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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Columnist: Donkor, Felix Kwabena

Savoring Rural Life

Several definitions abound for the rural area but in general it denotes geographic region that is not found within the boundaries of cities and towns. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines the word "rural" as encompassing "...all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area. Whatever is not urban is considered rural.

The rural area across the globe from Africa to Asia; Americas to Australia and Europe share some common characteristics. They have less population densities thus not crowded; lots of greenery; pregnant with farming activities, less polluted;...nature abounds.Though rural urban migration is a challenge in many parts of Africa, about 70% of the population still resides in the rural setting.
After national service when I was still not fully engaged in work and not sure of what to do with myself. Probably my mid-life crisis visited me earlier than invited! I wanted to a more calm and quiet place away from home. Thus I sought succour in the arms of rural life in Northern Ghana.
I was part of a joint programme between the University of Ghana and the Trent University of Canada on Community Development (Trent In Ghana). I interned with CARE-Ghana, Tamale sub-office and worked with its partner community based NGO’s namely Partners in Rural Empowerment and Development (PARED in Nalerigu) and the Presbyterian Agric Station in Langbinsi (PAS-L).
Though agriculture is the mainstay of the rural economy, the impact of climate change and poor farming practices have led to the situation where farmers farm for only half of the year in Northern Ghana. This coupled with population growth has aggravated the livelihood of these rural communities.The Conservation Agriculture project under the auspices of CARE-Ghana sought to reverse this trend. Conservation agriculture (CA) refers to a set of practices/procedures that ensure higher agricultural productivity and profitability whilst improving soil health and the environment. Volunteering on this project was a fulfilling and enriching experience seeing smiles on the faces of the farmers. I also had the chance to accompany some farmers to the Centre Pour l’Agriculture Ecologique Albers Schweizer in Burkina Faso to do translations from French to English as we learnt from lessons from the success story of Burkina in year round agriculture. Rural life can be full of surprises.
The rural setting was a sharp contrast to the busy rat race life of Accra. My limited budget was not disturbed at all as things were cheaper. The relatively more communal life was remarkable. Oh not to mention that the long traffic jams were no where to be found, nor the smoke unhealthy fumes from the teeming vehicles. Moreover nature was more relatively abundant. These are all ingredients for good health and well being. The roads were not tarred so dust pollution was rampant ,and several amenities were lacking. So I had to brace myself for an alternative lifestyle!
Under the caption A rural life is better: Living in a concrete jungle is stressful and make you vulnerable to depression David Derbyshire (2011) notes that, Dr Jens Pruessner of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Quebec, remarks ‘findings have shown that the risk for anxiety disorders is 21 per cent higher for people from the city, who also have a 39 per cent increase for mood disorders.In addition, the incidence of schizophrenia is almost doubled for individuals born and brought up in cities. These values are a cause for concern.’
Similarly,a University of Heidleberg study in Germany demonstrates the part of the brain named the amygdala – which deals with mood and emotion – is more stressed among volunteers raised in cities. However other factors such as pollution, toxins, crowding or noise are seen as possible contributing factors
Numerous findings have indicated that exposure to green space decreases stress, enhance health and makes us less prone to depression. Scientists from the Essex University scientists confirm that as little as five minutes in a green space cuts stress. Those living in the countryside are also less prone to have heart disease or strokes.
Tired and bored of the hustle and bustle of city life? Come, lets go to RuralVille!

A Taste of Rural life

Felix Kwabena Donkor, Aalborg University.