Published on: 28/01/2014
Wet examine how interventions by the Triple-S project through the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) to the District Assembly down to the community level has enhanced water service delivery. It is based on a visit to the Agbedrafor community in May 23 2013, during which interviews with water users, a water vendor and the secretary of the Water and Sanitation Management Team (WSMT) were conducted.
Agbedrafor is a community in the Avenor Traditional Area in the Akatsi district of the Volta Region. It has a population of about 1000 inhabitants whose main occupation is farming. Others also engage in trading.
Before 2012, the Agbedrafor community depended on one borehole constructed through by a German project in the late 1950s and fitted with Indian Mark II handpump. The handpump was replaced with a Ghana Modified Mark II during the implementation of the DANIDA funded water and sanitation programme in the late 90s. To satisfy household water requirements, the community also depends on non-safe sources of water including rain water, dams, streams and open hand dug wells. In recent times some inhabitants have started to purchase sachet water for drinking.
In the run up to the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections, the sitting Member of Parliament for the area through the District Assembly provided the community with an additional borehole fitted with an Afridev handpump to augment the existing facility and improve the water situation in the community. This intervention contributed to a large extent to the improved water supply situation in the community.
Mr. Patrick Tengey, a retired teacher is the chairman of the Water and Sanitation Management Team (WSMT) for Agbedrafor community. He said the newly constructed facility is high yielding and as a result it sees high patronage compared to the other facility.
The water from the facility is currently being sold at 10 Ghana peswas per basin of water (40 liters).This is to enable the community to mobilise enough funds to operate and maintain the facilities in a sustainable manner. In order to ensure that the tariff was affordable to everyone in the community, especially the old and/or poor, it was extensively discussed and agreed at a community general meeting. The community practices the pay-as-you fetch system where consumers pay directly after fetching water. Based on the current tariff and strict monitoring and accountability measures put in place, the community is able to mobilise between GHC 9.00 and GHC 15.00 from sale of water in a day.
The WSMT has engaged water vendors to retail water at the facilities. They commence their daily sales in the morning till mid-day when they go on break. They resume in the afternoon till late evening. Each vendor earns a 20% commission on their total sales; paid daily or monthly. Mr. Tengey said "We are able to make more sales during the dry season (December to March) than the rainy season (April to November). During the rainy season people have access to water from other sources as ponds, rain water and streams. Water from these sources is used for household chores like bathing, washing etc. However, during the dry season, they all dry up and the only alternative is the handpump".
The WSMT in the Agbedrafo Community used to receive numerous complaints from the public on the difficulties they encountered when they wanted to fetch water due to the low water pressure of the facilities. The WSMT therefore decided to come up with a system of rationing water from the facilities. Mr. Tengey: "So we came up with a system to help solve the problem. On a daily basis users who wish to fetch water purchase coupons from our financial secretary and each person is given a coupon. The coupon numbers are serialised to automatically indicate the position of a user in the queue and determine who fetches before or after the other. Each coupon cost GHC10p and a user is entitled to only one coupon per a fetching session; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Mr. Tengey continues; "A user can only purchase a second or third coupon within a fetching session if every other person has been served. This is to ensure equity, and eliminate nepotism and favoritism in the sale of water to the community members. The coupon is issued per person, not family or household, so if, for example, three people from a household want water, they will all be given the coupon, except that no one person would be given more than one coupon at a time". It also helps to count the tally for a day. This has helped to order the queue and improve transparency and accountability in the water sales and account management.
According to Mr. Tengey: "We make on average GH9.00 per day per a facility. Sometimes the yield per day may not be very encouraging. During the rainy season people do not patronize the facilities much. A vendor may sit for a long time without anybody coming to fetch. But during the dry season when demand is high they make good sales'.
Mr. Tengey explained that after taking their coupons, water users can then go back home to continue with their household activities whilst waiting for their turn to fetch. A coupon bearer who will not be available needs to notify the vendor, his/her number will be skipped but is given the opportunity to fetch when he/she returns. "Priority is given to the elderly and aged, whether they turn up in person or send someone to fetch for them".
Dora is a 33 year old kindergarten teacher and mother of two. She moved to the community with her husband and children about four years ago, and uses water from the handpump for her daily domestic chores. She explains that the problem with the water situation in Agbedrafo; "Even though fetching is on a first-come-first-serve basis, people brought very big receptacles and containers that made it difficult, if not impossible, for others to get the opportunity to fetch". Because of this Dora was sometimes unable to get enough supply for her family. In such a situation she borrowed from neighbours and replaced the used water later. To supplement what she gets from the handpumps, Dora also bought from a private water vendor who gets her supply from tanker operators and sells 18 liters of water for GH 20p. Dora however prefers the water from the borehole becauseit is cheaper and of trusted quality.
According to Dora, the situation changed when the WSMT brought in the coupon system of fetching on a first-come-first-serve basis. Dora; "Eventhough the coupon system is a bit tedious, it is the best way so far out of the confusion we used to encounter. Although the quantity I get in the morning, as a result of the coupon system, is not much, it is enough for my morning use. When I come back in the afternoon, I buy a different coupon. Now, no matter the time you get to the facility, you would still get water on time without the quarrels that used to characterize the scene".
According to Dora, "The quality of the water is good, without any problem at all. It tastes well and readily lathers with soap. The problem however is that one of the old pumps, after fetching the first few buckets it becomes difficult and hard to pump; one has to wait for a while, about 15 minutes. In the dry season, you wake up around 3:00 am to queue for water. "
Also, apart from a water quality test before installation of the water facility, there has not been any water quality testing on the water supplied by the handpumps in the Agbedrafo Community. Mr. Tengey, confirmed that no water quality analysis test has been carried out on any of the facilities after they were constructed.
According to water users interviewed, the WSMT was doing a good job managing the water facilities and ensuring that there is constant flow of water. The facilities do not breakdown regularly, and even when they do, it is quickly repaired and service delivery restored. The WSMT has also been rendering accounts to the community on half yearly basis at community meetings.
Mr. Tengey stated that although they sometimes experience breakdowns, especially with the old facility, it is not frequent due to a routine maintenance culture adopted by the WSMT on the facilities. He stated that; "We have not had any situation where a facility breaks down for more than three days in a row. We always try to have some funds available in our accounts for emergencies and anytime it happens we are able to meet the need.
We undertake regular preventive maintenance schedule on the facilities, which includes regular greasing. This is done every two weeks". He continues; "Whenever our facility breaks down, we report to the officers in charge at the District Assembly. We sometimes also call the area mechanics ourselves. For the solar powered facility, we have the engineer's number and so whenever there is a breakdown we call him to come and look at the situation." On average the WSMT spends about GHC 15 (USD $ 7.5) on a facility per month.
According to Mr. Tengey, they usually get spare parts from the area mechanic who comes to repair the facility anytime there is a breakdown. "When the facility breaks down, the area mechanic comes to assess and identify the broken parts that need replacement, we give him money to buy and replace. If he has the parts he just replaces them and gets paid for it."
Payment for repairs are made out of funds available from savings made from the sale of water. Mr. Tengey: "However if the amount required to carry out maintenance is more than the resources available, the WSMT discusses it at the community level and agrees on an amount to be paid by each household in the community. We may also report it to the Assembly Member here to request to the district engineer for assistance from the district assembly. The district engineer may then advise the area mechanic on what to do to restore the water".
The Water and Sanitation Management Team (WSMT) of Agbedrafor community is well composed and very functional and holds regular meetings.
The community operates a water and sanitation bank account with two members of the WSMT being members. All funds accruing from the sale of water are recorded in the account book and deposited in the water and sanitation account. "On our last account, we realised a turnover of GHC 900. This could be used as a startup fund for other water related projects in the community.
The 10p per basin may seem small and unrealistic but the underlining objective is to make water accessible and affordable to all", Mr. Tengey stated. He added that there has not been any interference, political or chieftaincy, in their activities as a team.
Mr. Tengey stated that the Environmental Health Assistants (EHAs) from the District Assembly have been coming around to educate them on how to maintain a clean environment around the facilities. The EHAs also inspect the activities of the WSMT. Sometime ago a team from the District Assembly, CWSA and Triple-S came to the village to talk to them about sustainability of water from the facilities. Mr. Tengey continues; "They talked to us about how we can maintain our facilities to achieve the purposes for which they were constructed. We were given an insight into the yield rate of the facilities by the number of strokes to get a bucket filled. We will be grateful for training support to the committee members in the area of community mobilization strategies and the keeping of accounts".
According to Mr. Tengey the WSMT faces a lot of challenges in the discharge of its duties in the community. Two challenges that were most prominent included the non-willingness of some people to pay for the water they fetch and also the long queues at the facilities, which are mostly the a result of people taking too many containers per person. This however has reduced somewhat, due to the introduction of the coupon rationing system.
There is also the issue of seasonality. In the rainy season the vendors at the facilities barely make any reasonable water sales per day, sometimes no sales at all. This makes it difficult to keep the vendors since they end up getting a very small commission at the end of the month. A situation that does not make economic sense for the vendors to continue to be at their post.
Another challenge is location of the high yielding water facility. This is quite a distance from the community centre and requires users to walk for some distance to fetch water. There has not been any water quality analysis test on water from the facilities. Lastly, the WSMT has not been given any refresher training since they were constituted.
As a way forward, the WSMT desires that the water facilities are mechanised. The construction of stand pipes at vantage points in the community would bring water closer to the people. Arrangements to this effect have been started. This is envisaged to be completed before the next dry season because that is when it becomes difficult to pump and the yield per facility reduces.
According to Mr. Tengey, even though they have this idea of mechanising the facilities, there are no funds available. He said discussions are on-going with some individuals and organisations, including the District Assembly for support to undertake the project. He appealed to non-governmental organisations in the water and sanitation sector and benevolent organisations to come and support them.
The WSMT has also not been given any refresher training apart from the one they received when the team was first constituted. However, since then new members have joined and they need to be trained or the whole team needs to be given a refresher. He expressed the desired to be trained to acquire current knowledge in the management of the facilities to ensure sustainable water delivery.