How My Time in a Mud Hut in Ghana Taught Me About Decentralized Systems

In the summer of 2000 I found myself along with more than a dozen others in the remote village of Zahavi Leumi in the eastern Volta region of Ghana. We had travelled there on behalf of the Jewish World Service to build a mud brick school in a small village that lacked running water, official electricity, or modern bathrooms.

We lived in mud huts and used buckets to shower ourselves. At night, with the endless sky of stars above I would see villagers hunt with 100 year old rifles for oversized rats.

Leaving aside my malaria driven fever hallucinations or the vacancy of time as I spent listening to a village elder humming the tunes of his people’s past, I noticed that this village we had given four weeks of our lives to help, triumphed in the utilization of a decentralized culture.

With little or no contact with even people in the nearby city of Ho, the village of Zahavi Leumi had no reasonable infrastructure or any standard interrelationship between the national government other than a wealthy man who had moved back to the village of his youth. Despite all of this, the villagers thrived by using their off the grid reality to expand their ability to subsist without government help.

One of the things I noticed early on was that despite no official connection to the main power lines running through their village, the residents had at points devised ways to hook into the electrical lines not meant for them. This provided power in limited capacity.

The only store sold beer, soda, and bottled water. Nothing was recorded and no taxes paid. The villagers lived by subsistence farming and hunting grass cutters (those oversized rats I mentioned before).

So how did the central government know this village even existed? How were they able to relate to them? The wealthy man who had moved back to Zahavi Leumi and essentially lived apart from the village in a guarded villa took upon himself to act as the liaison for the village to the regional and national governments.

The more we speak about blockchain and decentralization as a mode of living, the more I think about the village of Zahavi Leumi near the Togalese border. Essentially, blockchain gives the ability to modernize what has been the human condition since the beginning of time and that is to act highly independent yet interrelated at the same time.

In the past decentralization was an outgrowth of natural tendencies and a lack of a clear alternative. Those societies that have centralized used centralization to move ahead of their decentralized counterparts, yet at the same time their advancement has come at a cost. Ultimately, a loss of our own independence and decision making. Blockchain remedies this problem.

All of humanity deserves to be able to act independently as individuals, families, and communities, while interacting nationally and globally to ensure all of our interests are advanced in a holistic manner.

This is why blockchain, especially its implementation in areas of governance, banking, and sustainability offer us an amazing opportunity to level the playing field for small communities and large cities alike. For the first time everyone matters and no one’s voice can be silenced.

Africa has the largest use of mobile phones ever and with a world moving towards full internet penetration, opportunities abound to live a fully decentralized existence without a disconnection from the technological advancement that had been the norm before.

Eighteen years have passed since my summer in a mud hut in Ghana, but my assumption is that these past eighteen years have seen even a disconnected village, now wired and connected to a wider Africa and far more accessible world. When I arrived there, our group was the first from outside of Ghana they had met.

Our new world that is converging on all of us, means that these villages and our technology can be if we choose to do so integrate in a way that neither erases one’s individual contribution, while allowing one’s potential to be tapped within the larger structure of humanity. Of course all of, must ensure that blockchain and all of the technology we are rapidly developing is used for the positive without exploitation and agenda.

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