Franz Kröger




The Human Development Report 2004. Builsa District


The publication of this report on an internet site accessible to the public is most welcome.

In August 2004 the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) conducted a household survey in the Bu(i)lsa District, which, together with secondary sources (e.g. the Ghana 2000 Population Census) formed the basis for the data in this report. Since 1997 “Ghana has produced national human development reports almost every year” (p. vi), but the unit of analysis was the region, not the district. “The Builsa District Human Development Report is one of a first set of three reports that has been prepared to assess human development at the level of the district” (

Though the report was perhaps primarily written to provide information for experts in development planning, economics and politics, the inexperienced reader who is mainly interested in the Bulsa people, their culture and conditions of life will find numerous interesting facts about various aspects of life in the District:

      • 83.3% of the adult population is illiterate (p. viii, see also p. 47)

• enrollment rates for girls are higher than for boys (p. ix, see also p. 38)

• malaria is the leading cause of morbidity, followed by anaemia and pneumonia (p. ix + 55)

• The Bulsa District is a food surplus area (p. ix)

• 89% of the entire population of the district are Bulsa (other ethnic groups living here: Kantosi, Mamprusi, Sissala, Nankana and Mossi)

• The religion of 63.7% is traditional, 30.3% are Christians (12.4% Catholic, 10.2% Pentecostal) and 3.4% Moslems

• 80% of houses are built of mud, 19%  of cement blocks and 1% of wood, landcrete and stone

• the main source of lighting for 84.3% of the Bulsa population is the kerosene lamp and for12.4% electricity (solar energy: 0.1%)

• main source of water supply: 36.6%  from a borehole, 31.6% from an unprotected well and 13.1% from a pipe (inside or outside the house)

• stealing is the most often reported crime (2003: 52 cases), but not a single case of robbery was reported (after 1999)

• participation in elections was 78.4% (nation: 87.8%) [some European democracies would be happy to reach these percentages]


It was not easy to find any weak spots in this methodically and scientifically well founded report. Its limits may perhaps be found in the fact that non-quantitative data are not hardly included, this being difficult to obtain by means of questionnaires.

On page 18 we find a table about the activities of men and women (probably in a traditional compound).

The daily activity schedule for men is represented as follows:

(Morning:) Wash face - Attend to livestock - Take breakfast - Leave for farm possible on bicycle (Afternoon:) Work on farm - Attend to livestock - Take lunch - Gather termites for the chicken - Return to the house on bicycle (Evening:) Attend to livestock - Bath and relax or visit the local bar - Take dinner - Go to bed

The activity schedule for women is more extensive and contains harder types of work (grinding millet, fetching water, carrying firewood etc.). Also my own personal impression is that, at least in the dry season, the physical workload of women in a traditional compound exceeds that of men. But the list of men’s activities suggests that Bulsa men are somewhat lazy (take breakfast, ...lunch, ...dinner, relax or visit a local bar). The list includes some slight mistakes. Weaving mats and baskets (apart from the busik-basket and the tiak-mat) is a man’s job. A more important occupation for women is pottery, which is not mentioned. Even in the dry season, men are not completely unemployed. Apart from organizing big festivals and rituals (funerals, sacrifices etc.) their main activity is building new houses (not mentioned) and repairing old ones. The list is correct in stating that both men and women work on the farm, but the bulk of work (a subjective surmise would be more than 90%) is done by men. Women are so occupied with their household chores that they have practically no time for extensive farmwork.

The overall conclusion of the Report is that the Bulsa District is disadvantaged in nearly all spheres of life. The hard facts supporting this conclusion would appear to negate the subjective impressions of visitors over the last thirty years, who would claim to have seen recent positive development. Despite slight progress in some fields, e.g. the enrolment rates for all school types, the Bulsa District evidently lags behind the national average.

In defining the term ‘poverty’ the Report follows the definition of the United Nations Development Programme, taking into account the death-rate (the average Bulsa dies before the age of 40), illiteracy and standard of living (access to health services and safe water sources, underweight of children etc.). The findings are that the “human poverty index for Builsa is 61.2 with a national average for Ghana of 41.8 (p. 34). Data from the 2000 Population and Housing Census (survey conducted 1998/99) even “indicate that 98% of the population in the district is poor”. The self-assessment of the Bulsa is even more negative. “Not a single individual in the Builsa District thought of their households as being non-poor” (p. 33). But it should be considered that Bulsa in general are more inclined to “boast” of their poverty than of their riches.

Seen as a whole, the Report is a valuable contribution to a better understanding of economic and social conditions in the District and provides numerous data for further interpretation. Some off-prints (e.g. by donating them to public libraries) should be made accessible to Bulsa interested in these data, since up to now there is no internet connection with the District.


Jebuni, Charles D. (Centre for Policy Analysis) and Daniel Bagah (University for Development Studies), Eds.

Human Development Report 2004. Builsa District