A gliding enthusiast flies with a delta wing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 14, 2015. Gathering at a dedicated platform located at the Pedra Bonita of Mountain Gavea in Rio de Janeiro, gliding enthusiasts, equipped with delta wings or paragliding gears, jump off the cliff of Mountain Gavea, fly up in the air, and land on the beach of Sao Conrado. (Xinhua/Xu Zijian)
A gliding enthusiast flies with a delta wing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 14, 2015. Gathering at a dedicated platform located at the Pedra Bonita of Mountain Gavea in Rio de Janeiro, gliding enthusiasts, equipped with delta wings or paragliding gears, jump off the cliff of Mountain Gavea, fly up in the air, and land on the beach of Sao Conrado. (Xinhua/Xu Zijian)

By Samuel Kwasi Obeng

One hot busy afternoon, I was in the office when a gentleman knocked and entered. As it usually happens, I thought he was trying to find his way to the Minister or Deputy Minister?s Office so I was waiting patiently to either say room four or six. But no, I got it wrong. ?Sorry, can you please come again?? was my response. Actually, i heard what he said but because it did not satisfy my prejudice, as it normally happens to every human being, I asked again.

A gliding enthusiast flies with a delta wing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 14, 2015. Gathering at a dedicated platform located at the Pedra Bonita of Mountain Gavea in Rio de Janeiro, gliding enthusiasts, equipped with delta wings or paragliding gears, jump off the cliff of Mountain Gavea, fly up in the air, and land on the beach of Sao Conrado. (Xinhua/Xu Zijian)
A gliding enthusiast flies with a delta wing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 14, 2015. Gathering at a dedicated platform located at the Pedra Bonita of Mountain Gavea in Rio de Janeiro, gliding enthusiasts, equipped with delta wings or paragliding gears, jump off the cliff of Mountain Gavea, fly up in the air, and land on the beach of Sao Conrado. (Xinhua/Xu Zijian)

Raising his voice a little, the gentleman repeated: ?how much will it cost me to soar in the air on the up-coming Kwahu Easter Paragliding Festival?? My face grimaced with a surprise. ?Ooh! The days are drawing nigh?, my mind reacted. I took his number and promised to get back to him.
A Brief History on the Development of Paragliding in the World
Paragliding is a recreational and adventurous sport or activity of flying a paraglider, which essentially consist of a suspending rectangular wing connected to a harness (where the pilot of the paraglider sits) by suspending ropes. There are two types; Solo Paragliding and Tandem Paragliding. Solo Paragliding is where only the pilot sits in the harness and launches himself off a mountain top whiles in Tandem Paragliding, the pilot carries a passenger along with him in the harness.
Parachuting gave birth to paragliding. The desire to prolong the fun of suspending in the air, which could not be achieved with an ordinary parachute was made possible with the invention of the ram-air parachute by an American, Domina Jalbert in 1964. Earlier, Walter Neumark?s ?prophecy? in 1954 in the ?Flight Magazine? that there would come a time when a glider pilot would be able to launch himself in the air by running over the edge of a downslope was fulfilled in 1978 by three French friends who were inspired by an article on ?Slope Soaring? in the ?Parachute Manual? magazine written by Dan Poynter, a parachutist.
They, the French friends, launched themselves with a modified ram-air parachute from the city of Pointe du Pertuiset, Mieussy in France in 1978; this is considered as the beginning of modern paragliding.
Thereafter, more sophisticated paragliders have evolved but all are based on Jalbert?s original idea. Paragliding is gaining popularity in Europe, especially in France where there are over 25,000 active pilots.
Paragliding in Ghana and the 2015 Launch
Ghana added Kwahu-Atibie in the Eastern Region to the number of paragliding sites in the world when it launched its first ever paragliding festival in 2005 with the main event taking off in the same year atop the Odweanoma Mountain at Atibie. Since then, the recreational activity which has been attracting a lot of people; Ghanaians and foreigners to Atibie during the Easter season has carved a niche for itself on the national tourism calendar.
Like my good friend Akwesi from Winneba in the Central Region who always make the point that ?there cannot be Aboakyer Festival without deer hunting? just to highlight the necessity of one thing to the other, the organisers of the Kwahu Easter Paragliding Festival – the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) and Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts (MoTCCA), have proven over the years that there cannot be Easter in Ghana without Kwahu Easter Paragliding Festival and I commend them for sustaining this novel recreational activity for a decade now.
This year?s festival, the 10th edition, has already been launched by the Hon. Minister, Mrs. Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare and the festival has been earmarked to take off from Friday April 3 to Monday April 6, 2015 at Kwahu-Atibie. Those who would want to glide in the air and have a vista of nature are expected to pay GHC 250.00, representing a 25 per cent increase of last year?s price. This is however a remarkable improvement of the 2014 price which increased by 100 per cent from the previous year. (GHC 100 to 200).
Impact and way forward
The socio-economic impact of this festival on the local economy of Kwahu-Atibie and the general economy of Ghana has been beneficial as businesses, both within and without the Kwahu-Atibie enclave make windfall profit from the sale of goods and services to the hordes of people who throng the enclave.
However, the lion?s share of the windfall profit will not stay in the country to benefit our people if most of the goods and services on sale, including the pilots who pilot the paragliders are imported.
If France, USA, Switzerland or any other advanced country should host an event like this they are going to be, if there is another word above gargantuan, beneficiaries because such platforms would be used to market their indigenous products. Once we sell and consume more foreign products relative to our own, we make these foreign countries richer and richer and we become poorer and poorer. I know this point is almost becoming a clich? in Ghana but once the status quo still remains the same, some of us will continue to yap and yap till the situation is improved by our government.
I am therefore calling on the Made-in-Ghana (MiG) committee, recently established by H.E John Dramani Mahama and chaired by Dr. Ekwow-Spio Garbrah to consider this international event as one of the good platforms to market Ghanaian products.
Fifteen pilots, all from foreign countries are attending this year?s festival and this has been the trend over the years. Paragliding is decade old in Ghana and I think the GTA should be making plans to ensure that we have Ghanaian pilots and paragliding equipments. This will reduce the cost of organising the festival and put the country in a more beneficial position, including developing paragliding as a sporting activity in Ghana so that we can also participate in the FAI World Championships.
Thank God another paragliding site was discovered in Likpe Todome in Hohoe in the Volta Region last year December. The GTA should also start taking steps, if they haven?t, to adding this new site to the national tourism calendar to help boost the local economy of Likpe Todome inter alia.
Conclusion
To those of us who will be thronging the Kwahu-Atibie enclave, again the date is April 3 to 6; before you clothe, buy, eat, drink and talk at Kwahu-Atibie and even beyond, think of our culture, think of Ghana; it is our motherland, let us fight to make it great and strong.

Source: By Samuel Kwasi Obeng
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