Ghana

Official name : Republic of Ghana

Area: 238,533 square kilometers (92,098 miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mt. Afadjato (885 meters/2,905 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: Noon = noon GMT

Longest distances: 458 kilometers (285 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest; 297 kilometers (178 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest

Land boundaries: 2,617 kilometers (1,626 miles) total boundary length; Togo 877 kilometers (545 miles); Côte d'Ivoire 668 kilometers (415 miles); Burkina Faso 544 kilometers (338 miles)

Coastline: 528 kilometers (328 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Slightly smaller than the state of Oregon, Ghana is in western Africa, situated between Togo on the east, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) on the west, and Burkina Faso on the north and northwest.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Ghana has no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

Ghana has a tropical climate that is relatively mild for that latitude. The harmattan, a dry desert wind, blows from the northeast from December to March, lowering the humidity and causing hot days and cool nights in the north. Average temperatures range from 21°C to 31°C (70 to 90°F) with a relative humidity between 50 percent and 80 percent. Except in the north, there are two rainy seasons: April through June and September through November. Squalls occur in the north during March and April, followed by occasional rain until August and September, when the rainfall reaches its peak. Rainfall ranges from 83 to 220 centimeters (33 to 87 inches) a year.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Ghana faces the Gulf of Guinea in the great bulge of West Africa. Average elevation is relatively low, mostly between sea level and about 305 meters (1,000 feet).

Ghana has five major geographical regions. In the southern part of the country are the low plains, part of the belt that extends along the entire coastal area of the Gulf of Guinea. To the north of these plains are three distinct regions: the Ashanti Uplands, the Volta Basin, and the Akwapim-Togo Ranges. The fifth region, the high plains, occupies the northern and northwestern parts of the country. These plains also form part of a belt stretching generally from east to west through West Africa.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Seacoast and Undersea Features

Ghana's coast stretches for 528 kilometers (328 miles) along the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. It is characterized by strong surfs, which make landing ships difficult, except at artificially constructed harbors.

Coastal Features

The coast consists mostly of a low sandy shore, behind which stretches the coastal plain. Except in the west, where the forest comes down to the sea, the plain is mostly flat and generally covered with grass and scattered fan palms. Most of Ghana's rivers terminate in brackish lagoons along the coast, but there are no natural harbors.

The Volta Delta projects out into the Gulf of Guinea in the extreme southeast. As this delta grew outward over the centuries, sand-bars developed across the mouth of the Volta River and also in some smaller rivers nearby, forming numerous large lagoons. Dense groves of coconut palms also grow here, and oil palms may be found at places inland in the drier, older section of the delta.

6 INLAND LAKES

Ghana's one large natural lake, Lake Bosumtwi (46 square kilometers/18 square miles), is located about twenty miles southeast of Kumasi. It occupies the steep-sided caldera (crater) of a former volcano. Several small streams flow into this lake, but because there is no drainage, its level is gradually rising.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

Streams and rivers run across the entire country. The largest river, the Volta, has three branches, all of which originate in Burkina Faso. The Black Volta forms the northwest border, then flows southeastward into Ghana to the east. The White Volta and the Red Volta both enter the country in the northeast. About 40 kilometers (25 miles) inside the border, the Red Volta joins the White Volta, which eventually flows into Lake Volta behind the Akosombo Dam.

Almost all streams and rivers north and east of the country's major drainage divide are part of the vast Volta drainage system, which covers some 157,989 square kilometers (61,000 square miles), or more than two-thirds of the country. To the south and southwest of the plateau several smaller independent river systems flow directly into the Gulf of Guinea. The most important of these are the Pra, the Ankobra, and the Tano. Only the Volta, Ankobra, and Tano Rivers are navigable, and only in their lower sections.

Small, seasonal waterfalls can be found in Boegoro and Huhunya.

8 DESERTS

Although Ghana has some dry lands and areas that may be subject to desertification, there are no notable deserts.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

Grasslands dominate the south, mixed with coastal scrub. Ghana's forest belt extends northward from the western coast on the Gulf of Guinea about 320 kilometers (200 miles) and eastward for a maximum of about 270 kilometers (170 miles). It is broken up into heavily wooded hills and steep ridges. Cultivation, grazing, mining, and harvesting of timber and firewood have taken a heavy toll on forests and woodland; deforestation proceeds at an annual rate of 720 square kilometers (278 square miles).

The Ashanti Uplands lie just to the north of the Akan Lowlands area. They extend from the Ivory Coast border, through the western and part of the northern Brong-Ahafo Region and the Ashanti Region (excluding its eastern section), to the eastern end of the Kwahu Plateau. With the exception of the Kwahu Plateau, the uplands slope gently toward the south, gradually decreasing in elevation from about 304 to 152 meters (1,000 to 500 feet). In the southernmost part, their valleys become more open, and the region merges into the Akan Lowlands at an elevation between sea level and 152 meters (500 feet). These lowlands make up the greater part of the low plains. Several hill ranges also appear here. Although most high points do not top 304 meters (1,000 feet), a few hills exceed 609 meters (2,000 feet).

The Volta Basin region occupies the central part of the country and covers about 45 percent of the country's total area. Much of the southern and southwestern part of this basin is less than 152 meters (500 feet) in elevation; in the northern section, however, above the upper part of Lake Volta and the Black Volta, elevations are from about 152 to 228 meters (500 to 750 feet).

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

The Akwapim-Togo Ranges in the eastern part of the country have many prominent heights composed of volcanic rocks. The ranges begin west of Accra and cross the border into the Republic of Togo. The average elevation of the Akwapim section of the mountains is about 475 meters (1,500 feet). The Togo section has broader valleys and generally low ridges. Several peaks rise above 762 meters (2,500 feet). The country's highest point, Mount Afadjato (885 meters/2,905 feet), is located in this area.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

Small caves can be found near the Kwahu Plateau and in the upland areas.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

The northern and northwestern part of the country outside the Volta Basin region consists of a plateau, which averages between 152 and 304 meters (500 and 1,000 feet) in elevation.

The Kwahu Plateau, forming the northeastern and eastern part of the uplands, has an elevation that averages 457 meters (1,500 feet) and its high points rise to over 762 meters (2,500 feet). The greater height of the plateau gives it a comparatively cooler climate.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

Lake Volta is the world's largest man-made lake (8,485 square kilometers/3,276 square miles), formed by the accumulation of water from the Volta River behind Akosombo Dam. Although the dam provides much of the country's hydroelectric power, it also contributes significantly to coastal erosion. It reduces the amount of water flowing in the river, and thus it also reduces the amount of sediment the river carries to its mouth along the coast. The coast continues to erode at its natural rate, and since less sediment is being deposited to replace it, the coast diminishes.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Barnett, Jeanie M. Ghana . New York: Chelsea House, 1999.

Boateng, E.A. Geography of Ghana. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.

Salm, Steven J. Culture and Customs of Ghana . Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Web Sites

Ghana Home Page. http://www.ghanaweb.com (accessed April 10, 2003).

The Republic of Ghana. http://www.ghana.gov.gh (accessed April 10, 2003).

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