Today is Blog Action Day, “an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action”.
The topic is water and I’m blogging from Ghana, West Africa. I live in Accra, Ghana’s capital and largest city. So I could talk, no rant, about the lack of clean safe water in most parts of the city and how the poorest of its inhabitants pay the most for water. Yes, I could go on and my readers can imagine how bad it is and can get. One aspect of the bad water situation that also bothers me, is how uneven the delivery of clean water is in Accra. Because the fact is there is enough water in and around Accra for of all its inhabitants. I live in an area that was planned and before residents move into the suburb, the utilities are already connected. So my household (and the relatively lucky few) enjoy clean, piped water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sure, like most middle class households in Accra, we also have a reserve, known as polytanks, that store piped water for use on days when the water is disconnected. But the water supply is hardly disrupted. Compare this to other similar households in parts of the city that must purchase water at exorbitant prices every single day. So it’s just not lack of water, it’s also the lack of infrastructure. And how governments allow people to settle in areas where no infrastructure exists for the delivery of water. But that’s not what I want to focus on this Blog Action Day.
Instead, I want to talk about a successful water project. My ancestral home is in the Abeadze Traditional Area, Central Region of Ghana, in the villages of Dominase and Kyeakor. Kyeakor is surrounded by rivers but Dominase has very little underground water. When I was a child, people bathed in the surrounding rivers. As an urban child, it was fun to visit and join my extended relatives for trips to the river to bath, wash and fetch water. I was a child, what did I know? Later, both villages set-up several boreholed, piped water stations. And when I came back to Ghana, when I visited the villages, I saw children and teenagers fetching water at the pipes in the mornings and in the evenings. As you can imagine, able-bodied adults never fetch water. This duty falls squarely on the shoulders of the children. The practice of bathing in the rivers still continued and there were (as in the distant past) several outbreaks of water-borne diseases.
Then, in 2005, the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) approached the villages with a project. CWSA is a semi-autonomous agency that deals exclusively at the rural and community level. Their proposal to Kyeakor and Dominase was, for us, ground-breaking; the implementation of a piped, water delivery system. We could not believe; we had not lobbied for it, had not bribed anyone! The project, funded by the Ghana Government and the European Union, would set up a village-level water delivery company, find water, build a pipe network and deliver piped water to all houses in the two villages. All that the communities had to do was pay for only 5% of the project. 5%, so small, and yet such a big amount for villagers in rural Ghana, whose main source of employment is subsistence farming. It took a long while to collect all the money. Community leaders devised various tactics like preventing the funerals of loved ones until the family had paid their contribution. We finally collected and paid our share. Last year, CWSA dug for and found water, lots of it in Kyeakor and enough to supply the two and other surrounding villages. This year, they are laying the pipes. We are confident that the project will be completed soon. And it’s really unbelievable. Selfishly, of course, I’m glad because when I do build my retreat in my village, I can have piped water and can flush toilets :). Villages are not normally the recipients of such projects and largesse. I want to take the opportunity to thank Ghana’s CWSA for this life-saving work.
Sadly, such initiatives are few across the African continent. CWSA’s work bypasses huge government bureaucracy and other obstacles. It allows for the provision of water infrastructure in rural areas even as the central government seem incapable on working on a solution for urban areas. And that is amazing on a continent where most of the resources are spent in the urban areas.
So for my Blog Action Day, I call for more of these initiatives across Ghana and Africa. Please use water wisely.