The country of little wonders From a tender smile of a little child to the wonders of a waterfall at the heart of the tropical forest, Togo blossoms as a country of little wonders, a precious stone sparkling at the shores of the azure waters at the Golf of Benin in West Africa. Togo is one of the smallest countries in Africa. But make no mistake!Togo is the true demonstration that small is beautiful.
The country is home to a variety of people, cultures, and the wonders of nature representing the best that West Africa has to offer to the rest of the world. Its topography expands from the coastal line bordered with coconut trees, which reminds of the South Pacific region, to the green mountains, the rolling hills, the picturesque valleys, the extended plateaus, the rolling rivers through to its peaceful lagoons. In the extreme North of the country, theSavannahs
Togo is a narrow country which has a coastal line of 45 km, bordered with coconut trees.It stretches out lengthwise to the north over a distance of 600 km with its widest breadth measuring 140 km. It covers atotal surface area of 56,600 km2.
The coastal area is a long stretch of sandy land separated from the inland by a series of lagoonswhich swell up to form Lake Togo. From the middle belt towards the North is the stretch ofa mountainous region with the highest mountain measuring around 1,000 m high. Further North, the arable land of the Plateau Region gradually makes way for the cattle breeding plains and the semi-arid Sahel Savannahs, boarded with the Sahara Desert.
The history of Togo is not different from that of many other African countries. It all started with people migrating in search of more secured and safe territories. The first groups of people who first footed the soils of Togo are the Kabyés and the Lambaswho settled in the North of the country between the 7th and 12th centuries, as well as the people of Tamberma, Akposso and the Bassars.
The Ewes are one of the major groups in Togo. They came from South-western Nigerian and first settled in the Mono valley which later became an important commercial and agricultural hub in the 16th century. From there, the Ewes moved on, first towards Notsé, then Kpalimé and along the coast and some finally settled in the present day Ghana.
Other groups are the Guins who came in the 17th century from present day Ghana. The Tchokossis came around the same period from Côte d’Ivoire, and the Mobas all the way from the Sahel area in Burkina Faso.
The slave trade and the first European traders
European traders first came to the shores of Togo in the 15th century in search for slaves. The Portuguese came first and were followed by the Danish, the Germans, the French and then the British. By the 18th century, thousands of people were captured to work as farmhands on plantations in the New World.
Towards the end of the 18th century, emancipated slaves from Brazil began returning and settled on the coast where, together with the descendants of the Portuguese traders, “Brazilians” as they were called, got involved in the slave trade business, and started trading with Europe and Brazil. As time went on, the Europeans built fords along the coast but it was only in 1884 that they gained prominence thatled to colonialism.
In the same year, a German Diplomat called Gustav Nachtigal arrived in a small village then called Togo, on the banks of a lake (which later became known as Lake Togo) northward the beach. He signed a treaty with the Traditional Chief, Mlapa, granting Germany trading right over the region and which later led to the establishment of the German-Togoland. So the name of the small village became the name of the entire country and the village itself was re-baptised as Togoville.
The German Colonisation
Aného became the Capital City of the German Togoland in 1887. By the end of the 19th century, the Germans got hold of the Northern part up toSokodé. In 1887, the Germans moved the Capital to Lomé, along the coast. Under the German domination, Togo became a “model colony” for Germany in Africa and was earmarked for the creation of plantations and the export of food commodities and palm oil. In order to facilitate this trade, the Germans built three railway lines: the line for transporting copra up to Aného, the one for cocoa and coffee up to Kpalimé and for cotton up to Blitta (central Togo). All these railway lines end up at the wharf in Lomé which was built in 1904. The Germans built an important base in Kamina, a city situated at 180 km north of Lomé. This base had an airport and a powerful radio station. The Kamina Base was a leading point of contact between Berlin, Togo and the German fleet.
The model colony suffered a brutal collapse at the dawn of the First World War.The German colony was surrounded by the joint French and British troops. Because the Germans were outnumbered, they abandoned Lomé and concentrated on protecting their base in Kamina. After two weeks of resistance, the Germans finally gave up the fight and left their base. That was how the German colonisation ended in Togo on the 26th of August 1914.
From Protectorate to Independence
The British occupied Lomé until 1919. At the end of World War I, the League of Nations granted France the mandate over two thirds of the territory (the Eastern side) andGreat Britain took control of the rest. This de facto partition of the territory resulted in two protectorates.
After World War II, the League of Nations mandate was transferred to the newly formed United Nations. The UN then insisted that the two protectorates becomes autonomous. In 1956, the people of the British Togoland in a plebiscite decided to be part of the then Gold Coast which later became Ghana following its independence from the British in 1957. The other part under the French control voted in 1957 to put in place the autonomous Government of Togo within the French Union.
Later, the vote of 27th April 1958 preparedthe grounds for independence in 1960.
The total population of Togo is 6.8 million people;75% of which are less than 35 years old. From the length and breadth of the country, you meet wonderful people with various ethnic groups and diverse cultures.
The Ewes and Guins in the South, the Anas and Tems in the Central Region, through to the people of Bassar, the Kabyés and the Tembermas of the Kara Region and the Moba-Gurma in the extreme North; These are people whose deeply-rooted culture you are kindly invited to discover.Each ethnic group has a unique tradition which is closely interrelated to its religious beliefs.
Togo is home to a blend of religious beliefs: Christians, Muslims, Animists and Voodoos.
Despite the influx of Christianity and Islam, the people are deeply attached to their Animistic beliefs and to their ancestral traditions. Almost all these groups believe in the existence of a Supreme Being alongside intermediary divinities, who serve as a link between human beings and the divine. These intermediary divinities could have their own followers and even their shrines.
Homes usually have family altars upon which regular sacrifices are offered to seek protection from the divinities.
The role of fetish priests and soothsayers remain considerable. These quasi-medics, quasi-magicians are the juju men (magical power holders), who ascribe personalised amulets or charms to protect the person wearing them from evils, hence multiplying the powers of their owners. However, traditional medicine, more or less, herbal and at the same time mystical, is still being practiced alongside modern medicine.
Majority of Togolese practise animism, a polytheistic religious belief, which links the human being to natural forces through a set of customs and rituals.
Religious practices are mainly aimed, among other things, at maintaining or restoring balance and harmony among all the forces of the universe. It covers every aspect of life. The practices differ from one region to the other and from one ethnic group to the other, but most people believe in a Supreme Being and in other secondary divinities, who serve as a link between human beings and the supernatural world.These practices include: ancestral worships, social initiation into adulthood, as well as, various social events, such as birth, marriage, life and death thereafter, sowing seasons, and healings from sicknesses.
In the South, the voodoo cult or cults based on the adoration of much revered spirits such as Legba, Hebiesso, Dan and Egou are very common. The initiated ones use a secret language and rigorously perform religious rituals and taboos. During voodoo ceremonies, followers fall in deep trances and communicate with the spirits.
From the South to the North, the diversity in African housing cannot be unnoticed. Along the coastal line are often seen simple huts with palm roofing. In the Southern part of the country, the houses are often built in rectangular and square shapes. Moving northwards, the buildings are round. They are referred to as the “soukalas” which describe a group of round huts joined together by a wall.
The most typical of these is the Temberma tatas, a sort of small fortifications which house the people in the region.
The Tamberma castles are UNESCO World Heritage sites. They are called KOUTAMMAKOU, the country of the Batammaribas.
Because of its cultural diversity, Togo has become a tourist destination of first choice for all those who want to discover the authentic characteristics of West Africa.
There are close to 50 different African dialects in Togo. The official language is French and it is spoken by majority of Togolese. Many are those who speak English and a good number of them speak German as well.
Ewe and Kabyé are the two major national languages.
The Maritime Region extends along the coastal line with beaches of fine sand and coconut trees.
Lomé is famous for its fine sand beaches, under-shade pleasure walking, its major daily market, and many of its tourist attractions namely: the national museum, the fetish market, the German cathedral close to the main market, architectural monuments, etc.
Aneho, situated at 15 km eastward from Agbodrafo, is the spiritual and cultural centre of the Guin people. Aneho is a lake side city surrounded by fishing villages and coconut plantations. It holds the soul of a 19th century colonial legacy.
The historic city of Togoville is situated northward the lake and it is the centre of Nyigblin and voodoo practices. One could visit fetish priests for protection, the Plakoo-Mlapa royal museum, the barter trade market, and art centres for many other interesting items.
Further to the East, visitors would discover the wonderful woodlands along the Mono River.
The Plateau Region is reputed for its exceptional natural environment characterised by the exuberance of its forests, and tropical wood species. It is the dream place for lovers of hiking and trail walking and for green tourism. Kpalimé is equally one of the major arts centres in the country.
Right from Kpalimé, visitors would discover all the richness of tropical fauna and floraas well as many natural waterfalls such as the Akrowa falls (Badou), one of the longest fall of water in the country.
The region is equally rich in arts. Kpalimé is the major craft and arts centre in the country. The Craft and Art Centre of Kpalimé (CEAA) is located at the heart of the city, where the majority of craftsmen and artists are trained. The city also boasts of many art shops and workshops.
In the Eastern part of the region is the historical town of Notsé, the cradle of the Ewe people.
Finally, Atakpame, the regional capital, has for a long time, remained the place of refuge for Germans. Few kilometres from the city is sited the Nangbéto hydropower dam on an immense water body and a habitat for a lot of hippopotamuses.
The Central Region
The Central region covers a total surface area of 13,500 km2of which more than 20% are reserved forests including the Fazao National Park which extends over 2000 km2. The City of Sokodé (predominantly Muslim) is the second most densely populated city of the country. The Central Region is home to the TEM culture (traditional chieftaincy, fire and knife dance). The region offers diverse cultural heritage as the traditions are kept authentic. The folklore is passed on to generations in a brotherly coexistence of the various ethnic groups.
The Ramadan, the Tabaski, the Gadoa and the Adossa festivals, also known as the festival of knives), all of Muslim origin and whose practiceswere propagated by the Kotokolis are celebrated in grand styles in the region.
The traditional chieftaincy among the Tems is a clear demonstration that the people have held on to their tradition. Thereare varieties of ancestral activities in this region as well: in many of the markets in the region namely the markets of: Tchamba, Blitta, Pagala and Adjengré one has a variety of art pieces to buy: ranging from farm implements to calabashes. Sokodé, the regional capital is reputed for weaving. Further East, the city of Tchamba is well known for pyrography of calabashes and jars.
The region boasts to a magnificent forest reserve, the Fazao-Malfakassa national park which is home to many animal species such as bulbuls, bongos or forest antilopes, colobus monkeys or baboons. The Frantz Weber Foundation office in Sokodé organises safaris.
The Kara Region
The Kara Region offers an incredible tourist interest with splendid tour sites including the Koutammakou landscape, one of the UNESCO world heritage. With people very close to their tradition, diversified landscapes (Mont Kabyés, the Défalé cliffs) and the remarkably rich folklore of the people who have conserved their tradition, make the region a culturally rich destination to reckon with.
The many cultural festivals with accompanying traditional dances in the region (the Evala, Akpéma, Kabyè wrestlings) are few proves testifying the attachment of the people in the region to their traditions and to their ancestral style of life.
The koutammakou landscape and its fortified houses known as “takienta” are among the most beautiful tourist sites the country offers. The site is registered as a UNESCO world heritage under the name KOUTAMMAKOU, the country of the Batammaribas.
The Bassar Prefecture (Bandjéli) attests to the old age iron works in the region.Many traditional stoves have been conserved (Nangbéni - Bassar). The traditional chieftaincy of Bandjéli is an experience one cannot afford to miss. The region is rich in fauna and flora. The Keran national park is one of the biggest forest reserves in the country; not forgetting the Sarakawa reserve where safaris are organised in search for African wildlife: zebra, colobus monkeys, bulbuls, buffaloes etc…
The region is proud of many markets such as the markets of: Niamtougou, Ketao, Bassar, Bandjéli, and Nadoba (Koutammakou)
The Savannah Region
The extreme North of Togo has a savannah vegetation with an exceptional flat plain with somewhat intermittent green mountains: it is the place by excellence for Palmyra palm, animal drawn cultivation, and cattle breeding.
The region has historic sites that seems to date from time immemorial; as Africa is equally one of the cradles of humanity. Its sites are proposed for the UNESCO world heritage.