Facts About Ghana

Facts About Ghana

Ghana is a country in West Africa, along the Gulf of Guinea, just a few degrees north of the equator.

Ghana, which lies in the center of the West African coast, shares 2,093 km of land borders with the three French-speaking nations of Burkina Faso (548 km) to the north, Côte d’Ivoire (668 km) to the west, and Togo (877 km) to the east. To the south are the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean.

With a total area of 238,533 square kilometers, Ghana is about the size of the United Kingdom, or slightly smaller than Oregon. Its southernmost coast at Cape Three Points is 4° 30′ north of the equator. From here, the country extends inland for some 670 kilometers to about 11° north. The distance across the widest part, between longitude 1° 12′ east and longitude 3° 15′ west, measures about 560 kilometers. The Greenwich Meridian, which passes through London, also traverses the eastern part of Ghana at Tema.

Geographical Regions
Ghana is characterized in general by low physical relief. Indeed, the Precambrian rock system that underlies most of the nation has been worn down by erosion almost to a plain. The highest elevation in Ghana, Mount Afadjato in the Akwapim-Togo Ranges, rises only 880 meters above sea level.

There are, nonetheless, five distinct geographical regions. Low plains stretch across the southern part of the country. To their north lie three regions–the Ashanti Uplands, the Akwapim-Togo Ranges, and the Volta Basin. The fifth region, the high plains, occupies the northern and northwestern sector of the country (see fig. 4). Like most West African countries, Ghana has no natural harbors. Because strong surf pounds the shoreline, two artificial harbors were built at Takoradi and Tema (the latter completed in 1961) to accommodate Ghana’s shipping needs.

Low Plains
The low plains comprise the four subregions of the coastal savanna, the Volta Delta, the Accra Plains, and the Akan Lowlands. A narrow strip of grassy and scrubby coast runs from a point near Takoradi in the west to the Togo border in the east. This coastal savanna, only about eight kilometers in width at its western end, stretches eastward through the Accra Plains, where it widens to more than eighty kilometers, and terminates at the southeastern corner of the country at the lower end of the Akwapim-Togo Ranges.

Almost flat and featureless, the Accra Plains descend gradually to the gulf from a height of about 150 meters. The topography east of the city of Accra is marked by a succession of ridges and spoonshaped valleys. The hills and slopes in this area are the favored lands for cultivation. Shifting cultivation is the usual agricultural practice because of the swampy nature of the very lowlying areas during the rainy seasons and the periodic blocking of the rivers at the coast by sandbars that form lagoons. A plan to irrigate the Accra Plains was announced in 1984. Should this plan come to reality, much of the area could be opened to large-scale cultivation.

To the west of Accra, the low plains contain wider valleys and rounded low hills, with occasional rocky headlands. In general, however, the land is flat and covered with grass and scrub. Dense groves of coconut palms front the coastline. Several commercial centers, including Winneba, Saltpond, and Cape Coast, are located here. Although Winneba has a small livestock industry and palm tree cultivation is expanding in the area away from the coast, the predominant occupation of the coastal inhabitants is fishing by dug-out canoe.

The Volta Delta, which forms a distinct subregion of the low plains, extends into the Gulf of Guinea in the extreme southeast. The delta’s rock formation–consisting of thick layers of sandstone, some limestone, and silt deposits–is flat, featureless, and relatively young. As the delta grew outward over the centuries, sandbars developed across the mouths of the Volta and smaller rivers that empty into the gulf in the same area, forming numerous lagoons, some quite large, making road construction difficult. To avoid the lowest-lying areas, for example, the road between Accra and Keta makes an unusual detour inland just before reaching Ada and finally approaches Keta from the east along the narrow spit on which the town stands. This notwithstanding, road links with Keta continue to be a problem. By 1989 it was estimated that more than 3,000 houses in the town had been swallowed by flooding from the lagoon. In addition, about 1,500 other houses were destroyed by erosion caused by the powerful waves of the sea.

Ironically, it is this flat, silt-composed delta region with its abundance of water that supports shallot, corn, and cassava cultivation in the region. Moreover, the sandy soil of the delta gave rise to the copra industry. Salt-making, from the plentiful supply in the dried beds of the lagoons, provides additional employment. The main occupation of the delta people, however, continues to be fishing, an industry that supplies dried and salted fish to other parts of the country.

The largest part of the low plains is the Akan Lowlands. Some experts prefer to classify this region as a subdivision of the Ashanti Uplands because of the many characteristics they share. Unlike the uplands, however, the height of the Akan Lowlands is generally between sea level and 150 meters. Some ranges and hills rise to about 300 meters, but few exceed 600 meters. The lowlands that lie to the south of the Ashanti Uplands receive the many rivers that make their way to the sea.

The Akan Lowlands contain the basins of the Densu River, the Pra River, the Ankobra River, and the Tano River, all of which play important roles in the economy of Ghana. The Densu River Basin, location of the important urban centers of Koforidua and Nsawam in the eastern lowlands, has an undulating topography. Many of the hills here have craggy summits, which give a striking appearance to the landscape. The upper section of the Pra River Basin, to the west of the Densu, is relatively flat; the topography of its lower reaches, however, resembles that of the Densu Basin and is a rich cocoa and food-producing region. The valley of the Birim River, one of the main tributaries of the Pra, is the country’s most important diamond-producing area.

The Ankobra River Basin and the middle and lower basins of the Tano River to the west of the lowlands form the largest subdivision of the Akan Lowlands. Here annual rainfall between 1,500 and 2,150 millimeters helps assure a dense forest cover. In addition to timber, the area is rich in minerals. The Tarkwa goldfield, the diamond operations of the Bonsa Valley, and high-grade manganese deposits are all found in this area. The middle and lower Tano basins have been intensely explored for oil and natural gas since the mid-1980s. The lower basins of the Pra, Birim, Densu, and Ankobra rivers are also sites for palm tree cultivation.