Biihee is a village located in the Upper West Region of Ghana with a population of 1,340 people. The majority of residents are farmers, many of whom live below the poverty level. They rely on farming for income generation and to provide food for their families. In recent years, the farming seasons have become increasing unstable causing low harvests. The situation has created alarge income shortage for farmer. Families rely on creative means to stretch their funds during the “lean” season when there are crops to harvest. These circumstances especially affect the women who are responsible for maintaining the household.
Shea butter, a rich and creamy oil from the shea tree was once one of the main occupations for these women. However, due to the high demand for firewood, these women have resorted to cutting down these once coveted trees for a source of income.
EcoNatives eco-village project aims to provide this community with an alternative source of income by providing employment opportunities for local residents. Though this project, community members will be invited to volunteer alongside other international volunteers to construct an eco-village within their community to serve as a serene retreat and lodging area for future CAVNET volunteers and a hands-on learning space for the community. CAVNET aims to employ local community members staff for the eco-village.
The eco-village will be made in the West African tradition with mud bricks, wood and thatch for the roof. The eco-village will feature a sustainable farm which will be used to train farmers from Biihee and surrounding communities on permaculture and other sustainable farming practices. In the near future, the ecovillage will be powered by solar energy and a biogas system. Though this project it is our wish that we can connect people back to nature and traditional African culture while helping the community improve their livelihoods, uplift their culture and preserve their environment. By being part of this project, you are laying the foundation for more community development projects in the region. Come be a pioneer. Learn about traditional eco-design techniques. Become an EcoNative.
Most people look for sustainable solutions though science and technology. However, some of the solutions to the world’s major challenges are found right in your backyard and can be dirt cheap, literally.
The earth has been sustaining itself for billions of years though natural cycles while humans has historically worked with their environment- not against it, to meet their basic needs. Through eco-building, you are also connecting back to nature.
Why is it that we feel so good when we are surrounded by nature? Whether it is by walking through the park, planting and harvesting veggies or just stopping to smell the roses. Nature is proven to have a positive effect on the mind and body.
Through this project, we are not just protecting the environment, nature is also giving back to us. We are learning how to be one with the environment. The earth gives us sustenance, gives us food and gives us shelter. Thus, we should not strive to become eco-friendly, we should instead regard ourselves as EcoNatives. Through generations, many cultures around have used the earth to build their homes. Using these techniques in modern times also helps us to preserve culture and the traditions that are rapidly fading away. As Wade Davis states, everyone knows that the biodiversity is diminishing. We hear it on the news and read about it in the newspaper articles but what about the worlds ethnic diversity? When a culture fades away, so does our collective memory of the multifaceted human history.
The people of Biihee have a rich and dynamic culture. At times you can find them playing ceremonial songs on traditional drums upon the arrival of the community chief. Not only do they use their land as a source of livelihood, but the community has a lot of potential in holistic herbal medicine where they have a home for treating all kinds of fractures and all forms of mental illnesses.
With the eco village project we will be learning about natural building techniques from indigenous people who have used these techniques for generations to build their own homes. The members of the community know the land, they know their soil. You will learn their techniques and their secrets. Here at Biihee, you will not only become an Eco-Native, but you will become part of the community.
Upon arrival, you will find many of the villagers living in a traditionally built mud huts and modern houses with tin roofs. Unlike more modern houses, traditional mud huts are made from sub-level clay and sand- all found within the community. These mud houses have been used for generations. In areas with hot climates like many parts of Africa, the clay works to keep the houses cool. All of the materials used in the construction of theeco-village are locally sourced and readily available.
This experience calls for full cultural immersion. We will all work together, eat meals together and most of all share our experiences with one another. The community members of Biihee invites YOU. Though this project, they know that Caring Volunteers Network brings volunteers that care about developing their community.It is a life changing experience for anyone with an adventurous spirit and a desire to learn how to build traditionally.
This eco village will become a relaxing place where international volunteers can live while they work on projects with CAVNET.
The area will also serve a space for workshops on environmental sustainability, sustainable farming practices and permaculture as well as a training center for local volunteers in Ghana on volunteerism professional development and entrepreneurship.
On occasions, international travelers or those who are just interested in eco housing or just want a cultural immersion experience can spend a few days at the eco-village
Local community member benefit from volunteers from CAVNET doing projects in their community.
(Past projects include: ICT training for primary and middle school, documentary featuring the community was shown on national news channels to raise awareness about the needs of the community)
Employment opportunities for community members through guided tours of Biihee, teaching volunteers about permaculture and traditional medicine.
Environmental sustainability: the community through the establishment of the ecovillage will learn innovative ways of protecting the environment against climate change.
Cultural Exchange. Biihee community members are warm and hospitable. They will enjoy learning about your culture and background as you explore theirs
Eco design reps will gain practical hands on exposure to build a traditional mud hut. Most of these materials will be locally sourced and found within the community
Cultural immersion. You are not alone in this project. Not only will you be working alongside other international volunteers but you will be learning from community masons who have been using traditional construction practices for generations. You will also interact with students from local technical schools that have partnered with CAVNET for the sustainable construction project. You’ll immerse yourself in Ghanaian culture, increase your eco-awareness alongside local participants, get active, and celebrate together with change makers from all over the world.
Volunteers will be able to learn more about Ghana’s rich culture and history
Optional tours around Ghana. See some of Ghana’s most popular sites including a canopy walk, the Elmina Castle and Mole National park, Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary, Paga Crocodile pond, Accra Cultural center, Lake Volta and Boti Falls.
As you enter the community, you will be greeted by the community members. You will receive a tour of Biihee from one of the traditional community leaders.
Visit the sacred lake located within the village.
Learn traditional songs from Ghana and take drumming lessons
Work with the women as they teach you the process of harvesting and preparing shea butter, which has a variety of uses from cooking to moisturizing the hair and skin
Bring marshmellows, your favorite chocolate bars and gram crackers for our bonfire under the stars
As a community we will learn from each other. Listen to the stories of the elders and share your own experiences on storytelling nights
Join our cooking class to learn how to prepare Ghana’s favorite local dishes such as TuoZaafi, OmoTuo with groundnut soup and many others
Meet the chief of Biihee at the Chiefs palace and learn about the community’s history
Make arts and crafts with the women of the community
Have a tour with a herbalist to learn about different plants used in treating various ailments
Embrace Islamic culture by visiting one of the numerous mosques in the region
Be prepared to live like a local community member. You will have access to basic amities but be prepared to hand wash your own clothes. We have conventional showers but if you like your water warm, we have a kettle to heat your water.
This opportunity is NOT for you if:
You don’t like spending long hours outdoors
You are not comfortable adjusting to basic amities
You are not able to adjust to different environmental and cultural settings
You are not willing to step outside of your comfort zone
In order to facilitate a safe and conducive learning environment, we will accommodate up to30 international volunteers at a time. Volunteers will have the chance to work and learn from local university students, many of whom are studying construction at a local polytechnic school. Community residents will also be workers alongside international volunteers and local university students often teaching local techniques and supervising the building process.
As an Eco-Native fellow, you will be learning the techniques of green building and will often be tasked to work on specific aspects of project in groups. During the evenings, all fellows have time to rest relax and have fun will their peers.
24/7 in country support and Security
Airport Pickup and drop off
Domestic Flight to Tamale
Tour of Cape Coast Castle
Trip to Mole National Park
Trip to Kakum National Park- Canopy Walk
All project materials
Daily home cooked meals
Cultural Immersion Activities
Pre-departure support by phone or email
In-country ground transportation
In-country trips or tours
In-country air transportation
Our program gives volunteers hands on experience in learning how to build a traditionally made mud huts with locally sourced materials
You will have the opportunity to be fully immersed in Ghanaian culture by working alongside natives from the Biihee community who have b been building sustainable homes for generations as wells as university students who are studying construction. Make sure you register to secure a position as a volunteer. There are only 15-30 positions available.
* We allow volunteer adjustments on a case by case basis but date changes cannot be guaranteed. We will also consider longer or shorter stays on a case by case basis
Upon arrival at the hostel all volunteers will receive orientation and a best practices training
We are looking for volunteers who are fully committed to getting their hands (and legs dirty) and will be able to work full time.
Please contact CAVNET Management if you have medical issues or dietary restrictions.
Visa requirements for Ghana vary depending on the following factors: your purpose of travel, length of stay, nationality and place of residence.
Purpose of travel: CAVNET trips fall under the category of “volunteer tourism” and we recommend you state your purpose of travel as “tourism” when asked by immigration officials. If you state “work” or “volunteer work” as your purpose, immigration officers often demand that you pay extra and acquire a work/employment visa, which is not necessary for your volunteer program.
Length of stay: A tourist can stay in Ghana for a maximum of 180 days and an initial tourist visa is valid for 60 days. If you are planning on volunteering in excess of 60 days, you will need to extend your tourist visa in Ghana and our team will help you with this process. The cost for the extension is approximately 40 GHS per month (about US$20). Any volunteers staying for more than 90 days in Ghana will also require a non-resident card, which must be purchased at the time of obtaining a visa extension. The cost of a non-resident card is approximately US$120.
Nationality and place of residence: Volunteers of most nationalities are required to obtain a tourist visa prior to arrival in Ghana. You will need to check with your nearest Ghanaian embassy to verify your specific requirements.
How to apply: Most nationalities are required to pre-arrange a 60-day tourist visa from their nearest Ghanaian embassy prior to arriving in Ghana. Fees and processing times vary from embassy to embassy and we recommend checking the requirements of the Ghanaian embassy nearest to you, well in advance. All volunteers need to ensure they have a passport that is valid for 6 months from their date of entry into Ghana.
Currency: Ghanaian Cedi (GHS). We recommend checking out the most current exchange rate before your departure.
Managing your money: We recommend taking some United States Dollars (around US$200) to keep away in case of emergencies as well as a VISA credit/debit card to withdraw cash in local currency, as you need it. ATMs are easily accessible in major cities and tourist areas, and hotels, shops and restaurants in tourist areas generally accept credit cards. You will need Cedi for public transportation, taxis and independent shops and hospitality venues. Most currencies can be exchanged easily at the airport (although you will not receive a favourable exchange rate) and at any bank. MasterCard and Maestro cards are starting to become more widely accepted, although this is mainly just in Accra.
Ghana is a developing country where there can often be unrest and like all countries around the world, there are areas where criminal activity is more prevalent than others. Safety and security is a high priority for CAVNET and you will not be placed in areas where we feel your safety is at risk. You will be accommodated and placed with other volunteers, so it is unlikely that you will ever be alone during your time on the program and we do everything in our power to ensure your volunteering trip is as safe and secure as possible.
Placements and homestays are monitored on an on-going basis to gauge volunteer experiences and we are continually improving our projects through feedback from our volunteers. Security and safety of our programs is constantly being reviewed and if you have any concerns we encourage you to discuss these with our staff at orientation. During orientation, our staff will provide guidance in the area of safety and security and in the unlikely event that something was to happen, you will be able to call on our staff for support 24/7. The host families and staff at your placement are also available to provide you with assistance if needed.
Phone: You can bring your own cell phone to Ghana to use with a local pre-paid SIM card, however it must be an unlocked phone. You can buy prepaid SIM cards for about US$1. Both international and local calls can be made. If you wish to use your own cell phone on global roaming, you will need to check with your cell phone provider for roaming costs and coverage in Ghana. Please note, the country code of Ghana is +233.
Internet: You will be able access the Internet through Internet cafes located in towns near-by to your accommodation.
The Yellow Fever vaccination is legally required for you to enter Ghana.
All other vaccinations are a personal choice and we recommend visiting a travel doctor to discuss vaccinations for your trip, as the list provided below is only a guide. Your doctor will be able to advise the benefits and implications for each vaccination according to your travel plans, so you can make an informed decision. We recommend discussing the following vaccinations:
To secure your place on our program and begin preparing for your trip abroad, just follow these simple steps:
* Terms and conditions apply.
Lodging Area: Caring Volunteers Network Main Office and Hostel, P.O. Box 501, Wa, Upper West Region, Ghana
Construction site: Biihee, Upper West Region, Ghana
Contact: Director of Strategic Partnerships Brigette Wardrick (USA) + 1.609.234.8032
Program Director Adil Issah (Ghana) +188.8.131.521