Dumsor pronounced, “doom-sore” is a popular term Ghanaian’s use to describe persistent, irregular and unpredictable electric power outages in their country. It’s a term derived from their traditional Twi language, commonly spoken by everyone here, which means dum (to turn off or quench) and sɔ (to turn on or to make light), so the term roughly translates as “off-and-on”.
These blackouts here in Ghana are caused by a power supply shortage. This is mainly because, Ghana’s current generating capacity is currently 400-600 megawatts less than what the country needs. So electrical distributors often “shed load” with regular blackouts. This term, “Load Shedding”, in addition to “Dumsor” is what I often hear when I listen to my co-workers, host family and even the news stations on the radio, and it also appears in the news papers. For a while I was not exactly sure what it meant, but after little research, I found that it means, when electrical generation systems can’t supply the amount of power demanded or required by consumers, those responsible for the supply will lower demand by cutting back electrical supply to prevent uncontrolled service disruptions such as power outages or equipment damage. They may impose “load shedding” on certain areas via rolling blackouts or agreement with specific consumers to turn off equipment at times of high demand. When this occurs, the government usually puts up a schedule describing which areas would be affected, what time they will be affected and how long the power outage will last.
This has been the case in Ghana for some time now, I mean, it has always been the case in many west African countries, I can testify of Nigeria for sure! But the situation seriously deteriorated in Ghana starting last year. At the beginning of 2015, the dumsor schedule went from 24 hours with electricity and 12 without to 12 hours with electricity and 24 without. This situation was seriously affecting the very way of life for many Ghanaians, schools had to increase their fees to sustain the power cuts through generators, students writing exams were forced to learn and study in darkness with a lamp or candle or torchlight, businesses whose main form of work required electricity were deemed inoperative and defunct when there was no light and homes were forced to continue their activities, such a cooking, cleaning, etc in darkness. In the host home I currently live in, the family usually spends time in front of the tv when they all come back from work but when the power is cut they make due by having family conversations together. In the business I work in, the same also occurs, when the light goes off and all our laptops and electronics finally dies, we either end up having some conversations, writing our reports in books, or we get sent home to continue our work supposing there is light there. But for some of us, even our homes don’t also have light so it is often difficult for the average Ghanaian to deal with, which they also find frustrating.
During my time here, there have been only 2 days where there was no electricity supplied my NGO’s region and we did the same thing I mentioned above (spent some time working, and later got sent home). As per the region where my host family lives, the power cuts are even more drastic. After the third week of my stay, they became even more frequent, going out for at least 3 out of 7 days of the week (more or less), going off at 6am in the morning, only to bring it back at 7pm or going of at 7pm in the evening, to bring it back at 6am. But it could also go off completely the whole day.