, Abodaan, Asafo, Bosoe and Kete.
Adakamu is a traditional game that is played with a customized traditional box crafted with wood for the purpose and played by skilful person hitting it with a bare hand. The sound that comes out is just like playing a sound system. This is accompanied with some traditional songs and adakamu dance is performed. It was played in the olden days when the moon comes out, during the festival, marriage ceremony and any other merry making occasion.
Like any other Akan tribe, the people of Western North Region put on the tradition cloth such as kaba and slit, made from kente or any presentable fabric on special occasions such marriage ceremony, naming or outdooring of new babies, funerals and celebration of festivals.
As a result of many variety of foodstuffs in the Region, the people of the Western North Region can boast of different kinds of dishes, but the most preferred one is fufu with different type of soup with bush meat or fish and ampesi and kontomira stew.
The Region can boast of a number of tourist potentials, but unfortunately they are not well developed. It has a comparative advantage of eco-tourism, supported with festival activities. Some of these tourist attraction sites include the following;
Waterfall at Bopapre
There is a waterfall at Bopapre in the Bopa/Kofikrom Electoral Area in the Sefwi Akontombra District. The community is about 15km from Sefwi Wiawso. However, the waterfall is not developed to attract tourists and thus patronage is very low.
Giant Squeaker Frogs
Giant Squeaker Frogs are found in the protected Yawkrom Forest Reserve in the Akontobra District. These Giant frog are delight to watch especially when they make short high noise.
The Tree of God (Nyame Dua)
The tree of God is located at Nyamebekyere, a distance of about 5km from Sefwi Wiawso. It is said that about 150 years ago, a farmer struck a machete into the stump of the tree and this is still visible in the trunk of the tree. The tree has continuously been growing ever since, and today the trunk of the tree is completely surrounded by the machete.
Abombirim Sacred Tortoise Forest
It is a sacred forest preserved in which a giant tortoise lives. When one sees the tortoise and picks it, there it turns to be total darkness in the forest. Until such a time that the tortoise is left for light to re-appear, one will not be able to find a way out of the forest. It is located at Sefwi Boako, a 21 km distance from Sefwi Wiawso
The ancestral hole is at Sefwi Bosomoiso, about 4km from Sefwi Wiawso, the Regional Capital. It is believed that the royal family of Bosomoiso community originated from this hole. It is believed to be a bottomless hole. It is surrounded by trees but no leaves fall into it and the hole is alleged to have healing powers.
Again, the Biggest Tree in the Western North Region is found in Aowin Municipality at Apuja Yakasi. The Municipality can also boast of the Ablakanu Rocks at Nyankomam, and the Sutreso Rapids at Yiwabra.
In Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai Municpality, the following Tourist attraction sites can be found;
- Natural Forest Reserves ideal for Eco-Tourism at Bonkaso, Kanayerebo and Tano-Surano.
- Atta Nyamekrom Mountain at 660 metres, the highest peak in the Western Region
- Mining sites at Bibiani, Awaso and Chirano
- Traditional “Allue” Festival.
- Bibiani 6th March Festival.
The major economic activity in the Region is crop farming. People of all ages in the Region are involved in farming due to the availability of fertile and favorable climatic conditions in the Region. As a result of the high returns derived from the sale of cocoa beans, most farmers are engaged in cocoa production. This is not done at the neglect of other food crops like plantain, cocoyam, yam, rice, cassava and vegetables such as tomatoes, garden eggs, pepper, cocoyam leaves among others.
Some farmers are also involved in livestock rearing due to the availability of forage in the Region. Animals and birds such as cattle, sheep, goat and pigs, chicken, duck and turkey are mostly reared in the Region.
However, goat are forbidden to be reared in some communities in the Region due to superstition. Mention can be made of Enchi Township where River Disue forbids the rearing of goats. Moreover, kunkunso in the Anhwiaso traditional area forbids goat rearing because of the presence Tano gods.
The Region is not noted for large scale manufacturing industries despite the availability of raw materials such as Timber, cocoa and different kinds of foodstuffs, however, there are a number of small scale timber processing firms such as Suhuma Timber Company, Buadac Company, T. Andrews Enterprise Limited, and A- List Company Limited.
Telecommunication companies such as MTN, Vodafone, and Airtel-Tigo operate in the Region, however coverage is relatively low in the villages. Low network coverage poses serious challenges to security operations, business activities, and the adoption of new modern farming methods among others.
The Region has a number of health facilities both public and private in the towns and villages which adequately meet the health needs of the people. The Region can also boast of the services of Zipline in the Regional Capital, Sefwi Wiawso which supplies blood and essential drugs within and across the Region.
Notwithstanding these facilities, the staff strength in the Region is not encouraging. The critical staff like Doctors, Physician Assistants, Midwives, Pharmacy Technicians, Laboratory Technicians and Staff Nurses are woefully inadequate.
Municipal Profile of Sefwi Wiawso Municipal Assembly, 2018-2021
Municipal Profile of Bibiani-Ahwiaso-Bekwai Municipal Assembly, 2018-2021
Municipal Profile of Aowin Municipal Assembly, 2018-2021
District Profile of Sefwi Akontombra District Assembly, 2018-2021
Mensah-Brown, Kodwo. “Marriage in Sefwi-Akan customary law: A comparative study in ethno-jurisprudence” presence Africaine 68 (1968): 61-87
Roberts, Penelope A. “The State and regulation of marriage: Sefwi Wiawso (Ghana), 1900-40.” In Women, State and Ideology, pp.48-69. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 1987.
Okyeame Kobina Yeboah, Chief Linguist of Sefwi Wiawso Traditional council.