The people of Dominase and Ponkrum would get their road eventually, but not through the colonial government. Instead, they benefited from the growth of logging in the colonial economy and what might be seen as an early effort to privatize infrastructural development. In the late 1940s, George Annan, the Ghanaian owner of a private logging company with local connections, began work on a logging concession to the north of Ponkrum, near Berase. Annan had been one of the people behind the earlier letters to the colonial government requesting the construction of a road. Clearly, he was hoping the government would cover some of the costs associated with his logging operation. When the colonial government refused, Annan was compelled to construct his own road to provide access to the concession. The route he graded ran from Berase south through Dominase and Ponkrum and on to Amoana before connecting to the large north-south road a few kilometers north of the east-west highway. This provided easy access from the logging concession to ports from which logs could be exported.
The opening of this logging concession had a number of impacts on the lives of those living in Dominase and Ponkrum. First, it provided opportunities for nonfarm employment in the immediate vicinity of the villages. While few, if any, villagers were employed by the logging operation itself, several were employed to help maintain the graded road, even a well-graded road will be cut by gullies during the rainy season. These are rarely large enough to prevent the passage of the large flatbed trucks commonly used to move harvested logs out of logging areas, but without constant maintenance of the roadbed such gullies can result in damage to trucks that costs both time and money. Second, the newly graded and maintained road opened up transport access to these villages. While most traffic would have been on the way to, or returning from, the logging concession and the larger villages to the north of Ponkrum, the increased traffic created real opportunities to catch rides to towns such as Elmina, where nonfarm employment opportunities were much more numerous.
As a result of these first two impacts, livelihoods in these villages shifted to incorporate much more nonfarm employment. New job opportunities provided a complementary source of income to back up the agricultural incomes of residents. The result was a third important impact on the lives of the villagers: Household agricultural incomes likely rose as increased efficiency in transportation facilitated the movement of greater amounts of crops to market for less cost in time and money. Circumstantial evidence in the form of changes to the landscape of Dominase, starting in the 1950s, suggests the incomes of those living there likely rose as the road was constructed and maintained.
I know about the changing landscape of these villages because in 1997, as part of my research, I hired a team of workers—Francis Quayson and Samuel Mensah—and surveyed both villages, mapping all structures fallen or standing. In Dominase the vast majority of these structures were long abandoned and collapsed by the time I began my survey. Further, they were often heavily overgrown or even farmed as part of a field. Our efforts to map the 143 structures we could identify took more than a week. Ponkrum had never been completely abandoned, and therefore any fallen structure was located within the boundaries of the village and not overgrown. As a result, the mapping of Ponkrum went much more rapidly.
While this survey mapping was as interesting as it was frustrating, what made it valuable was the connection of individual structures to their dates of construction and abandonment. In Dominase the key resource was the memories of remaining residents. Once we completed the survey mapping, I drew up a map of the village that included the fallen structures. The crew and I then walked over the site with a group of elderly men who had grown up in the village. Remarkably, they were able to identify the owners of nearly every structure and tell when they were abandoned. In some cases they also could remember when structures had been built. They could not provide exact years of construction but distinguished between structures at ten-year intervals; for example, they could separate those that were abandoned in the 1970s from those abandoned in the 1980s. In Ponkrum the absence of abandoned structures simplified our data collection. We simply interviewed the occupants or owners of each to find out its year of construction.