The Upper East Region is located in northern Ghana and is one of the 16 administrative regions in Ghana, occupying a total land surface of 8,842 square kilometers or 2.7 per cent of the total land area of Ghana. The Upper East regional capital is Bolgatanga, sometimes referred to as Bolga. Other major towns in the region include Navrongo, Paga,Zaebilla,Garu Tempani,Pusiga, Binduri,Fumbisi, Tongo, Bongo, Nangodi Bawku and Zebilla.
Location and size
The Upper East region is located in the north-eastern corner of Ghana and bordered by Burkina Faso to the north and Togo to the east. It lies between longitude 0° and 1° west, and latitudes 10° 30′N and 11°N. The region shares boundaries with Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, Upper West Region to the west, and the Northern Region to the south. The Upper East region is divided into 11 districts and 4-Municipal assembles each headed by a district/municipal chief executive.
The population is primarily rural (79%) and scattered in dispersed settlements. The rural population was 87.1 percent in 1984, 84.3% in 2000 and 76.0% in 2021.
With only 50.4% of the population living in urban areas, and 17.4% living in the rural areas. The 2021 population census put the population of the Region at 1,301,226.
Typography, Climate and Vegetation
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 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. Large areas of previously abandoned farmlands have been declared suitable for settlement and farming.
The natural vegetation is that of the savannah woodland characterized 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 trees are the sheanut, dawadawa, boabab and acacia.
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 water logging and floods. Drainage is mainly by the White and Red Volta and Sissili Rivers (Regional Coordinating Unit, 2003).
Political and Administrative Structure
The region is administered politically from Bolgatanga. The main administrative structure at the regional level is the Regional Co-coordinating 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.
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.
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.
The region’s economy is based on agriculture, primarily cattle and cereals like millet, sorghum and rice. The region is also known for its handicrafts and a locally brewed beer known as Pito. The market at Bolga has a long history. The ancient trans-Saharan trade routes from Mali, which passed through Burkina Faso, was joined in Bolga by a second route, from northern Nigeria through Bawku, and continues down to Tamale and southern Ghana. At the Bolga market, visitors can buy straw hats, baskets, leather goods, metal goods, and traditional clothing.
Culture of the region is projected through the medium of arts, music and dance whilst Title of chiefs differ from one traditional area to the other.
Official language of the region is English. There are more than 8 languages and major dialects, including Gurunie (frafra), Nankani, kassem, Taleni, Nadam, Kusal, Buili and Bisah. The major ethnic groups in the region are;
- Gurusi (frafra)-Bolgatanga
- Kassena- Nankani- Navrongo/Paga, Mirigu, Sirigu
- Kusasi/Bisah-Bawku, Zebilla, Garu, Pusiga
- Talensi- Tongo
- Builisa-Sandema, Fumbis
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.
Safety and Security
There are police stations in all the districts and municipals capitals that provide security and safety however, visibility police can be seen at some vantage places to protect the people. That apart police patrols have been provided on highways in the region. We have fire service departments in all the 13 district capitals and two remand prisons in Bawku and Navrongo.
Tne Gologo or Golib festival is celebrated by the Talensis who reside at Tenzug. The period of celebration is March/April every year. The significance of the festival is to appeal to the gods for good rains and successful farming seasons.
It is celebrated by the Kusasis in the Bawku Traditional Area in November and December every year. Its significance is to give thanks to the gods for good harvest. There are hosts of sacrifices followed by merry-making to climax it.
This is the annual festival of the people of Sandema in the Builsa Traditional area. It is held in December. It is celebrated through the display of war dance by various communities. There is also a durbar of the chiefs and people to climax it.
Adaakoya is celebrated at Bolgatanga and Zuarungu by the Gurunsis. It is held between January and February every year. The festival serves to give thanks to the gods for good harvest. The mode of celebration is through various sacrifices followed by drumming and dancing. The climax is a durbar of the chiefs and people.
This is the festival of the people of Zaare who are predominantly blacksmiths. The Festival symbolizes the “Kuure” which is the Gurune word for hoe. The hoe is their main tool for farming and for that matter, livelihood. It is usually held in January/February every year. It is characterized by various sacrifices and later followed by drumming and dancing.
As a thanksgiving offering, the Tengana Festival is held at Balungu, Winkongo and Pwalugu, all in the Tongo Traditional Area. It is one of the festivals for the Telensis. It is climaxed by traditional music and dancing amidst general merry-making.
The Damba festival is celebrated by the Mamprusis. The main venue of the celebration is Bawku and neighbouring towns. It is celebrated between July and August. The Significance of Damba festival is to mark the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.
Boaram is the festival for the Talensis in the Bongo Tradition Area. It is held between October and November every year. Its significance is to give thanks to the gods for a good season and lots of sacrifices are made to the gods.
It is a harvest and thanksgiving festival celebrated by the Kusasi in the Bawku East and Bawku West District. It is mostly celebrated in December.