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Published on: 01/02/2019

In rural Agravi, things are even worse. After pumps failed and supplies dried up women lower buckets into an open well and pull them up by hand. The well is vulnerable to pollution and to animals falling in.

A pump provided by the District Authority in 2012 failed within a week while another provided in 2017 through Chinese aid lasted just three days. The community cannot get teachers to stay – because of the failures of the water supply.

Agravi, a community of 600 people, has made multiple attempts to solve their water supply problems but all had ended in frustration. New borewells were drilled in 2012 and 2017, but at the time of our visit these had failed and the community relied on an open handwell that is more than 25 years’ old.

Women stand precariously on the well apron surrounds, lower their buckets into the depths and pull them up without the benefit of a pulley. The well is on the edge of the community - for most women it is an uphill walk back to their homes carrying large containers on their heads. Collecting water takes much of their time and sometimes women wait all night for this well to fill up.

Faustina Benenye makes three trips a day and her daughter carries a fourth bucketful. They have to filter the water to remove the worms and she says the whole process is a great source of stress.

The chief, Nana Kwaku Sokpor says the only alternative is a two mile car journey. He says it is hard to retain teachers who want to live and teach in a place with better facilities. The children’s education and health suffer as a result. “It is difficult for a girl to wake in the morning and not be able to bathe before school.”

The open well was installed in 1991 as part of the Programme of Actions to Mitigate the Social Costs of Adjustment (PAMSCAD), a joint Government of Ghana, World Bank, UNICEF initiative. The community petitioned the district assembly to provide more water points. In 2012, the district sent engineers who installed a pump with a foot treadle. The foot treadle broke and was replaced with a handpump. But this proved not strong enough to pump the water up from depth.

Alex Gafli, secretary of the Agravi WATSAN committee told us, “Frankly speaking, we did not even get water for a week. After drilling it was spoiled in three days.”

In 2017 a team from China installed a borewell and handpump under the 1,000 Borehole Project.12 This lasted scarcely a week before it failed, and although the implementing team returned to carry out repairs it only lasted another week before failing again.

The two new wells had provided water for less than a month between them and the community returned to the older handwell.

Even this runs out of water in the dry season. Alex Gafli said, “The women sit around the well and wait until it fills, sometimes all night. If you don’t come early you don’t get anything.” Villagers removed the lid to make it easier to draw up water, but this leads to problems as rats and other animals can fall in. On one occasion a woman with mental health problems threw faeces into the well and the villagers had to empty it and clean it out.

At one stage the community was promised a mechanised pump but the assembly member who promised this is no longer in office and it did not materialise.

The chief, Nana Kwaku Sokpor, is optimistic that the ANAM initiative will change all of this. “With new water policies and God’s good grace, Agravi will get good drinking water”, he said.

Adapted text from the booklet Asutifi North: what the water challenge means for communities. A baseline picture

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