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Profile of an M&E Officer

Every day at CALID I learn something new. Even after four months I am constantly learning new things about Ghana, its history, its people, and the social and economic challenges that CALID is working to change. I learn these things through my work and from my friends and co-workers here in the office, like Alhassan.

Shani Alhassan is one of the dedicated and hard working staff of CALID. We spend a lot of time together because we share an office. As such, he is often my first resource if I have any questions. He often teaches me about Dagomba traditions and history, Ghanaian politics, and development issues that affect the northern regions.
Alhassan was born and raised right here in Tamale, however his family is originally from a village called Sunsong in the Yendi district. His father’s uncle is the chief of Sunsong, where his aunties and uncles still live. Even now, he and his sibling return home every year to help with the harvest. Although Alhassan’s father moved to Tamale, his family still keeps strong ties with their home. He comes from a polygamous family, which is quite common in the north. Alhassan’s father has 3 wives and 13 children. Although he is his father’s third son, he is the eldest of 4 on his mother’s side.

Alhassan always knew he would work in development. He studied Integrated Development Studies at the University of Development Studies (UDS) right here in Tamale. Growing up he went to a public school with a leaky roof, but was fortunate that his father could pay for home tutoring. He saw how he and his siblings advanced beyond the other students, and understood that not all of his classmates were as privileged as he was to get a quality education.  He grew up in a society where a large proportion of the population is marginalized; he noticed that poor children couldn’t afford school, or people got sick because they didn’t have access to potable water.  Alhassan knew that one day he would work to end these inequalities.


In his university studies, Alhassan specialized in Environment and Resource Management, looking at subjects like biodiversity, conservation of forests and water, protecting species, and climate change. He is especially passionate about the relationship between environment, resource management and human development. These are important issues in Northern Ghana where desertification is catching up fast and is detrimental to people’s livelihoods. Northern Ghana is considered the breadbasket of the country. It is heavily reliant on agriculture, and most of the country's staple foods, yams, maize, millet, and so on, are cultivated here.  Environmental degradation therefore threatens the economy and the livelihoods of much of the population. It is the poorest, most vulnerable groups who are most affected by these issues. Extractive industries are also a problem in Ghana. They can be a cause of tension when foreign companies make profits without benefiting local communities. In his spare time, Alhassan works as a research assistant with Venceremos Development Consults, a Research, Development and M&E consultant group, on a project working with mining communities that have been affected by competition with foreign mining companies.

Although we do not deal directly with these issues, Alhassan likes working here because of CALID’s focus on education.  He believes that many social, economic, and environmental issues the Northern Region faces could be solved with the creation of a more educated population. CALID also has strong programs for youth and encouraging participation in governance. CALID is working with youth and with wider communities to create a strong voice for change at the local government level.

As the M&E Officer, Alhassan gets to be involved in all of CALID’s education and governance projects. He says that working here has been an eye opening experience. Through CALID’s projects he has seen how communities and marginalized groups are empowered with information, and with the right knowledge, are able to advocate for their rights.

In the future Alhassan will continue to work in development, and on issues that he is passionate about. He hopes one day to be in a position to shape policies that will benefit the most marginalized groups.

Travis Jacox is working as a Resource Mobilization and Management Specialist with Centre for Active Learning and Integrated Development (CALID) in Tamale, Ghana.


Doug bikes to tennis

Hello! I'm Doug and welcome to Tamale, Northern Ghana! Follow me as I bike to the local tennis courts. Enjoy the sights, songs and near crashes as I make my way through town...


More information you say?

Okay. Fine.

I am taking part in the International Youth Internship Program (IYIP), an initiative established by Global Affairs Canada to provide Canadian Youth the opportunity to gain professional experience through international development work. My internship is coordinated by the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation (ACIC) and you can find me working at an NGO called NORSAAC. NORSAAC focuses on empowering women and youth via a variety of programs throughout Ghana’s Northern Region.

For more information about ACIC please visit their website: www.acic-caci.org

For more information about NORSAAC please visit their website: www.norsaac.org


Cookin’ up something sabroso with Mama Nina

Every Wednesday since my arrival in Bolivia I have had lunch at Doña Severina’s home. Doña Severina is a wonderfully kind woman that hails from Valle Grande, a small city bordering the department of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. She left her home a the young age of fourteen when her father died, finding work in the booming city of Santa Cruz to help support her mother and younger siblings.  For nearly four decades now she has made Yapacaní her home. Here in Yapacaní’s local “2 de Febrero” Market, she has been the proud businesswoman and cook of her booth #3.

Only with a ridiculous amount of luck can one find an empty stool at Doña Severina’s booth. Better known as Doña Seve to her acquaintances and friends, knowledge of her incredible abilities in the kitchen is widespread throughout town. Doña Seve has been gracing “2 de Febrero” Food Market’s locals and passersbys with her delicious traditional Bolivian cooking for the past ten years. Her most famous dishes are Majadito, Pique Macho and my personal favorite, Sopa de Maní.

Although Bolivia is not as well known internationally for its cuisine as some of its neighboring countries, it by no means lacks a unique and delightful flavor in many of its popular dishes especially when it comes to Sopa de Maní.

Sopa de Maní translated means Peanut Soup and the region of Cochabamba proudly claims to be its birthplace. Sopa de Maní is a favorite soup of many Bolivians with its earthy flavor of ground peanuts, and one I have come to crave more often; then I probably should admit to, it’s a must have when visiting Bolivia.

While visiting Doña Seve at her booth in the market you will no doubt hear her saying “Una buena sopa es la solución para todos los problemas,” a good soup is the solution for all of your problems. If you feel unwell, or wish to grow tall and big, or lose some weight, or even become more intelligent, you will be told without a doubt by Doña Seve to have some soup! She tells me that the only time one is not to enjoy Sopa de Mani is when one has an upset stomach, and that is what Caldo de Pollo (chicken soup) is for. 

In her home, Doña Severina is just known as Mama Nina to her adult children and grandchildren.  I feel honored to count myself amongst the lucky few who get’s to call Doña Severina, Mama Nina. Over a bowl of incredibly hot Sopa de Maní I asked the question that had been bothering me since my arrival, why is it that on sweltering summer days such as today Bolivians eat ridiculously hot soup?

Mama Nina looks at me laughing and says “Comiendo comida fría no da el gusto. Cuando se come frio no estas amando ni la comida ni a ti mismo, debes amar lo que metas a tu cuerpo,” eating cold food isn’t appetizing and eating cold food shows your lack of love for your food and yourself, you most love what you put in your body.

It’s hard to argue Mama Nina’s point, so I continued eating my deliciously hot soup. 

Mama Nina informs me that I’m not the only one at the table with a love for Sopa de Maní and shares an anecdote of Josemaría, her twelve-year-old grandson, much to his embarrassment. “Cuando Josemaría estaba en el kínder de las Oblatas, yo le recogía después de el almuerzo y todos los días mi nieto me preguntaba si había hecho Sopa de Maní ese día, a lo cual yo contestaba que si. Y luego me preguntaba si había sobrado algo de sopa, y con las manos estrechas Josemaría me señalaba la cantidad que quería y luego se acercaba sus manos poco a poco y decía aunque así de poquito quiero, hasta que terminaba con las manos casi pegadas que ni para una cucharada podría alcanzar.”When Josemaría was in Kindergarten, I would pick him up after school and bring him home after my lunch rush, every day on the walk home my grandson would ask if I had made Sopa de Maní. To which I would say yes my dear. He would then ask if there was any left for him. Josemaría would gesture with his hands widely spread how much soup he wanted, and then he’d move his hands closer and closer together until his hands were so close that it wouldn’t be enough for a spoonful of soup. Imploring even if there’s only a little little bit grandma.

I firmly believe that there are more Sopa de Maní lovers out there in the world who like Josemaría and I will be wishing for seconds! For this reason, Mama Nina and I have decided to share this delectable dish with you all.  The Instructions below will lead you to create this appetizing Sopa de Maní Mama Nina style.  Happy cooking!

Required Ingredients:

3/4 lb Beef short ribs

2 Carrots

4 Cloves of garlic

1  Large onion

3 Branches of Celery

1 Green pepper

A handful of fresh Parsley and/or cilantro

1 Cup of Unsalted Peanuts

1/2 Cup of Peas either fresh or frozen

4  Medium sized potatoes

1/2 Cup of small shaped pasta such as pipettes, elbows, and orzo work best (you may substitute the pasta for rice).

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp Vegetable oil

6 Cups Beef Stock or water

** Sopa de maní is most often made with beef, but you can easily use chicken or only use all vegetables for a delicious and nutritious vegetarian meal.

                         Serves: 4-6 people                                         Total cook time: 2 hours


1.    Leave the peanuts soaking in a bit of water overnight, making them easier to peel and blend.  Or if you are in a rush for deliciousness you can do a quick soak leaving the peanuts sitting in hot water for five minutes before peeling.

2.    In a large pot add 4 L of water, your meat with bone, a bit of salt and pepper. On high heat.

3.    Finely mince the garlic and onions. Peel the carrots and cut them into small dices along with the celery and green pepper.

4.    In a frying pan with a bit of vegetable oil over medium heat sauté garlic, onion, carrots, green pepper, celery and sauté well for 3-5 minutes.

5.    Throw the peanuts in a blender or food processor and add 1 cup of water to them. Process peanuts until you have a thick, relatively smooth paste, adding more water if necessary. Add the peanut paste to the soup and stir well. Lowering the heat of the stove. Simmer soup for an hour or so, covered. Make sure you respect the time otherwise Mama Nina says you’ll spend most of your day in the bathroom instead of the table due to an upset stomach.

6.    You may use the same frying pan used for the vegetable, to sauté the pasta in a tbsp. or two of vegetable oil over medium heat until golden (roughly 8 minutes).

7.    Peel the potatoes, reserving 1 for later use. Cut the rest into small wedges and add them to the soup. Add some water or more stock to the soup if needed. Cover and simmer until potatoes are well cooked.

8.    Add the pasta and simmer for 10 minutes more.

9.    Taste soup for seasoning. Insert the peas, and simmer, turn down to low heat.

Optional but highly recommended:

10.    Cut the remaining potato into matchsticks. That’s right, this soup has fries in it. Heat a 1/2 inch of oil in a small pan and cook the potato sticks until golden brown. Remove, drain on paper towels, and season with salt.

11.    Serve soup in bowls garnished with the matchstick fries and chopped parsley or cilantro. I would recommend the cilantro over parsley any day!

Sit back and enjoy your little taste of Bolivia. Buen provecho amigos!

Carolina Malloy is working as a Community Facilitator with Sociedad Salesiana in Bolivia.


Navigating a strange healthcare system and the importance of self-care

I was struggling to think of a topic for this blog post. Part of the reason is that I came down with the flu over the holidays and that flu turned into bronchitis. It hit me so hard that I ended up in the hospital for a few days, and I haven’t been able to do much more than lie down and sleep since Boxing Day.

Navigating an unfamiliar hospital system is something that strikes fear into my heart. Talk about terrifying. Until recently, I’d never been to a private hospital. I learned that it’s really difficult to think about payment when you’re that sick, but they wanted payment up front since I don’t have local insurance. Luckily, everything worked out and I got the care I needed. Many thanks to the staff of Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. They got my back on my feet and time will take care of the rest.

Which brings me to the real topic of this blog post: self-care and knowing when to rest. Self-care means different things in different contexts, but in this case I mean making time to rest, recover and take care of yourself so that you can get or stay happy and healthy and put in your best effort. This has always been very difficult for me, especially over the past couple of weeks, partly because I have been eager to make the most of my time here in Cape Town, and partly because I know I’m better mentally and physically when I’m active and out of the house every day. Finding a balance between rest and activity that will let me recover has been challenging, especially since this is the first time I’ve been this sick while away from home and my usual support networks.

Learning to rest when I need to isn’t a skill that I managed to develop in the Canadian context, but it’s an important one, and one I think I’m glad to have been forced to learn, even if the situation is far from ideal.

Taryn Husband is working as an Intern in sexual and gender-based violence and criminal justice with Gender, Health and Justice Research UnitUniversity of Cape Town in South Africa.


Young female parlimentarians

Women empowerment initiatives are a major focus of NORSAAC and represent a key advocacy area for organizations in Ghana’s Northern Region. Aimed at promoting confidence and capacity building, the Young Female Parliamentarian (YFP) program helps young girls to participate in decision making roles and foster leadership skills. In collaboration with the Ghana Education Service, this platform gives young girls a voice within a broader system. I asked my colleague Nancy and two former YFP (Younf female parlimentarians) members to explain the program, and shed light on the impact it has had on promoting the inclusion of young women in leadership roles in Northern Ghana.

Yeri Nancy, Project Officer under the Gender and Governance unit at NORSAAC, explains the YFP program and its importance with former members Issah Bintu and Adam Mariam.


What is your involvement with the YFP program? https://youtu.be/RgemkWPJVTY

What does it mean to be a YFP member? https://youtu.be/H2YGr_VyPcg

Have you used your experience as a YFP to benefit your community? https://youtu.be/yCfMMMUHzpk

How has being a YFP member impacted your life? https://youtu.be/Ae6vYE4vseg

How does the YFP program contribute to female empowerment initiatives in Northern Ghana? https://youtu.be/hs38MAQmjbQ

More information on NORSAAC and the YFP program: http://www.norsaac.org/gender-and-governance/young-female-parlimentarians/

Natasha Mooney is working as a Resource Mobilization and Management Specialist with Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre (NORSAAC) in Tamale, Ghana.