Upper East is located in the north-eastern corner of the country between longitude 00 and 10 West and latitudes 100 30”N and 110N. It is bordered to the north by Burkina Faso, the east by the Republic of Togo, the west by Sissala in Upper West and the south by West Mamprusi in Northern Region (Figure 1). The land is relatively flat with a few hills to the East and southeast. The total land area is about 8,842 sq km, which translates into 2.7 per cent of the total land area of the country.
Soil and Drainage
The region’s soil is “upland soil” mainly developed from granite rocks. It is shallow and low in soil fertility, weak with low organic matter content, and predominantly coarse textured. Erosion is a problem. Valley areas have soils ranging from sandy candy loams to salty clays. They have higher natural fertility but are more difficult to till and are prone to seasonal waterlogging and floods. Drainage is mainly by the White and Red Volta and Sissili Rivers (Regional Coordinating Unit, 2003).
The natural vegetation is that of the savannah woodland characterised by short scattered drought-resistant trees and grass that gets burnt by bushfire or scorched by the sun during the long dry season. Human interference with ecology is significant, resulting in near semi-arid conditions. The most common economic fruit trees are the sheanut, dawadawa, boabab and acacia.
The climate is characterized by one rainy season from May/June to September/October. The mean annual rainfall during this period is between 800 mm and 1.100 mm. The rainfall is erratic spatially and in duration. There is a long spell of dry season from November to mid February, characterized by cold, dry and dusty harmattan winds. Temperatures during this period can be as low as 14 degrees centigrade at night, but can go to more than 35 degrees centigrade during the daytime.
Humidity is, however, very low making the daytime high temperature less uncomfortable. The region is entirely within the “Meningitis Belt” of Africa. It is also within the onchocerciasis zone, but with the control of the disease, large areas of previously abandoned farmlands have been declared suitable for settlement and farming.
Political And Administrative Structure
The region is administered politically from Bolgatanga. The main administrative structure at the regional level is the Regional Co-ordinating Council (RCC), headed by the Regional Minister.
Other members of the RCC include representatives from each district assembly, regional heads of decentralized ministries, and representatives of the Regional House of Chiefs. The region has 6 administrative districts, namely Builsa, Kassena-Nankana, Bongo, Bolgatanga, Bawku West and Bawku East.
Each district is administered by a Municipal/District Assembly headed by a Chief Executive nominated by the President and approved by a two-thirds majority of the Assembly Members present and voting. Two-thirds of the members of the Assembly are directly elected.
The other one-third is appointed by the Central Government. Members of Parliament are ex-officio members of the Assemblies of the districts in which their constituencies are located.
The districts are autonomous with regard to the planning, budgeting and implementation of projects. The Districts are further subdivided into Area/Town Councils/Unit Committees , Talensi-Nabdam (carved out of Bolgatanga) with its capital at Tongo and Garu-Tempane (carved out of Bawku East) with its capital at Garu Tempane.
With their own designated roles,there is also effective traditional leadership and vibrant Youth Development Associations to facilitate efficient and effective mobilization of local resources. Within the region there are currently twelve (12) political parliamentary constituencies. These are Builsa South, Navrongo Central, Chiana-Paga, Bongo, Bolgatanga, Sandema, Talensi, Nabdan, Zebilla, Binduri, Bawku Central and Garu-Tempane.
Post and Telecommunications
Postal services are available in large settlements (Bolgatanga, Bongo, Zebilla, Navrongo, Sandema and Bawku). Telecommunication linkages are also available at Bolgatanga, Navrongo, Sandema Bongo and Bawku. Linkages of district capitals are poor and in some cases not operational e.g. Bongo and Sandema. Private communications centres have sprung up, especially in Bolgatanga, Navrongo and Bawku. Teledensity (phones/per 100 populations is very low in the region (0.1) compared to the national density of 0.7).
The towns on the national grid in the region include Bolgatanga, Navrongo, Sandema, Bawku, Zebilla Chuchuliga, Chiana, Pwalugu, Tongo, Kongo, Garu, Bongo and Nangodi.
Fuel wood for cooking is scarce and the dried stem of sorghum and millet are mostly used for that purpose. The use of liquefied petroleum gas is being encouraged. There is a fuel depot at Bolgatanga for the storage of petroleum products.
About 51 per cent of the region’s population have access to potable drinking water. Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) supplies pipe-born water to Bolgatanga, Chuchuliga, Zebilla, Bawku, Sandema, Navrongo, Bongo and Paga.
Almost two thousand (1,627) hand pumps (boreholes) and a number of hand-dug wells serve a majority of the rural populations. While water treated for consumption in Bolgatanga is from the Vea Dam, the pipe-borne water systems in the other townships make use of mechanised boreholes. The dam is also used for irrigation and fish farming.
The orthodox health service in the region is organised in a four-tier system: regional, district, sub-district and community levels. The Regional Health Directorate is responsible for the overall health service planning, organisation, monitoring, supervision, evaluation and provision of technical support to districts. The Regional Hospital located at Bolgatanga is the second level referral centre in the region.
There are four district hospitals which provide first level referral services. These are Sandema, the War Memorial Hospital (Navrongo), Zebilla and Bawku Presbyterian Hospital. The Bongo Health Centre is in the process of being upgraded into a district hospital. There are 26 health centres and 36 clinics. There are also maternity homes and nine dressing centres. The region has three Midwifery Schools and one State Registered Nursing School. Navrongo also has a Health Research Centre.
Basic education facilities are available in almost all communities. There are 449 primary Schools, 177 JHS and 23 SHS. Private basic schools are found in Bolgatanga, Navrongo and Bawku.
The majority of the people live in huts built of mud and roofed with straw or zinc. The main features of the predominantly traditional architecture are round huts with flat roofs and small windows with poor ventilation.
Agriculture, hunting and forestry are the main economic activities in the region. About eighty per cent of the economically active population engages in agriculture. The main produce are millet, guinea-corn, maize, groundnut, beans, sorghum and dry season tomatoes and onions.
Livestock and poultry production are also important. There are two main irrigation projects, the Vea Project in Bolgatanga covering 850 hectares and the Tono Project in Navrongo covering 2,490 hectares. Altogether they provide employment to about 6,000 small-scale farmers. Other water-retaining structures (dams and dugouts) provide water for both domestic and agricultural purposes.
Industrial activity in the region is generally low, with only one industry in operation at the moment. This is the newly built cotton ginnery at Pusu-Namongo (near Bolgatanga). Other existing industries are the Tomato Canning Factory (GIHOC) at Pwalugu, the Meat Processing Factory (GIHOC) at Zuarungu and the Rice Mills at Bolgatanga.
These three factories are not operational and have been earmarked for divestiture. The two forms of extractive activities in the region are mining and quarrying. While the quarrying industry is being actively exploited the same cannot be said about the mining industry.
There are two commercial quarries in the region namely, the Upper Quarry Limited located at Pwalugu on the Bolgatanga-Tamale road and the Granites and Marbles Company Limited located in Tongo. The former produces granite chippings for the construction industry whilst the latter cuts rocks in the form of bricks for export. These are polished and used in the cladding of commercial buildings and monuments.
The gold mining industry is not very developed in the region. Gold was mined during the colonial administration around Nangodi, about 24 kms from Bolgatanga on the Bolgatanga- Bawku road.
Mining activities however stopped in 1930. Lately, small-scale gold mining, popularly known as “galamsey” (gather and sell) or “alakpiri” has become rampant in the area of Tongo, Sheaga, Duusi, Pelengu and other small villages. This gives an indication of the existence of mineral deposits in viable quantities.
It is also known that deposits of manganese exist in the areas between Nangodi and Duusi and to the North West of Pwalugu. Small-scale industries constitute the most important industries in the region. This is due to the simple technology involved, the availability of local inputs and linkages between them and other economic activities.
These crafts, varied as they are, include, pottery, basketry and smock weaving which is done at areas like Namoo, Zokko, Navrongo and Paga. Leatherworks are carried out at areas around Bolgatanga and the surrounding villages. Straw works are also concentrated around Bolgatanga. One distinct feature of these cottage industries is that they are basically labour intensive and rely mostly on traditional talent and skill.
The region is not left out when it comes to sites and scenes of tourist interest. They are numerous tourist attractions in the region, notable among which are the Paga Crocodile Pond, the Bolgatanga Museum which houses objects of historical importance of the region and the Kulungugu Bomb site, where an attempt was made on the life of Ghana’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
Others are the three point elevation at Pusiga, where the tip of the boundary demarcation between the three sister countries of Ghana, Burkina Faso and Togo converge, the Tongo hills and the Navrongo Cathedral with its eloquent constructional and decorational designs which portray the beauty in the art of the people.
The archaeological treasures of the River Sissili Basin, the Whistling and Drumming rocks at Pwalugu and Chiana, the Awologo-Tango at Bongo, wall decoration at Tilli, Kandiga, famous shrines and caves also constitute places of culture and tourist attractions.
Festivals such as the Feok, Samapiid, Azambene, Gologo, and Fowl are celebrated by the people of Builsa, Bawku East, Bongo, Bolgatanga-Tongo and Kassena-Nankana. These draw a lot of tourists to the region. Sandema in Builsa is famous as the site where Builsa warriors captured and killed the slave mauranders, Samori and Babatu, to mark the end of the slave trade in the northern part of Ghana.
Despite these potentials, the region lacks the necessary infrastructure and other services to support and market this industry. The region will require massive investment to develop this potential and to create jobs.
There is a great potential in the region for the large-scale production of rice especially in the now onchocerciasis (river blindness) free zone. Infact, this zone, which is around Fumbisi- Gbedembillisi area, is normally termed the “rice-bowl” of the region. This area has vast lands and suitable soil, which if properly exploited, would give high yield of rice.
The region also has a great potential in the area of cash crop production and fish farming. This is due to the existence of many irrigation sites in the region. In addition to the Vea and Tono irrigation dams, there are more than 220 dams and dugouts in the region, which have lands suitable for crops such as onion, tomatoes and pepper.
Livestock rearing is also a common agriculture activity among the people in the region. The region has about 18 per cent of the cattle and 9 per cent of the small ruminants in the country. There is an annual supply of 50,000 cattle, 40,000 sheep and 40,000 goats to the southern sector for consumption from the region.
Poultry is mostly local birds and domesticated guinea fowls. Most of these livestock are kept on an unimproved scavenging regime, although some supplementary feeding is done especially during the dry season. Potential investors therefore have a lot to gain since the region has a great potential for commercial livestock and poultry rearing.
In spite of the relatively developed nature of the mining and quarrying industry, the industry has potential for further development. Potential investors therefore stand to gain from the sector, considering the ‘ready-market’ available and the existence of large tracks of granite rock outcrops especially in Chiana and its environs.
This however has to be against the background of a feasibility study with the lifespan of the deposits and a comprehensive environmental impact assessment. It is also known that large deposits of manganese exist in areas between Nangodi and Duusi and to the north west of Pwalugu.
No exploitation of this mineral has been carried out yet. Investors could therefore take advantage of this. There is a large prospect in the region for investors wishing to go into brick and tile production because of the availability of large deposits of clay of various types. Areas with clay deposits include Gambibgo, Zanlerigu, Yikini and Kalbeo.
Burnt bricks produced from clay deposits can be used in the development of cheaper housing, which is in line with the government’s policy of developing the rural dweller using more local resources. Thus, this should be an incentive to potential investors.
As already indicated, small -scale industries constitute the most important industries in the region. An investment in this sector (especially in basketry, leather works and smock weaving) in the form of the injection of capital would help expand production to meet the growing demand for these crafts outside the country.
Markets abound for these crafts in countries such as Britain, Germany and the USA. Already, these constitute a large proportion of non-traditional exports.