This series of posts documents two ordinary folks attempting to get out there and do good. Over the next few months, we’ll follow them through the setbacks and triumphs of their endeavor to take the inspiration of Mountainfilm and turn it into something tangible. (To catch up. start here.)

Ghana is a country rich in natural resources. There is gold in the Ashanti region, fishing in the Volta region, cocoa in the western region, and vast oil deposits have recently been discovered off the coast. Like many African nations, Ghana has been cursed with the natural resource paradox: resource wealth has not translated into wealth for your average Ghanaian. Any big discoveries are frequently accompanied by power struggles, as we have seen with diamonds in Sierra Leone. Top officials, seeking to increase their popularity and line their own pockets, effectively mortgage their country’s future for instantaneous gain. Thus, any large resource discoveries are hastily auctioned off to multi-national companies for immediate consideration. The effect is that these corporations control much of Ghana’s natural wealth for the life of its extraction. Ten, twenty, even a hundred years later, these companies continue to extract resources while Ghanaians see very little improvement in their lives.

Because of this conundrum, most Ghanaians remain cautiously optimistic to downright skeptical of the benefits they will see from the recent discovery of oil off the coast. Just last week, Ghanaian President John Atta Mills, in a televised event, turned on the valves that will start oil pumping at the rate of 55,000 barrels per day from the aptly-named Jubilee Oil Fields, estimated to hold an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil in total. Many believe that the government will bungle the contracting of its extraction, giving away sustained wealth for baubles.

Non-Government Organizations in Ghana have mobilized for this effort, and stand to play a powerful role. Whether it is a watch-dog NGO excruciating over dense government financials to ensure proper spending, or grassroots organizations mobilizing communities to protect their own interests, citizen engagement in the process is the key to ensure that Ghana’s newest windfall goes to benefit all, rather than the elite. Read about how the Social Support Foundation is contributing to this effort here.

The blog-saga continues, here.