Skip to main content

Published on: 24/11/2011


There are 21 communities surrounding the Lake Bosomtwe, the biggest natural lake in Ghana, of which Abono, in the Bosomtwe District of the Ashanti Region is one. The community has two main sources of water for its population of 1,467 people. The formal source is a borehole fitted with a handpump, provided by the District Assembly in 1998, and the informal source is water from the lake. The inhabitants in this community depend on the lake for fishing and some farming activities as their means of livelihood.

Many members of the community use water from the borehole for drinking purpose only, and use water from the lake for all other domestic purposes, including cooking. Mr. Kwame Adu Berempon, WATSAN committee chairman for the community, confirmed this, saying: “They believe food cooked with the lake water tastes much better than that cooked with water from the borehole. ”

This situation has accounted for low patronage of the only formal water source in the community.Margaret Afriyie, who is attendant at the borehole from 5.30 am until about 8.30 pm, said because inhabitants mostly fetch water from the lake, she sells less water from the pump. It is worse in the rainy season when people harvest rainwater and use it for household purposes, even for drinking. Miss Afriyie said that she could sell about 40 buckets of water a day in the dry season, but sometimes sells as few as three buckets a day during the rainy season. She keeps a third of what she takes as her payment so in the rainy season she makes less than GH¢ 1 in a week, while in the dry season she can make GH¢ 1 in a day.

While touring communities in the Bosomtwe District to validate data, the WASHCost Ghana team set out to seek a confirmation or otherwise of this perception from water users in the community. The team met Comfort Agyeiwaa who is a member of the village WATSAN committee and cooks and sells yam and fish close to the lake. Agyeiwaa uses water from the lake for her cooking purpose both at home and for the food that she sells. This is because, as she told us, “The lake water adds some taste to the food and makes it palatable”. In the spirit of deep research, the team bought and ate her yam chips that had been cooked in lake water and then fried. The food tasted excellent but whether this was due to the lake water or her skills as a cook, was beyond our powers of discovery.

Children fetching water from an informal source-Lake Bosomtwe

A trip to the lakeside by the team demonstrated how inhabitants use the water for many different reasons. A fisherman took his boat out to check his pots in the lake. A woman was bathing her child very close to the shoreline with the bathed water running back into the lake and some other kids happily swimming in the water. Another woman was scrubbing her clothes. Close to the same spot inhabitants came to fetch water from the lake home. They entered the water with their receptacles and walked some few steps inside to ensure that they got cleaner water. It looks cleaner to them but the water must contain the effects of all this activity, including any contaminant on their feet or in the receptacle. This water was almost certainly not fit for drinking, although it is said that some families do drink lake water rather than pay the pump attendant for safe water.

Views like this may not be limited to Abono community in Ghana alone. People across the globe may have certain views on water sources that may not make ‘sense’ to the outsider who does not live among them, especially where we try to see things from the ‘realistic or sensible’ perspectives. Water from formal sources, considered to be more hygienic and reliable, should all things being equal, be used for domestic purposes which end up in consumption, like cooking and drinking.

But whether this assertion is true or not, there will be the need to conduct a water quality test of this informal source of water to ascertain what it contains and how good or otherwise it will be for consumption. This exercise could be paid for from community tourism revenue since the WATSAN itself does not have much in its coffers. Whatever the case, are we to judge the community based on what we know and think should be the case? Should we condemn and correct or should we just allow them to do things just the way they deem fit? Community beliefs are very strong, and when safe water is provided, perhaps discussion with the community about the taste is needed. If we want to correct, would they be ready to respond if we try to change this view they hold. These were a few thoughts that were running through my mind as I walked-off the shore of the lake thinking of the sorts of contaminated water people fetch home for use from this informal source.

Back to
the top