Delivering Clean Water in Rural Ghana: Blog Action Day 2010

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”.

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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.

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11 comments

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting on the blog. It’s always great and such a pleasant surprise to hear from fellow citizens of Abeadze. It’s not surprising that Kyiakor had excellent and abundant sources of good underground water :).

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  1. It’s awful to hear about all of these countries that don’t have access to clean water… So it’s very uplifting to hear about your progress :). Thanks for sharing! It’s amazing how we Americans take advantage of what seems to be such a simple resource. Best of luck to you!

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  2. Great piece of write up on access to clean and safe water in Ghana. I happen to come from Abeadze Traditional Area where Dominase and Kyeakor are located. I can testify to the CWSA water project and the difficulties the community leaders had to go through in mobilising the 5% component. Some of these leaders happen to be my relatives, i.e. my parents. However, I must say that the communities have started enjoying water from the project. But I had a telephone call one evening from my mother complaining to me that there was a demonstration by a group of the inhabitants in the community, protesting against the water committee’s decision to sell a bucket of water for 5 pesewas (less than 0.035 U.S cents) for maintenance and extension of the project to other suburbs. she was obviously worried for lack of show of appreciation on the part of community. The bigger question is after provision of clean and safe water how do we ensure access. Its important if we are to solve the many water borne diseases bedeviling our rural folks.

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    • Thanks for the comment, Baffoe. Yes, indeed the cost. And you and I discussed this the other day. I still think that the cost/bucket is a bit pricey for our village folks. But we also agreed that the piped water is a much much better solution to their needs than the now polluted river.

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  3. I hear so many stories about how many people don’t have clean water, that it’s nice to hear about positive progress. Those of us fortunate to have easy access to safe water too often take it for granted.

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  4. I hadn’t heard of Blog Action Day, but what a neat idea! Congratulations on joining in. It is hard to believe living in Canada that so many go without safe, clean and readily accessible water, but of course I know it to be a fact. It’s great to hear of initiatives like CWSA – it is incredible what they do. I hope they do more!

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  5. Very interesting, Kinna. Of course, I hear about water shortages or lack of infrastructure to distribute water in Africa, but it’s very nice to hear it from someone who is close up.

    I think it’s a good idea to make people pay for a project like that, so they will feel involved: it’s their water supply. And they won’t take it for granted.

    Ideally, of course, everyone would have water, the government would set up the infrastructure which would be paid from taxes. But I guess that’s not a very likely thing for the near future.

    Do I use water wisely? Yes and no. I try not to leave the tap running (e.g., when brushing teeth) but sometimes comfort overrules my good intentions. But we do all bathe in the same bath, about one a week, and use showers the rest of the time. That’s not bad going, really! 🙂

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    • Well, I think you are using water wisely. Yes, I wanted to focus on the very few positive news on water in Ghana/Africa. We really need to encourage such initiatives or anything that brings clean, safe affordable water to the rural areas.

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