Berekum: A city losing its beauty, glory

BY: Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah
A paved entrance of the Main Berekum Lorry Station, which is nearing completion, has received commendation from the people
A paved entrance of the Main Berekum Lorry Station, which is nearing completion, has received commendation from the people

The mention of Berekum in the Brong Ahafo Region brings nostalgic memory of prominent Ghanaians such as a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon, Professor George Benneh; a former Director of the School of Communication Studies, Legon, Professor Kwasi Ansu Kyeremeh; former Majority Leader in Parliament, the late J.H Owusu-Acheampong; former Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan; the late Kwabena Kyere, who became the President of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and Deputy Minister of Education, and a former Director-General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, the late Dr Kofi Frimpong, among others.

If there was any town in the Brong Ahafo Region that people yearned to visit about three or four decades ago, then it was Berekum.

In those days, the town was not only known for its vibrant commercial activities but also for its neatness and nicely arranged storey buildings along the principal streets of the town.
The name Berekum was carved out of the Akan words ‘Ber3 na wa Kum’ literally meaning one has to struggle with difficulty before getting a game and later corrupted to sound Berekum.

Past glory

Growing up in the Dormaa area in the 1970s, it was always a joy when we had the chance to visit Berekum, especially for elementary school football matches, because that was the only way that would enable us to have a feel of good roads and nice buildings which were not available in our typical rural communities. The lights that illuminated well-painted storey buildings lining up the streets, made us to name the town as “Small London”.

But over the years, Berekum, which has now grown from a town to a municipality, has lost some of its beauty and fine glory that it was known for due to neglect.
The pace of development that characterised the town seems to have slowed down and does not matched the fast spreading town that has engulfed all the nearby communities.


Bad roads

The street from the station roundabout through the frontage of the Omanhene’s Park, which joins the main Sunyani Road, is not the only one riddled with potholes and rough surface but streets in the various parts of the town, especially the stadium area and other suburbs make driving uncomfortable. If the principal streets within the Berekum town are in such a deplorable state, then your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the road infrastructure at the fringes of the town.

Road infrastructure in fringe communities such as the Zongo, Continental, Nyamebekyere, Biadan among others, which had had their populations quadrupled, have also suffered neglect.

The stretch of the Berekum-Seikwa road that passes through some fringe communities of the town from the Namasua Station through Brenyekwa to Kutri No 1 has become one of the development concerns of people in that part of the municipality.

Concerns by residents

Constructional works on the road, which is muddy, has stalled due to problems with compensations to affected people and the relocation of a major pipeline, which were not factored into the cost of the project.

Grace Kumi , aka Bayerewura (a yam seller) who stays in a house opposite the entrance of the Golden City Park could not hide her frustration when she spoke to the Daily Graphic about the deplorable nature of the street in front of the park.

“When it rains, we have problem with mud and on a sunny day our problem worsens with dust” she stated while pointing to a pool of water just in the middle of the road.

“Citizens of Berekum who have stayed out of the country for a long period of time and are visiting, will come and meet the town just as it was before they left”, she stated.

A school under tree at Anyinasu

She lamented that politicians over the years had not honoured their promises and expressed the hope that the current government would rehabilitate the road network in the town.

Her sentiments were shared by another resident, Abenaa Kumiwaa, who expressed concern about the dusty nature of their buildings as a result of the deplorable nature of the street in front of the Golden City Park.

But the Member of Parliament for Berekum East, Dr Kwabena Twum-Nuamah, said he was aware of the poor nature of the road network in the municipality.

He explained that through his efforts a section of the Berekum-Seikwa Road had been earmarked in the 2018 Mid-Year Budget.

According to him the project, which is being executed by J. Adom Limited, would lead to the tarring of the Berekum Zongo One-Way road and an eight-kilometre Berekum Inner-City Roads Rehabilitation.

Health and markets

In addition to this is the inadequate infrastructure at the Catholic Holy Family Hospital, which serves as the Berekum Municipal Hospital. The facility, established in the 1950s, also lacks the required facilities to enable it to cope with the current population size of the area.

The recent revelation that a referral hospital for such a big area has just one incubator has become a source of worry.

The Berekum Central Market is one of the largest markets in the Brong Ahafo Region. The market attracts people from all the adjoining districts and people from Côte d'Ivoire because of its proximity to that country. Other major markets are the Newtown Market, Senase Market and Kato Market.

It is a fact that infrastructure in these markets are inadequate while the existing ones have to be rehabilitated to enable them to contain the large number of traders that troop the municipality daily.

Developments

The above picture does not mean that development projects in the municipality have come to a standstill as both the central government and the municipal assembly are currently working on several projects while there are planned ones to ensure that Berekum is restored to its past glory.

As part of the World Bank Sustainable Year Investment Project, water supply in the municipality has been expanded with the laying of 120 kilometres of pipelines. Only two areas, Berekum municipality and the Tamale metropolis, were covered under this World Bank Project.

Boreholes were dug to pump water into a newly-constructed overhead tank to supply water to people in the municipality.

At the time of Daily Graphic’s visit to Berekum the back entrance to the Main Lorry Park, which was an eyesore and attracted a lot of criticism from the people, had been fixed with pavement blocks.

The Municipal Planning Officer, Mr Abdulai Haruna, explained that a 11-kilometre pothole patching and sealing project had been awarded on contract with the contractor currently preparing an area to keep his equipment for work to begin.

Blocks moulded for the construction of a school block for Anyinasu left at the mercy of the weather while the pupils study under trees

He added that the Berekum municipality would witness its expected facelift ever when the Ghana Secondary Cities Support Programme begins next year.

Under the programme, which will be implemented from 2019 to 2023, 19 municipal assemblies across the country, including Berekum and Techiman, have been selected to get $100 million facility each for the development of their infrastructure.

Mr Haruna gave an assurance that major development concerns would be tackled when the programme began to enable the assembly to meet the type of facelift that was expected from the people.

It is the expectation of this writer that current ongoing projects and those anticipated will be implemented to give Berekum the facelift that it deserves.