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The Afram

by Phil Bartle, PhD


The Afram Plains, Afram River, and now the Afram portion of the Volta Lake, are located on the north side of the Kwawu Escarpment. See Map.

Trade and Transport

Until the coming of the railway, the Afram River, running from the northwest to the southeast, was a major water transport route between Kumase and Accra. Because it passed through Kwawu, it was important for centuries in the long distance trading activities of the Kwawu people, and the people who were there before them. Today the canoes remain, but are used only for local transport and for fishing.

Historical Notes

The Afram Plains (which had both savannah and rain forest environments) on the north side of the river, was once the centre of a Guan kingdom, whose most well known king was Atara Firam. With the coming of the Akan, introducing their matrilineal system of descent group formation, lineage confederation, inheritance and succession, the Guan political organization (as in the rest of Kwawu), disintegrated. The first important Akan oman (state) was that under the rule of Kumawu (a contender against Kumase to rule the Asante), an oman that included Obo and what is now the whole Nifa Division of Kwawu. Their royal lineage was Aduana (dog). As the Kumawu oman declined, the current royals of Kwawu (Bretuo and Tena, part of the Twidan moiety) moved in and formed the present Kwawu oman. Up to today, the paramount chief of Kwawu calls for a renaming of the political district of Afram, to call it Kwawu North.

Linguistic Notes

The word "Volta" is a European word. The river was called "Afrau" in Akan and "Aflao" in Ewe. The word "Afram" is a condensation of "Afrau mu," meaning "In the Volta." The Afram River was the biggest subsiduary of the Volta River.

The Railway

After the railway was built between Accra and Kumasi around 1910, the Afram River declined as a major transport route.

Lake Volta

In the sixties, the Akosombo Dam was built on the lower Volta River. After a few years, the lake flooded, large in surface area, but very shallow in depth. The Afram River, the major tributary of the Volta River, also flooded, and much of the Afram Plains was put under a meter or so of water.

As you can see in the photos below, the huge hardwoods remained above the lake surface, and, being hardwoods, are taking a long time to decay and rot.


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