Friday, July 13, 2007

Africa Shoot: Ghana Part 1

One hour into our first flight, and nine more hours to go before reaching London. In all it would take us 17 hours of flying time to reach Ghana, our first shooting leg in our trip to Africa.

On our first day in Accra, Ghana's capital, we scouted a local fish market near the town of Jamestown. The market is one of the biggest in the area and sold lots of fresh and dried fish. People were very reluctant to have their pictures taken here. Even taking pictures of the food was off limits.

We did manage, with guarded permission, to get this picture of dried fish from the market. Fish is a major source of animal protein for people living on the coast, which should come as no surprise. But what is surprising is that fish is a primary source of animal protein for people living thousands of miles from the coast in the desert regions of the Sahel -- and in some desert communities it is THE primary source of animal protein.

Moses Sam is a biologist working for the Ghana Wildlife Division. Moses is interested in large terrestrial animals, such as elephants, and the pressures that they're under do to fishing. Moses helps lead the effort of surveying and tracking Ghana's terrestrial wildlife, and he was part of the team that documented a sharp decline in land animals, linked to lack of fish. As fish is less available, people turn to "bush meat," as a source of protein.

The harbor at Jamestown in Accra, just down the hill from the market, is a major launching site for the Ghana fishing fleet, which consists largely of heavy wooden boats that are made by hand. We hope to shoot the return of the fleet on Wednesday morning and we are in negotiations with the local fishing chief for permission to do so. The harbor is extremely colorful and very crowded with ships, people, small homes and small shops. We've been told that this location can also be a little dangerous, but all of the people that we met were happy to see us and talk about their lives.

The fleet fishes everyday except Tuesday, which according to local custom is a day of rest for the fishers (and the fish.) Here fishers prepare for departure Tuesday night, when they will head for the waters around two in the morning.

A boat under construction at the Jamestown harbor. The wood is very light weight and called Wa Wa. It comes from the interior on trucks is guided down a very precarious road to the coast.
James Amarfey Qudye has been fishing here for more than 30 years. He was delighted to speak with us on our visit. He told us that at times from Jamestown he can look out across the waters to see the trawlers from the EU that sneak into Ghana's waters from neighboring countries where they are fishing legally to illegally fish in Ghana. Illegal fishing is a big problem for Ghana -- and in fact the world. The FAO has estimated that as much as 25% of the world's fish catch is landed and sold by illegal fishers.

During the scout, our assistant camera, Chad Djubek, and our Director of Photography, Mark Knobil, were enlisted to help bring in one of the smaller boats. (Both Chad and Mark are from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In fact 4 out 5 of our crew our from Pittsburgh, which caused the Ghana government concern, having so many Steeler fans in their country.)

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