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Graphic Online 

Business booms for Kpatinga ‘witches’

BY: Seth J. Bokpe
Business booms for Kpatinga ‘witches’
FILE PHOTO: Alleged witches gather in Kukuo village, Northern Ghana (Jane Hahn/ActionAid).

Contrary to the popular belief that alleged witches in camps in the Northern Region are ostracised and mistreated, the people of Kpatinga in the Gushiegu District appears to have redefined that relationship as they buy farm produce from the alleged witches and engaged them on their farms as labourers.

The alleged witches trade farm produce including soyabeans, groundnuts, tomatoes and pepper in the Kpatinga Market.

While maize is among the staples of the Northern Region, the women could not cultivate it because it would become fodder for domestic animals including cattle, goats and sheep.

Such is the relationship that the residents of Kpatinga easily walk into the camp to buy vegetables and other farm produce that they need with no fear of the alleged witchcraft that condemned the women to the camp.

To supplement their income, some of the women rear fowls.

While their farms may be small and not mechanised, these women give it their all because some of them have little or no support from their family members.


“We have farms that sustain us but we work as labourers. We also go to work for other farmers outside the camp so that when they harvest their produce, they also give us some” Memunatu Yawaz said wiping sweat forming on her forehead.

She cultivates soyabeans, a legume that she said was highly patronised by the townsfolks and people from Gushiegu, the district capital of the Gushiegu Municipality in the Northern Region.

“When we harvest, people from the Kpatinga and Gushiegu towns come and buy. They buy from us at the same prices as they buy from the market. Our produce is not considered inferior.

“In the markets, they do not discriminate against us, we are seen as normal people,” Madam Yawa, who has been in the camp for four years and accused of killing a child, said.

An allegation she vehemently denied.

Cleansed

While some community members still view the residents of the camp with suspicion, others who patronise their produce and services said their decision included the fact that the women had been cleansed and they were hardworking and honest.

“Once you are sent to the camp, we believe that the rituals and the sacrifices performed has cleansed the person. There is no need stigmatising them anymore. We have a cordial relationship with them,” Mr Rashid Zakari, an indigene of the town, said.

That aside, he said there had been some campaigns in the community to stop the stigmatisation of alleged witches.

Hunger

But while the strong among them farm, the frail and weak ones have become dependent on their stronger compatriots who till the land or have caring family members.

With the Northern Region having only one farming season, during the long dry spells, Madam Mariama Miendo, an elder who could not remember her age, said the entire camp was vulnerable to hunger.

“When my children don’t bring me food. I depend on some of my colleagues here. But when they also run out of food from their farms or what they get from their labour, we suffer. There is hunger here,” she said closing her eyes.

The old lady with a swollen knee said life was not rosy at the camp and appealed for support to make life a little comfortable for them.

World Vision support

The community’s housing and water was provided by a Christian non-governmental organisation, World Vision. Ms Rita Atiim Akaisung, the NGO’s Integrated Development Facilitator for the Karaga Area Programme, said the intervention was necessary.

“Kpatinga is one of our registered children communities and because we want people from the community to have life in all its fullness, we provided a borehole which serves as a source of water for women in the camp,” she explained.

“The houses in the camp were built by World Vision. Every woman has a house to herself but now that their numbers are increasing, they would need more buildings.

“We would encourage our partners, especially the district assembly to put up more structures to meet the housing needs of the women,” she said.

The Municipal Chief Executive of Gushiegu, Mr Issah Musah, acknowledged the challenges of the camp and said the assembly occasionally sent donations to the camp to support.