People & States‎ > ‎


There are various traditions of migration into the mountainous areas of the Volta Region from places as diverse as Ahanta, in the Western Region, to Togo. The communities that now live in this area speak a variety of languages known collectively as the Ghana-Togo Mountain Languages. The people groups are generally known as: Adele (3), Akposo (6), Animere (7), Avatime (10), Bowiri (63), Buem (42), Likpe (55), Logba (44), Mawu (57), Nyagbo (50)*, Santrokofi (56), and Tafi (60)*. Many GTML speakers also speak Akan or Ewe, and in some communities the GTML is spoken only by the older generation, the language being in danger of extinction. The source languages of the example toponyms given below are not necessarily the same as the indigenous languages because of these complexities.

*These areas appear to have been wrongly swapped on the original map.


The Adele are the most northerly of the GTML peoples. Their name for themselves is Bidire, and their language is Gidire. According to the Joshua Project: "They claim to have come down from heaven by a chain bringing with them their two gods, Nayo and Efriko. Their first home was a place called Dibenkpa {Duflumkpa?}; as their numbers grew they founded new settlements, which have become the Adele towns of the present day. .. Nkwanta is the trade center, Dadiase is the communication center, Tutukpene is the seat of the paramountcy." But M.E.Kropp Dakubu states that "according to Heine .., the Adele in the Ghana part of their area say they originated from the south near Accra, specifically the Osu Lagoon, whence they fled after being attacked by 'Juaben', presumably Akyem. This makes them one of the several groups fleeing north and east from the wars west of the Volta in the middle of the 18th century. However they did not bring the Giɖerɛ language with them. As they spread through their present territory, especially to the east, they met a group already there who worked iron, and it is likely that, as Heine says, they absorbed these people, simultaneously shifting to their language." From its etymology, Dadiase is presumably the iron-working site. The only toponym which incorporates the ethnonym appears to be Odumase, listed by GhanaDistricts as 'Odumase Adele', probably to avoid confusion with the many other places of this name.
Toponyms: Dadiase, Odumase Adele, Tutukpene


As can be seen from the language map, the Akposo are now a very small isolated group (numbering 7500 in the year 2002). Commenting on their possible origin, M.E.Kropp Dakubu says, "One theory is that the people's original home is Apesokubi in what is now Ghana, and that they spread eastwards because of overpopulation. The other is that the present area in Togo is the original one. It seems to me that both could be true". Either way, there is certainly a much larger population (155,000) across the border. The community website, offers three stories of origin documented by K.O.Bassa. In the first, "their ancestor, called Ida, 'emerged from the ground' {a commonly held basis for allodial rights} close to a mountain in Gbohoulé, a place located about ten kilometres south-east from Tététou in the Moyen Mono district in Togo." Ida is then reputed to have been translated magically to a place called Agbogboli, from where his numerous descendants moved to the uplands of Kossa, founding Akposso-Koubi. The second story differs by having the first man, now called Oboè or Tchokolobi, start at the 'Cave of Kossa'. His seven children then founded seven villages on the Kossa plateau, and their descendants subsequently created the city of Akposso-Koubi, which is now stated to be in modern Ghana. The third story describes the foundation of several villages by the six children of founding figures named Egbédji and Kawoura. The only place name listed by GhanaDistricts which incorporates the ethnonym is the village Akposo Kabo.
Toponyms: Akposo Kabo, Apesokubi


Animere is a language in the final stage of extinction. R.Blench (2006) notes that "Heine (1968a) reports Animere as spoken in two villages and as dying out, but a 1974 survey showed that it was thriving in an isolated village, Kunda, in the Twi-speaking area ..". M.E.Kropp Dakubu brings this up to date in her paper: "According to {A. Ring's} report, the language is now spoken only by a few elderly people .. . Formerly however it was spoken in the area between the Wawa and Asukawkaw rivers, directly east of Kunda. Within living memory it was spoken in Kunda .. and apparently also in Kekyeebi (Kajebi), Ampeyo and Pampawie .. , but it has now disappeared from these places, and the people whose ancestors spoke it now speak Akan."
Toponyms: Kunda, Pampawie


According to the Avatime State website, the Avatime people migrated from Ahanta land in the Western Region and finally settled at a place called Oxulosu near present-day Biakpa. Their leader was called Avati, hence the name Avatime - 'the people of Avati'. However, D.K.Gbagbo regards this etymology as problematical because Avati is an Ewe name, which would be strange for a people whose origin and language are not Ewe, unless the name had been conferred on the leader by the local Ewe people. He gives two other possible Ewe etymologies: (a) Ave + ati + me (forest + tree + people/dweller) = those who inhabit the forest, and (b) Aʋa + tsi + wo + me (war + remains + in/inside them) = warriors. Avatime is thus an exonym;  the self-designation of the people is Kedeone, meaning 'those who came last' or 'those who were left behind'. Their language, known as Siya or Sideme, is probably a hybrid of that of the migrants and that of the indigenes, the Baya. Avatime today comprises seven towns, listed below, which are generally referred to without the people name.
ToponymsAmedzofe, Biakpa, Dzogbefeme, Dzokpe, Fume, Gbadzeme, Vane


The area inhabited by the Bowiri is the Konsu valley south-west of Jasikan.Their language is listed on Ethnologue as Tuwuli, with Bowiri as an alternative. The name of the people in their own language is Bawuli. According to Kwame Ampene the Bowiri are a mixture of indigenous people and Guan emigrants from Mouri near Cape Coast. The latter left their ancestral home following frequent quarrels with rival clans, culminating in an argument over a failure to provide a traditional pot of palm wine to the custodians of the land at a burial. Eventually they settled in what is now the north of the Volta Region. On arrival, they "fought and defeated the aboriginal inhabitants locally known as the Banyukutu or Kpaletor. The battle is referred to as 'the Battle of Abohire' because the victorious Bowiri besmeared themselves with white clay (‘hyirew’) as symbolic of victory". The implication appears to be that the name 'Bowire' is a corruption of Abohire or 'wɔ abɔ hyirew' (they have rubbed white clay). However Ampene's account later states, without comment, that by the time that peace had been established "the ancestral name Morii or Moree had been corrupted into Mouwire and eventually Bowire and Bowiri". The GEF Small Grants Programme, which supported a biodiversity & ecotourism project in 2005-7, appears to have been given a different tradition of origin, commenting that, "Culturally, the forest is housing a fetish (deity), Kutueku. Kutueku is believed to have led the people of Bowiri from Mbowire in the Western Region to their present place of abode."
Toponyms: AboaboAbohire, Amanforo, AnyinaseKwamikromKyirahin, Odumase, Takrabe


The Buem people were a political entity formed in the 19th century to oppose the expansionism of the Ashanti, as commemorated in the name of their administrative capital, Jasikan. Their language consists of two cognate dialects, Leƒana and Lelemi. The principal towns of the former dialect are Borada, Guaman, Okadjakrom & Jasikan, and those of the latter are Baglo & Teteman. K.Ampene gives three different stories for the origin of the name 'Buem', all of which he regards as folk etymology: "One version relates that the name was originally Buefo, initiated by the Worawora people in consequence of their yielding when aimed at with a gun, and they would plead saying:  'Boe, Boe!' which means 'softly, softly'. .. Another version is .. that the root of the word came from ‘Bue’, an expression in the language of the people which also means ‘slowly’, farewell’, or ‘sound sleep’, depending on the context it is used.  Thus, 'Meyina Bueme', literally 'I am going to the land of the Bue' .. The last of the theories .. says that at the start of a fight between the Buem and Kwawu Dokuman, then resident at Jinjiso, the Dokumanhene is said to have remarked in Twi: 'Mibue moi ani a, mo ani nte' meaning: 'you cannot be civilized after indoctrination', hence ‘Mibue’ became corrupted into 'Buem'." The name is not generally seen affixed to toponyms, but GhanaDistricts does so in the case of "Baglo Buem".
Toponyms: Borada, Guaman, Okadjakrom, Jasikan, Baglo, Teteman


The Likpe people live in the mountainous region near the Togo border, north-east of Hohoe. They speak a language called Sekpele. Fishman on the Traveljournals website recounts the following local tradition concerning the origin of their name:  "Many years ago the Ewe people were chased from their homes by the tyrannical rule of an ancient Chief (from the lands that are now Benin). Fleeing further and further, the Ewes finally arrived in a virgin bush, unblemished by the hands of men. There the people began a small settlement. In those days everyone fetched water from the river and did so at the same time. One of those times, members of the majority lineage killed a pregnant woman of one of the minority groups living on the fringe of the settlement. The murderers refused the custom of replacing the deceased with a member of their own tribe and, thus provoked, the plaintiffs began their preparations for war by sharpening stones used in battle. Scouts from the majority party saw this action, known in Ewe as 'likpe', and returned with the news of an impending conflict. They thus acquiesced to the custom and presented the minority group, now known as the Likpes, with a new bride." A similar story, but with the cause of friction attributed to expansionism on the part of the 'newcomers' is recounted by Ampene, who records the appellation given to the 'minority' as likpe-awo, or 'stone-chippers'. His account also clarifies their status, describing them as Bakpale, a Guan people who arrived before the Ewe. This is supported by the fact that the exonym Likpe differs from their endonym, which is bakpele (see Blench, website). An anonymous article at claims that this name has the prior etymology, deriving from 'bakple' meaning 'bigger groups', and that "they were nick-named Likpe by the Gbi spies who saw the(m) sharpening stones in readiness for war against the Gbis". However this seems to conflict with the previous accounts in which the Likpe are described as "one of the minority groups". M.E.Kropp Dakubu comments on the linguistic evidence, saying that "there is no evidence that the language of the Likpe was once spoken elsewhere, but some families have a tradition of coming from Atebubu". In this case it is conceivable that the immigrant Likpe acquired the language of the indigenous people, the 'bakple', but were themselves a minority group, and that the immigrant Ewe applied an intentional corruption of this description to them following the stone-sharpening incident. 


The Logba people live in and near the mountains about halfway between Ho and Hohoe. Most of the towns -  Wuinta, Akusame, Adiveme, Andokɔfe, Adzakoe, Alakpeti & Klikpo - lie along the Accra-Hohoe. road, but Tota is situated higher up in the mountain known as Aya. The Logba name for their own language is Ikpana, which may be connected with their word for truth, ikpa. There are at least two accounts of the meaning of logba. Curiously, both give a similar interpretation of the Ewe Notsie narrative, but from different languages and from the perspective of different people groups. Kofi Dovlo gives two possible etymologies of the exonym, 'Logba'. According to the first, the name "is derived from two Ewe words lɔ ‘collect’ (and) gbě ‘rubbish’ and refers to those people who in the course of migration of the Ewes from Notsie in present day Togo were in front of the group and made the path by literally ‘breaking and collecting the thick vegetative undergrowth’ to facilitate the movement for the Ewes who followed". This suggests that the people are a subset of the Ewe who acquired the language of the indigenous people after settling. But the second account "suggests that the name is from two Logba words, la ‘to make’ and ɔgbá ‘path’. Logba people were supposed to be hunters who were residing outside the great walls of Notsie and at the time of the migration of the Ewes, they helped to make the path for the Ewes. It is believed that this name was a result of the reference that the Ewes made to them when they heard them saying: la ogbáá! la ogbáá! ‘make the path, make the path.’ From that time they were referred to by the other ethnic groups as the Logba people." Thus in this story, the Logba were indigenous to the area and not Ewe. The Ve Lukusiawo Traditional Council version of this account is similar but states that "Akpana Dzekpakpa, the Logba fetish priest, led by creating a path-way through the bush (enoa alogbeawo gbam) ... It is for this reason his people were called 'Alogbawo' which now becomes 'Logbawo'".
Toponyms: Logba Alakpeti, Logba Tota


The most logical exonym for the people who speak the Siwu language would be the Akpafu, which is reflected in the Ethnologue language code akp, but the people group originally called by this name has since split into two political entities, now called the Akpafu and the Lolobi. It is therefore less contentious to use their common autonym, Mawu. K.Ampene states that "the founding fathers of Akpafu were living in the Sene-Pru basin together with Lolobi .. one ethnic group". The destabilisation of their society seems to have been due to a conflict with "Akan immigrants from Adanse, 1690-1697", after which they migrated to the Volta Region, where they were able to practise as blacksmiths. After some further conflicts with other tribes they "finally settled on the high ranges of iron bearing Mt. Ogage, where they established three patrilineal family groups". The cause of the political separation was a dispute known as 'Rice Brawl', described by H.B.K.Ogbete: "There was a severe drought and crop .. failure one year, and only the Magadagbe clan .. had enough rice to sell. At the start of the next farming season, the people of Omain {Mamain} asked to buy rice for sowing .. . The selling of rice was lucrative so the Magadagbe fried the rice .. ensuring that it did not germinate .. there was a serious brawl resulting in a number of deaths." An attempt to judge the case by the other clans resulted first in the Mamain leaving the community on an issue of chief hierarchy, and then the Magadagbe being forced to leave for causing the split. The Mamain came to be known as the Lolobi, but the Magadagbe were later reintegrated into the Akpafu community after being hit by disease. Mark Dingemanse describes the present situation: "The speakers of Siwu call themselves the Mawu. They live in a total of eight villages scattered about in the mountains east of Lake Volta and north of Hohoe in Ghana. They number about 13,000 -18,000 ... Their land (Kawu in Siwu) is divided into Akpafu (Northwest) and Lolobi (Northeast), corresponding to a dialectal division .. . The name 'Akpafu' is an exonym given to the Mawu people and their land by the neighbouring Ewe people. One widespread folk etymology has it that this name has its origin in the sound made by the bellows (kpafu, kpafu). Another folk etymology, popular among women, is that it a shortened form of something Mawu women say in the (Ewe) markets, namely kpa fu mɛ  'gather and heap it for me'."
Toponyms (Akpafu): Adokor, Mpeasem, Odomi, Sɔkpoo, Todzi
Toponyms (Lolobi): Lolobi Kumasi, Lolobi Ashiambi, Lolobi Hunyeasem


The Nyagbo people live in nine villages that lie on either side of the mountain ridge which is to the east of the road between Have and Fume. They speak a language which they call Tutrugbu, and call themselves the Batrugbu. The language is so similar to that of the neighbouring Tafi people that according to Ethnologue, "People 30 to 50 years old had nearly perfect comprehension. There are reportedly only phonological differences." The two dialects are classified by Ethnologue together with Avatime under the heading Avatime-Nyangbo. D.K.Gborsi reports an oral tradition from local informants that traces the orgin of the people from Osu, Accra, thence to Adzina near Akosombo, then Tɔsrɔɛ, near Anum. From there they were force by the Ashanti war to move to Agu in present-dayTogo, finally returning west and settling in their present homeland. "Their leader found the mountain top suitable and secure so he led the people to settle there. .. Later .. communities began to move out of Sroe the original settlement one after the other, clan by clan".
Toponyms: Nyagbo Agodome, Akorfafanami, Nyagbo Anyigbe, Emli, Nyagbo Fiafe, Nyagbo Gagbefe, Nyagbo Konda, Kume, Nyagbo Odumase, Sroe


The following description is taken directly from the Santrokofi website and reproduced with permission: "The Santrokofi traditional area is made up of three townships, namely Benua, Bume and Gbodome {about 6-8 km north of Hohoe}. The people .. are of Guan extraction with their own language and culture. The people are known as 'Balεε' while the language .. is known as 'Sεlεε'. There are two stories about the name Santrokofi. According to the first, Santrokofi is a corruption of ‘Saatelo Kofi’ which means our master Kofi. Saatelo Kofi was a constructor of farming and household equipments. Traders from other tribes who used to buy his wares ended up naming the whole traditional area after him as Santrokofi. Another story is that Santrokofi is the name of a bird, a certain kind of nightjar which, if people come close by, suddenly flutters up and alights some distance away. This version, written down by Rudolf Plehn in 1898, is supposed to be an analogy to the migration history of the Balεε, which also happened in abrupt movements from place to place."
Toponyms: Santrokofi Benua, Santrokfi Bume, Santrokofi Gbodome


The Tafi people live in a small pocket of villages in the area to the west of Fume. The name is used by Ethnologue to refer to their language, but in that language they call themselves Bagbɔ, and their language, Tεgbɔ. In 2003 Ethnologue estimated the number of speakers of the language to be 4400, but  the website Sacred Natural Sites states that the residents of Tafi Atome speak Ewe. SNS reports the following oral tradition: "According to residents, approximately 200 years ago, the ancestors of the residents of the Tafi Atome area are said to have migrated from Assini in central Ghana to the Hohoe District. They brought with them an idol or fetish that was placed in the sacred forest in Tafi Atome, in order to keep it safe and cool. The forest was immediately considered sacred and therefore protected. A short time after their arrival in the area, the village residents began to notice monkeys that they believed they had seen in their original region of Assini, and therefore believed that the monkeys had followed them. The monkeys were henceforth considered ‘representatives of the gods’, and protected as sacred."
Toponyms: Tafi Abuife, Tafi Agome, Tafi Atome, Tafi Mado