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Failing pumps and disempowered communities

Published on: 25/02/2019

The challenge for ANAM in Ghana's Asutifi North

A series of short videos filmed in some of the poorest communities of Asutifi North District, Ghana, show the scale of the challenge facing the ANAM initiative. These snapshots of community life illustrate how decades of piecemeal provision have left thousands of people without access to safe water or secure sanitation, and how they feel powerless to help themselves.

Pumps have failed and toilets are often communal pits which can become haunted by rodents and snakes. In these videos we hear the voices of local community leaders and members and how these failures blight their daily lives and the prospects for their children.

The people are resilient and hard working – but a pattern of provision and failure has become ‘normal’. Communities look for help from outside as being the only solution.

ANAM is a long term initiative under which efforts will be more collaborative to ensure that services are sustainable and long lasting.

ANAM is led by Asutifi North District Assembly with the support of IRC, with funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Partners include Ghana World Vision International, Safe Water Network, Netcentric Campaigns, Centers for Disease Control, and the Aquaya Institute.

The aim is to provide safe and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to the entire population of 84,000 - with no one left behind by 2030. Learning how to do this in one district will inform efforts all over Ghana.

Wamahinso

In the peri-urban area of Wamahinso women almost fight for water as they queue for hours in the morning only for the supply to run dry before they can fill their containers. “Sometimes it is three days before we can bathe,” one woman says. Ama Ampomah describes walking four and half miles (7 kilometres) to fetch water if she cannot collect from the local tap.

Community leader Nana Amoaka Gyampah says that water is a long-term problem – he remembers as a child waiting long into the night for the water to start flowing again.

They have written to the District Assembly and are hoping for action.

Agravi

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.

Goamu Asamang

Goamu Asamang community has three wells and pumps for 1,800 people and none of them work well. Children miss schooling because they are helping the family collect water or waiting for parents to return from the pump.

There has been little maintenance on facilities installed in 1985, 2003 and 2012. In fact the oldest pump works best but it suffered a major failure in early 2018. The community made a collection to repair it and that exhausted their budget as there are no regular payments for water.

Frimpong Patterson, who is a teacher and secretary of the community Water and Sanitation Management Team, says that they are virtually bankrupt in terms of money for repairs. He does not know how they will manage if there is another failure.

Felicia Agyemang, mother of 8 and a grandmother is worn out by the time she has pumped her containers full. “When the pump breaks frankly we suffer. We must go with our husbands to fetch water at night so that in the morning our children can go to school. If you fetch water in the morning, you cannot think that your child will go to school.”

Chief Nana Amoah Baafi wants to see his community have mechanised pumps and hygienic KVIP latrines to replace their current communal pit latrines. But this community has no plan for achieving this – and is waiting for the District Assembly or an NGO to bring them into existence.

“In these villages, what we see is that for our schools and water and all other things, it is the district assembly which helps us and other NGOs also come to help,” he says.

When challenged all the communities say they are willing to pitch in with physical labour and whatever little funds they can raise.  Communities are supposed to manage water supplies but they have little experience in developing, improving and sustaining them.

This is one of the major challenges for ANAM. These short videos can be seen as baseline markers against which progress can be reviewed.

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