Massive vine ladder connects Guinean mountain villages

A man climbs a ladder made out of vines in the village of Sanama in Guinea (photo by Alpha Ousmane Bah).
A man climbs a ladder made out of vines in the village of Sanama in Guinea (photo by Alpha Ousmane Bah).

In some rural parts of the West African nation of Guinea, there are hardly any roads and getting from one place to another can be quite a challenge. In the mountainous villages of Sanama and Tirikouré, the situation is even more complicated. To get over the mountain to the hospital or market in the neighbouring town, residents have to climb up a ladder made of vines.

Alpha Ousmane Bah is a journalist for the online news service, who recently travelled to the remote villages of Sanama (population: 1,500) and Tirikouré (population: 1,000). He told the FRANCE 24 Observers team about how difficult life is for these villagers.

The villages of Sanama and Tirikouré are separated from the town of Lélouma by a mountain range several kilometres long.

As the crow flies, these villages are less than 10 kilometres from the centre of Lélouma, but people have to take a 130-kilometre detour to get there by road. Villagers travel this long distance by motorcycle, to go to the market and sell produce grown in the valley like fonio, rice and cassava.

The only way to get to the town, its market, its hospitals and its government buildings quickly is to cut across the mountain on foot, a journey which involves climbing up a massive vine ladder near Sanama.

On every Saturday, market day in Lélouma, women from Sanama and Tirikouré climb the ladder balancing their wares on their heads. They leave early in the morning and climb back down the ladder around 7pm. It's an extremely difficult journey. The mountain's peak is 300 metres high, and even the lower parts are at about 120 metres.

The lack of a good road between the villages and the town causes all kinds of suffering. As there are no secondary schools in these villages, parents there have to find host families in Lélouma for their kids so they can attend school. It causes lot of suffering. The government needs to build a modern bridge to open up these villages.

Bah poses in front of the vine ladder near Sanama.


“When we need to evacuate someone who is ill, we have to carry them in a kind of hammock”

Dian Foulah Camara works in a dispensary in Sanama. He said it is a nightmare to bring sick people to the hospital in Lélouma.

We experience every kind of suffering you could imagine. There is no road to get to the town quickly. When we need to evacuate someone to the hospital in Lélouma, people prefer to use the ladder because it takes so long to go by road. We have to carry the sick person in a hammock that we use as a stretcher.

A view of Tirikouré village from a nearby hill (photo by Alpha Ousmane Bah).


Until very recently, people in Tirikouré had to use the vine ladder in Sanama to get to Lélouma. Recently, they raised enough money in the community to build a wooden ladder.

Most of the roads in Guinea are in poor condition. Only 30% of roads in Guinea are paved, according to the Guinean minister for investment and public-private partnerships.

“In the region of Labé [where the two villages are located], the roads are muddy during the rainy season and dusty during the dry season,” says Bah.

In November 2016, a group of bloggers in Guinea called Ablogui launched the hashtag #montronsnosroutes, in English, “show what our roads are like”, to show the authorities the alarming state of the country’s roads. According to the news site La Tribune, the government announced in March 2019 that it hoped to raise 100 billion CFA francs (around €154 million) from its partners to invest in new road infrastructure.

Article by Hermann Boko (@HermannBoko).

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Endless waiting, porters and flooded motors: The struggle to cross Guinea’s Bagou River