I spent Thursday driving across Ghana with a Reverend to a town called Ho. Steve ran an NGO before my dad discovered that he was a beekeeper back in his native Australia for 30 years.
My dad started a honey project with Steve by building the bee hives in his factory. Steve began by taking the hives up north, a 7-hour drive from Accra, and planting them around the open forests. Within two weeks, they were in business. Soon Steve setup a local organisation to train bee keepers and only two years later, they have a cooperative with over 1,500 individuals that run small honey producing businesses.
In November 2012, my dad was approached by a government official that represents the national rain forests in Ghana (my dad works in plantation timber). They were interested in promoting pollination and what better way to do this than with bees.
So, Steve and I drove for 5 hours to Ho. With ten empty beehives at the back of the van and an appointment with the local representative of the Wildlife Division of Forestry. After our brief meeting and being escorted into the forest, we spent a good 3 hours working under the African sun. We were stung by insects, scratched by thorns and our wounds burnt from the pouring sweat that constantly dripped down our bodies. The hives were laid out and it was time to return to Accra, we got up at 4am that morning and it was now 2pm.
About 30km into our ride, our van broke down. With a village in sight ahead, we pushed along for a while struggling with the possibility of it overheating and switching off for good. Luckily it didn’t and there I was with Steve, about an hour later, with a “fitta”*.
Our fan belt had gone so we all pitched in to replace it with the spare we found in the boot. Steve and the mechanic hung below the van which was now jacked up, and I fed the belt through the bonnet. It took us an embarrassingly long amount of time to figure out that the belt was not the right size. On top of our bites, wounds and sweat, we were now covered in grease. Time to give up.
I wish I could say this story ends in an awesome adventure but I chickened out and called for backup, within a few hours we would be rescued by a large air-conditioned car on its way from Accra. Steve and I looked at each other, we hadn’t eaten anything all day so we went into the village in search of food.
There was nothing. It was late and everything was either shut or had run out for the day. So we did the only thing we could, we got drunk and talked.
Steve met his wife whilst working in a hotel where missionaries proselytised and converted him, much to the scepticism of his family. He embraced his faith which took him across the globe to live in Japan, Korea, Siberia and Liberia, all along forging new careers and raising small funds to support his family and take him on a new adventure. He was now in Ghana with eleven kids and little source of income (his only asset just broke down).
“I don’t have any regrets”.
Steve is very proud about what he has accomplished in his life and, at the age of 50, has decided to pursue a new path altogether. He wasn’t sure if it was going to work out but he had faith. Faith and the knowledge he had done it several times before.
Our car had arrived and by sundown I was back home with my family. Within a few days, Steve was reunited with his car and on the road again.
*Ghanaian slang for Mechanic.