Hi, my name is Michael Amponsah. I am 30 years old, I come from Mallam, a district of Accra, the capital city of Ghana. I now live in Abofour, a small town on the edge of the Afram Headwaters Forest Reserve. I went to school in Accra at the New Life School. That all seems a long time ago now. After leaving school I trained as a mechanic. I didn’t really want to work on cars, I am more interested in plant and machinery. I like working on trucks also, but machinery is where it is at for me.
At Mere we run all sorts of machinery. If it has an engine, or is pulled or powered by an engine, I can be asked to work on it. My work is a mix of general maintenance and scheduled work on the machines and dropping tools, literally sometimes. To deal with breakdowns. There is never a shortage of work for me or my assistants.
Monday 20th July
Every day starts with assisting all drivers with their prework checks on their machines. This covers everything from motorbikes, Land Rovers, trucks, tractors, JCB’s. We also perform checks on trailers and implements on the tractors. This can range from trailers to flails through to cyclones. There are a few new machines joining the fleet today, so I have scheduled longer than normal.
No major issues to report, added some oil to MF290 and transmission fluid in the 298. The tractors all come in from the UK where the head office buy them, but the oils and fluids used in the UK will not cope with the heat of Africa, so we always do full fluid changes.
On to the days list. First, replaced rear bearings on one of the Land Rover 110’s. This is a County edition so is used to take people round the plantation sites. It really is a hardworking vehicle. Next, replaced the rear spring on a 7.5-ton TATA flatbed truck. That truck was located some distance away at Boayase. By the time I got back to the yard it was going dark, so I packed up and headed home.
Tuesday 21st July
Morning checks with the drivers on all. Machines as every day. Nothing really to report, so I was able to quickly start on the days list. Fitted replacement break cylinder to one of the MF 298 tractors, simple job but quite slow to bleed the break lines once the new part is installed. If you have any air in the system, the breaks will not be efficient and won’t stop the tractor when you are towing heavy loads. This particular tractor tows loads up to 30mt all day every day.
Stripped down and replaced seals on another 298 hydraulic steering rams. Quick job but very messy. I was then called out to replace a broken hydraulic hose on one of the JCB 3cx rams. Easy job but the machine was digging out roadside drainage ditches at the side of the access road to compartment 17. It took the best part of an hour to get there, I was working in deep mud and wet ground as this is what the JCB’s are doing all day in the rainy season, managing water. I was then called to compartment 14 to replace a centre bolt on one of the tipping trailers. The driver had reported it missing, as we check each machine every day, we knew it was there when the trailer left the yard.
Wednesday 22nd July
Looking like an easy day. We did the normal prework checks with the drivers and sent them off to their days work. One of our 110 Defenders was booked in for a replacement kingpin bearing. During the pre-release inspection, I noticed a small leak on the rear brake cylinder. I replaced the seal kits and put a new ram in for good practice.
Next, full service on a JCB 3CX, routine maintenance report done. Noticed a couple of worn hydraulic pipes so ordered spare couplings and noted change needed for next time in the shop. Finally, replaced a U-clamp on a tipping trailer. Home on time for once.
Thursday 23rd July
Busy day ahead, finishing on time yesterday was not looking likely. It is market day in Abofour on a Thursday, that makes moving around very difficult, it is packed. The roads are mostly dirt tracks and are always busy; making it quite dangerous for the drivers getting to the different compartments. I often get called to help when roads get blocked with broken down cars and vans. We try to help our neighbours around the plantation when they have problems. Nothing today, so on with the daily list.
First, oil change on an MF 290, we do this each month on every tractor. I took 4 batteries for refurbishment; they weren’t holding charge well. I fitted a new turbo to a 110 Land Rover. The part had been on order for a few weeks, but it finally came in. Next, strip down of the hub on an MF 3904WD and replaced the main bearing.
Called out to a breakdown in compartment 13. Replaced prop shaft bolts on a 7-ton flatbed truck. On the way back, I was called to a breakdown on the road to Kwapanin. One of our Case tractors was stuck in top gear. The problem with the more modern tractors is that everything is controlled by electrics and computer management systems.
In Africa, the environment for machines is tough. Heat, rain, mud and dust make up every day. Computers and electronics just don’t work. We have nothing but problems with the things that are designed to be improvements. A clean and reset and the tractor was up and running again.
Back to the compound at Compartment 31 next. Removed the rear transfer box and differential from a Defender130 for replacement. This is from the boss’s favourite pickup; this Land Rover is kind of part of Mere in Ghana. It came in the first batch of machinery in 2010; despite having a really hard life, it keeps running.
Friday 24th July
Glad to see the end of the week coming. Daily checks went without issue. Drivers all got off to the compartments on time, with no faults reported. Before heading to Compartment 31 to fit the new gearbox, I have a spring to fit on a 7.5-ton flat bed. One of the trucks we use to transport the casual workers to the compartments every day. The trucks have a hard life. All day every day off road on the dirt. Springs, airlines, and bearings are a constant job on these trucks. We have new ex-army trucks coming from the UK to replace these. They are 4×4 and should be a lot tougher.
Headed off to Compartment 31 and fitted a new clutch and gearbox to the Land Rover I prepared yesterday. No problems, just very wet and muddy.
Saturday 25th July
Half day on a Saturday. Morning checks as normal. Another broken spring to replace on a flatbed truck that came in- quick job. We really do have this down to a fine art. Straight on to the JCB. It is critical we finish this today as the machine is working all weekend. We strip the rear axle and remove the break port. Replace the seals to fix a hydraulic leak. Rebuild the axle and get the rear wheels back on. Next, replace the seals on the fuel stopper, no issues. Fixed a cross-bearing on one of the Defenders.
Final job for the week, assuming we don’t get called to a breakdown. Stripped the rear hub of an 8-ton tipping trailer and replaced a failed bearing.
That finishes my week. I am not on call this weekend for any breakdowns.