Published on: 01/02/2019
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.
As we approached the main water point in Wamahinso South there was an outcry from women waiting to fill their containers from a limited mechanised borehole (LMB). The water had slowed to a trickle and a group of about 30 women, who had been waiting for hours, had been left dry. Many had their children with them.
Women were shouting with frustration. One of the women had arrived at 7am and said they sometimes wait all day without getting water. “We stay a long time - sometimes until 6pm and still we don’t get water to take home. Why is that? Sometimes it is three days before we can take a bath.”
Another woman, waving her container above her head, protested, “The children are not able to go to school because they are queueing for water. Even when the water flows it cuts out. We are really struggling.”
Wamahinso is one of the rapidly growing small towns in Asutifi North, home to many people working for the Newmont Ahafo gold mine, and reflects growing urbanisation with many rural characteristics.
The town has four boreholes provided by Newmont and the local government, but they often run dry and water services are not keeping pace with demand.
Problems with water in this community are not new. Nana Amoako Gyampah, the krontihene (sub-chief) for Wamahinso, recalls queueing for water in the evening as a child and how it would run dry. Things are no better today. “When I was young, water was a problem in this town. It has been a problem for ages.”
The krontihene is proud of his community. Town leaders organise special days to clear the town of litter and prevent gutters from providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes. But he says that water shortages affect people’s happiness and the education of their children. The whole town will give thanks to God, he says if the water problems can be solved.
“Currently some [water points] have dried up so that women who come to collect it don’t get any. Whoever arrives first gets to fetch water and the others have to wait for the borehole to fill again.”
The day we visited was one such day. Ama Ampomah had arrived at dawn to collect water but when it was almost her turn, the water stopped. She had returned in the afternoon and the water had almost stopped again. If she could not collect here she would have to travel more than four miles to Amomaso by foot to collect water from a stream for washing.
Across the road in Wamahinso North there is a smaller private tap with a slow but steady flow. Attendant Gloria Badu collects money from the women: 10 pesewas for a small bucket and 20 pesewas for 25 litres. This helps to keep this water point flowing. However, water shortages in both south and north Wamahinso are a daily fact of life.
Nnuro Ameyaw, assembly member for Wamahinso South, said it was common for women to wait for three hours to collect even one container of water. “Sometimes they have to fight,” he reported bluntly, “and children don’t go to school because of water.” Sanitation is also a problem because few houses have toilets and people have to queue to use public toilets.
The assembly member said that the community relies on outside help for these services. They had written to the district assembly, and now officials had seen the problems for themselves they were proposing new borewells and he now hoped for fundamental change. “I hope that in the next ten years, everybody in the area will get water and the water will not be difficult for us here.”
Although the assembly member sees water and sanitation as major problems, he actually identified the greatest need in the community as improved mobile phone coverage.
The assembly member for Wamahinso North, Owusu Ansah Samuel, agrees that water has been a problem all his lifetime. “There are few water sources here and many have broken down. There are many people and visitors arrive day in and day out, so the water is not sufficient. We have to do something about it. We need new water sources.
[adapted text from the booklet Asutifi North: what the water challenge means for communities. A baseline picture.]