I flew up from the capital Accra, where my father lives, to Tamale in the north on the 6.30am flight. The last time I made this journey was forty years ago, so I was excited. As we stepped down from the plane 45 minutes later the wonderful dry earth smell of the northern Savannah hit me and I knew I was somewhere else now.
I was met by the wonderful Isaac Kodjo Gyesi, Head of Agribusiness for Opportunity International Ghana, and George Owusu Ansah, Tamale Branch manager and their drivers.
Driving through the early morning bustle of Tamale heading for the Opportunity International branch, I was excited to see what the funds raised in the UK would have created.
Off a small side road we parked up in front of a small row of businesses one of which was the branch. There is an atm outside and inside it was like any well appointed high street building society office - tellers behind a counter, side offices for the helpful efficient staff team . Why am I describing this? To illustrate to you fellow supporters of Opportunity International what your donations do on the ground. This building, the staff and the life-giving service it provides come as a direct result of your commitment and care.
As we drove out of Tamale the busy city began to fall away, and soon we left the tarmac road for the red dust roads travelled throughout Africa that take you to the ancient heart of the continent. Here in the north we passed the Shea trees that provide the body butter that moisturise our skin, the huge mango trees that provide not only delicious fruit but welcome shade in the midday heat of 36 degrees or more, and of course we crossed the mighty Volta river, whose harnessed energy powers much of Ghana through the Akosombo Dam's hydro electricity.
The rainy season had not begun yet. Indeed global warming has meant that it is more difficult to predict when it will arrive and for local people who live off the land and in rhythm with nature this is a pressing daily challenge - when to plant? when to expect harvests?
The harshness of those dry roads, of the flat dry Savannah lands waiting to burst into lush green with arrival of rains, brought home to me just how hard the living conditions of the farmers must be.
Indeed when we arrived finally at Daboya and talked with the farmers, they confirmed this.
Sitting under one of the huge mango trees, taking time out of a busy market day the farmers gathered to talk about the ways in which Opportunity International had changed their lives and their hopes for the future.
I met hardworking, funny, smart, ambitious men and women who wanted to make full use of the services Opportunity International offer - to learn how best to expand their farms, increase their yields, market their produce and build up savings.
Farmers such as Leila who graciously invited me into her home and told me of her children and the three miles she walks to her farm each day, to plant crops like sorghum and harvest it all by hand. It is demanding and exhausting work, but with the support of Opportunity – their agricultural advice, the loans for good quality seeds and legitimate fertilisers and pesticides – Leila’s yield’s in the first year increased three-fold!
Supporters in the UK have made this possible for farmers like Leila across the region, and for small ambitious entrepreneurs of many stripes. Because of the publics generosity to the Seeds of Opportunity appeal, local people who would never have been deemed worthy of a regular bank account, are able to have access to savings accounts and to small loans. They are on the financial grid, they have access to expertise and funds that can help them grow their enterprises.
Opportunity is all they need, to help them move forward into a future over which they can have more control, where their hard work brings the dividends of security and a hopeful future for their families.