The Northern Region is the largest area of Ghana. As of 2004, it is divided into 18 districts. The region’s capital is Tamale. Climatically, religiously, linguistically, and culturally, the region differs greatly from the politically and economically dominating regions of central and southern Ghana.
The region lies in the north of the country and is bordered in the northwest by the Upper West Region, in the northeast by the Upper East Region, in the southwest by the Brong-Ahafo Region, in the southeast by the Volta Region, in the west by Côte d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) and in the east by Togo.
The Northern Region of Ghana contains the following 18 districts:
Central Gonja District
East Gonja District
East Mamprusi District
Nanumba North District
Nanumba South District
Tamale Municipal District
West Gonja District
West Mamprusi District
Climate and Vegetation
The Northern Region is much drier than southern areas of Ghana, due to its proximity to the Sahel, and the Sahara. The vegetation consists predominantly of grassland, especially savanna with clusters of drought-resistant trees such as baobabs or acacias. Between May and October is the wet season, with an average annual rainfall of 750 to 1050 mm (30 to 40 inches). The dry season is between about November and April. The highest temperatures are reached at the end of the dry season, the lowest in December and January. However, the hot Harmattan wind from the Sahara blows frequently between December and the beginning of February. The temperatures can vary between 14°C (59°F) at night and 40°C (104°F) during the day.
The Northern Region is the least densely populated area of Ghana. Most inhabitants (52%) speak a language of the Mole-Dagbane subfamily in the Niger-Congo language family. The largest ethnicities within this group are the Dagomba and the Mamprussi. The Gurma along with the Komkomba place as the largest sub-group, comprising 21% of the population. The largest individual ethnic group is the Dagomba, which constitute about a third of the population. The previously mentioned languages belong – in contrast to the groups in the South – to the Gur language family.
Over 56% of the population are followers of Islam, 21% belong to traditional religions, and 19% are Christian. About 3% belong to other religions.
Ethnic conflicts in the Northern Region
The relationship between the various ethnic groups in the Northern Region has not been continuously stable. In particular, conflicts have been smoldering for a long time between the Dagomba on the one hand and the ‘nomadic’ Konkomba on the other. In the eyes of many among the dominating Dagomba, the Konkomba are landless intruders and bandits, who penetrated into the areas of the Dagomba only in the colonial ages. However, this view of the origins and history of the Konkomba in this region of Ghana is not shared by themselves, and it is not supported by the scientific research on this area, especially not by any academic writing on the Konkomba or Dagomba published before the 1994 conflict. 1994 experienced the worst ethnic conflicts ever in Ghana. The conflict spread to other groups, and ended up with several thousand dead.
The region is one of the least developed areas of Ghana. More than 70% of the economically active population are agricultural. The small population density is partly caused by emigration due to extreme poverty in the region.