The Chiana-Paga Constituency in the Upper East Region is home to the famous crocodile ponds which have put the region on the world tourism map.
It is estimated that about 1,000 crocodiles live in all three ponds in the constituency.
Tourists, including foreigners, visit the ponds to have a feel of the age-old reptiles, as well as get the opportunity to squat on them to take photographs.
Aside from the crocodile ponds, namely: the Chief Crocodile Pond, located off the Navrongo-Paga border road, the Zenga Pond and the Nania Pond, the constituency is endowed with other tourist sites.
They include the Pikworo Slave Camp, caves at Chiana, the sacred pythons at Kayoro-Wuru, the remains of some Catholic priests, the Pottery Art Centre at Sirigu and the Kukula Shrine at Koyoro.
Unfortunately, the tourist sites are highly underdeveloped and are an insignificant source of revenue for the assembly.
The assembly, in its quest to boost tourism in the constituency, is taking steps to develop tourist sites in the area to create jobs and increase its internally generated funds (IGFs).
For instance, the assembly is giving the Zenga Pond a facelift, with support from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, and it is currently constructing a car park, places of convenience and other facilities to attract tourists to the pond.
Also, at the slave camp, a ticketing place has been constructed, along with other facilities, to make the site more attractive to visitors.
The constituency is bordered to the north by Burkina Faso, to the south by the Kassena Nankana municipality, to the east by Bolgatanga municipality and to the west by the Sissala East District.
It also shares boundaries with the Bongo and the Builsa North municipalities and has 132 communities, with settlements mainly dispersed.
Although the constituency is known as Chiana-Paga, the assembly in the area, which was created in 2007, bears a different name: Kassena Nankana West, with Paga as its capital.
The mainly rural constituency has 68 assembly members and 11 functioning area councils, but, unfortunately, only Chiana and Mirigu area councils have permanent office accommodation.
While the constituency is represented in Parliament by Thomas Dalu on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the district assembly is under the leadership of Gerard Ataogye.
The 2021 Population and Housing Census put the population in the constituency at 90,735, with 18,539 people or 20.4 per cent living in urban areas. The male population is 43,909, representing 48.4 per cent, while the total number of females is 46,826, representing 51.6 per cent.
The constituency is a mixture of formal and informal workers, with agriculture as the dominant economic activity. The agricultural sector employs over 83.7 per cent of households, with crops grown being vegetables, cotton, Bambara beans, cowpea, among others.
Livestock reared in the district are cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, guinea fowls and donkeys. Trading and commercial activities in the constituency revolve around foodstuffs, including semi-processed ones and crafts industry.
Processing of foodstuffs which is a common feature of the local economy include shea butter extraction, pito brewing, dawadawa processing, rice milling, malt processing, among others.
Challenges, no tarred roads
Interestingly, apart from the Bolgatanga-Paga highway which passes through the district capital and linking Ghana to Burkina Faso, there is no single tarred road in the constituency, which has existed since 1992.
Deepening the woes of the thousands of residents who live in the constituency is the deplorable nature of the over 156.9-kilometre feeder road in the area which is a great source of worry to the local people.
Many residents who live in the remotest parts of the constituency, especially farmers and workers are compelled to endure the bumpy nature of the roads to get to their farms and workplaces on a daily basis.
Particularly, farmers during the bumper harvest seasons find it extremely very difficult to transport their farm produce to nearby market centres, particularly the Sirigu, Chiana, Paga, Kandiga and Kayoro markets.
As a result, farm produce are sometimes left to rot on the farms due to the inability of the farmers to transport them to market centres.
During a visit to the constituency by the Daily Graphic, it was observed that despite enjoying some level of development since the creation of the constituency and the assembly, particularly in the last four years, the area is still bedevilled with a number of developmental challenges.
Notable among them is the deplorable state of the Chuchuliga-Chiana, Katiu-Kayoro, Paga-Kayoro and Paga-Sirigu, Sirigu-Kandiga, among several other roads which had made free movement within the constituency very difficult.
Another issue of concern to the residents in the constituency is the breakdown of the steel bridge across the Gugura River which connects Navio and Tazika Bagtua to Paga as well as the concrete bridge linking Sirigu to Zorkor.
Whereas the steel bridge collapsed in 2022, the concrete bridge also broke down four years ago but both have still not been fixed which has affected residents in more than 20 communities who use that stretch of road to attend to their daily activities.
Residents of communities who have been cut off as a result of the collapse of these major bridges have been compelled to go through long winding routes to get to Navrongo, Paga and Bolgatanga on a daily basis.
Concerns of residents
A teacher, Alfred Choro, said since the Gugura bridge collapsed, it took him about an hour to go through a long route to get to school. He, therefore, appealed to the government to fix the bridge.
Another resident, Vivian Buturu, a nurse, called on the government to immediately reconstruct the broken bridge and improve the road network to ease transportation.
The Chief of Navio, Navio-Pio, Kwarase Asongojem Parejei II, said the collapse of the bridge has negatively impacted the lives and should be fixed immediately.
A resident of Tazika, Joseph Akwotaje, appealed for the reshaping of deplorable roads to enhance economic activities in the area.
The District Chief Executive (DCE), Mr Ataogye, in response to it said a team has visited to inspect the bridge and expressed hope that government fix it soon to bring relief to the people.
The constituency since its creation has been a stronghold of the opposition NDC as it has won seven out of the eight parliamentary elections including all the presidential elections since 1992. The NDC won 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2012, 2016 and 2020 elections.
However, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) managed to win the seat in 2008 for the first time. Alowe Leo Kabah polled 8,323 for the NPP to beat his closest contender Abuga Pele of the NDC who had 7,380 votes.
Clearly, the voters in the constituency have unwavering loyalty to the NDC and that the NPP need to do more to be able to win the hearts of their hearts to their side.
In spite of the myriad of challenges facing the constituency, the area has benefitted from a number of development projects which are dotted across the district.
About 48 boreholes some of which are solar powered have been constructed for some communities to improve access to potable water supply. Some of the communities are Kalvio-Guroro, Nakong-Saboro, Asaawirigu, Zenga, Mamprusi line, Biba, Babile, among others.
Additionally, the district assembly has installed 3,000 litre capacity poly tanks in four major markets, namely Paga, Chiana, Sirigu and Kandiga. Also, a number of Community Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds have been constructed with existing ones rehabilitated to improve health care delivery.
Furthermore, some classroom blocks have been constructed for communities such as Yidania, Saboro, Kansaa, Mirigu, Paga, Zenga, Nabio, Tazika-Bagtua, Sirigu, Boania, among several others to improve education as well as the construction of a new district assembly complex.
The constituency is a beneficiary of the government’s Agenda 111 hospital project which is currently at an advanced stage and expected to be completed in 2024.
The project, when completed would ease the pressure on the Paga hospital which serves thousands of residents including nationals of Burkina Faso who live in some of the border communities.
In March 2022, the Transport Minister, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, inaugurated a new truck park in Paga which was reconstructed due to its deplorable state
The GH₵18million project has facilities such as fire hydrants, light mast base and cable ducts, sanitation facilities and others for the convenient use of transit truck drivers from Burkina Faso and Ghana.
The constituency has a total of 184 basic schools, made up of 65 pre-schools, 65 primary and 54 Junior High Schools. It has six Senior High Schools.
Unfortunately, many of the basic schools are in poor state with other challenges being inadequate accommodation for teachers, furniture and classrooms, among others.
One of the poor schools, Atiyorum Primary School in Kandiga was recently provided with a six-unit classroom block with ancillary facilities after the Daily Graphic highlighted the dilapidated nature of the school block in the community which posed danger to the pupils.
When contacted, the DCE, Mr Ataogye, told the Daily Graphic that despite the numerous challenges, the government had done a lot in all sectors of the local economy to better the lives of the people in the district.
“I can confidently say that government has made significant strides in education, water and sanitation, social protection, among others, in the district with the ultimate aim of improving the living conditions of the residents,” he noted.
He said “government is not overwhelmed with the problems in the district and that the needed interventions will be put in place to address some of them to bring relief to residents of the area”.
The DCE noted that since the district was very wide, there was the need to open up the communities through the construction of many roads, saying “unfortunately, the challenge is that all the existing roads become inaccessible during the rainy season since they are not tarred”.
He explained further that if the major roads in the district were constructed it would not only boost agricultural activities, but it would also link many communities together to enhance trade and other commercial activities.
The Member of Parliament (MP), Mr Dalu, said when he was the DCE for the area before becoming an MP, he realised that women were more vulnerable so he decided to support them to reduce the level of poverty among them in the constituency.
He said “as a result, I have given GH¢6,000 each as financial support to six women groups totalling GH¢36,000 to enable them to engage in income generating activity to transform their lives”.
He noted that he was in the process of supporting widows with funds received from the Social Investment Fund (SIF) after they had formed groups to set up productive ventures to improve their lives.