Bonjour, welcome to Togo, the tropical country at the Gulf of Guinea!
Togo is a beautiful country with sandy beaches and modern cities. But there is something special which you only may find in Togo: the fetish markets.
Togo is a small country on the west coast of Africa. It lies between Benin and Ghana. Togo borders the Gulf of Guinea, where the capital Lomé is located. The northern border is Burkina Faso. Togo is not far away from the equator, which is why it has a tropical climate. All year round it is very hot. There is no change in seasons, but a change between periods of drought and rain.
The mangrove forests and swamps at the Atlantic coast, the tropical rain forests and the savannahs in the interior belong to Togo’s natural resources. The plateau in the north is interspersed with natural ponds. Antelopes, buffaloes and warthogs live here. The Oti River, which is rich in exotic fish, runs through the lowlands. In the country’s south lies Atakpamé, which is often visited because of its beautiful landscape and its lush vegetation. The Mount Agou, with a height of 986m, is the highest rise in Togo. From its peak one can see savannahs, deep-green valleys and forests. The largest lake is Lake Togo in the south.
Lomé, Togo’s Capital
Lomé was founded in the 19th century. The city is located at the Atlantic and has a large harbor. The city counts about a million inhabitants. A lot of buildings from the colonial era can still be found at the Grand Marché. In Lomé, an extensive fetish market can be found, on which numerous exotic herbs and mysterious magic potions can be bought. Because the inhabitants of the city maintain their African faith with old conjuring performances and magical practices. The long promenades full with palm trees along the coast also belong to Lomé. The Rue du Commerce is the main shopping street; the cathedral Sacre-Coeur can also be found there. Lomé’s inhabitants are very sociable people. They meet up in the many internet cafes and bars. Then there is also the modern Lomé with unusual architecture. On the left in the picture for example, you can see the building, in which the Economic Community of West African States are based.
Peoples and Languages
Togo is a young country, half of the people is 16 years or younger. In the villages, the people still live in the very traditional round huts made of clay.
Living on the Water
On the Togo Lake and at the rivers are stilt villages. The houses are built at the water on high stilts. This is how the people protect themselve. Life takes place on the water in these villages. Even the markets are held on the water.
The Ewe and the Kabiye
Togo’s population is made up of more than forty ethnic groups. The biggest ethnic group are the Ewe people. The Ewe people are famous for their handcrafts. They make beautiful statuaries and sculptures out of wood and clay. The Kabiye live in the middle and the north. They are farmers and live on livestock. The official language in Togo is French. Half of the population maintains their African faith. Apart from that, numerous Catholics, Protestants and Muslims live in the country.
Celebrations and Festivities
Even today, the Ewe people still maintain their old tribal traditions. They worship nature deities and perform a distinctive mortuary cult. Just like in the neighbouring country Benin, the Voodoo cult is widespread. An integral part of the celebrations are the mask dances to the music of drums, flutes, whistles and maracas. Through big wrestling matches mid-July, the initiation of the boys and girls is celebrated by all of Togo’s peoples. The bean harvest festival and the celebration of Diaspora take place in the beginning of September. The Christian holidays and New Year’s Eve are celebrated on the same days as ours.
Schools and Education
Schools in Togo are quite similar to schools in France. School is compulsory the first six years. After every grade there are tests to check, whether the students can transfer to the next grade. Every grade can be repeated as often as needed. Only few adolescents go to secondary school and get their high school diploma. No school fees need to be paid at public schools. However, school uniforms, books and notebooks cost a whole lot of money. The majority of children is sent to school, but only a small percentage completes their school education. That is simply because it is too expensive for many parents, to send all of their children to school. That is why the boys usually get the better education. Many Togolese think that girls are not supposed to waste their time with education, because they will marry soon and start a family. This perception is only changing slowly.
What Children play
The most popular game by far for boys is football. As soon as the African Cup starts, everyone watches the matches on the streets. A game, which is as popular amongst boys as it is amongst girls, is a hide-and-seek-game, which is played on full moon nights. Hide-and-seek is by full moon is a lot more exciting than in daylight. A “judge” blindfolds a “leader”. Then the children look for good hiding places either alone or in groups. When the first hidden child gives a sign, the leader has to go and look for the children. He does not need to catch them. It is enough for him to discover the hiding places. If he finds a child, they have to help him find the other children. Whoever wasn’t found wins the game.
A popular attraction in Togo is the city Togoville, after which the country was named. In Togoville lies the Togo Lake, in which you can swim, dive, water ski or sail. Every tourist visiting Togoville visits the exotic fetish market. Here all kinds of magic poisons, herbs and animals can be found, which African voodoo priests need for their rituals. I n Togoville are also numerous voodoo gravesites. In the forest of Tokpli, which is under conservation, you can see hinds, warthogs and monkeys.
In Togo’s national parks, almost all big savannah animals like gnus, zebras, giraffes, hyenas, elephants, many bird species, various monkey species, lions and leopards can be found. Furthermore, only here the Togo-serval, a small big cat can be found. As you can see on the image on the right, the fur has a similar pattern as the one of a leopard. Hippopotamuses, apes, bongos, leopards and many small and smallest animals of the rain forests live in the rain forests. The Fazao-Malfakassa national park is the largest national park in Togo and is located in the centre of the country. Buffaloes, antelopes, elephants as well as various monkey species and reptiles and a variety of bird species live here.
Economy and natural resources
The majority of the Togolese live off agriculture or fishing. They grow yams, manioc, corn, millet, peanuts and sorghum. The women offer the goods for sale or trade them for things for everyday life such as fabrics, ceramics or tableware. Cotton, coffee, tea and cocoa are cultivated on large plantations and exported. Another important export good is calcium phosphate. It is processed into dung and very important to agriculture. Ever since the colonial era, Togo has a well-constructed rail network. This way, goods can be transported quickly.
Presumably, the Togo’s first inhabitants were forest tribes, who didn’t have fixed settlements, but wandered the forests as nomads. In the 11th century, the Ewe people began to wander to the southwest from the Niger area. They got to the area around the Togo Lake. The Ewe people were farmers and fishermen. The fertile land offered them everything they needed for life. They founded settlements and cities. In the 17th century, they created a kingdom. The kingdom Kotokoli was located in the in the heart of today’s Togo. It wasn’t as firmly organised as their neighbouring Ashanti kingdom. When the Europeans arrived, a horrible time started for the tribes in Togo. At the end of the 19th century, the Germans arrived in Togo. Togoland became a German colony. The Germans exploited the resources of the country. They amplified the cultivation of cocoa, coffee, sugarcane and cotton. They built a rail network between Lomé and the cities in the interior of the country, to be able to transport the agricultural products more easily. In 1905, the first train started from Lomé to Aného. The economy flourished, however, only the German occupation forces and the African royal family profited from it. In 1960, Togo became independent and the Republic of Togo was founded.
Togo is a republic with a multiple party system. Although elections are held, Togo still is no democratic country. From 1967 to 2005, Togo was reigned by the dictator Gnassingbé Eyadéma. His dictatorship was infamous. Political opponents were eliminated and the government coffers were emptied. He didn’t care about what the population wanted. After his death, his son, Faure Gnassingbé, came into power. He improved the education system and built more schools. He got rid of the compulsory school fees at public schools. Since then, way more children go to school than in the years before. Togo is no safe country for children. Human traffickers acquire children from their parents. They promise them a safe future with a nice European family, but in reality they sell the children to other African countries, where they have to work hard as drudges.