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“No More Crying on the Trail:” Securing Access to Water for Rural Communities in Ghana

Published 03/21/2017 by Global Communities

“No More Crying on the Trail” – Securing Access to Water for Rural Communities in Ghana
Community members of Daboya No. 2 use the new pump. Before its installation, women and girls were forced to walk 3 km to the nearest river for water.

“No more crying on the trail,” says Ayishetu Bukari. She is a small, older woman, wearing a bright yellow veil, with many years etched on her face. She gathers with the other women and men of her community under the shade of a neem tree. The community, Daboya No.2, is a mid-size village of 1,100 people living in 75 houses, located in the rural West Mamprusi District of Northern Ghana on the banks of the Nasia River, a tributary of the White Volta. People here deal in small amounts of trade, and are mostly farmers and gatherers of shea nuts, working the harsh land to earn a seasonal income.

The people of Daboya No.2 have lived in their community for generations. And for generations, they have lived without water.

Until 2016, the closest water source was the river – about 3 kilometers from the village – accessible only through a long, treacherous walk through a desert-like landscape with no shade. Women and girls collected water from the river three times a day: twice in the morning and once in the evening, carrying large containers, known locally as “garawa,” on their heads. It was on this long trail that Ayishetu cried out in pain, overcome by the weight of the water on her head and fearful of dropping the bucket and needing to return to the river to begin again.

For  more than two decades, the District Water and Sanitation Team (DWST) under the leadership of Salifu Yidana, has been working with the people of Daboya No. 2 and a variety of national and international organizations to identify potential locations to drill for water. Every attempt failed.

Then, as part of the five-year USAID-funded WASH for Health project, Global Communities collaborated with the DWST in another attempt to find a potential location. After thorough siting and analysis, drilling began in March 2016 and by September, clean, potable water flowed through a community borehole, only a five minute walk from Daboya No. 2.

Students carry water from the new pump back to school. The close proximity of the new pump mean students can spend less time fetching water and more time on their school work.

Ghana has made great strides in recent years, and 80 percent of the population have access to improved water sources[1]. However, only 15 percent of the population have access to improved sanitation infrastructure and handwashing facilities. Global Communities, in collaboration with USAID, strategic partners, and national and local government agencies, targets these populations in an effort to accelerate sustainable improvement in water and sanitation access and improve hygiene behaviors. WASH for Health works in 30 districts in five regions throughout Ghana. Since initiating activities in 2015, 61 boreholes have been drilled, bringing potable water to over 18,300 people. 3,433 latrines have been constructed in 23 districts, improving sanitation infrastructure for over 27,464 people. The project also incorporates behaviour change communication into all activities in order to ensure sustained change.

After many years of searching, and failed attempts to drill, Daboya No. 2’s borehole is viewed by many as a godsend. According to community member Serenchi Filla, “we are proud of the borehole because now when a stranger comes we can give water – it is an honor.” The hole has also impacted daily life for Daboya: with more time in their days, the women and men can work together in the fields to increase their yield of shea nuts for income and more quickly process grain into flour. Children are fed, clean and at school on time and women are able to rest. There is more time and ability to maintain and re-build buildings, and students no longer have to miss classes in order to collect water for the nearby school. “Now, things are so easy, with the pump close by, we just bring our containers with us to school and collect water after attending our classes…we are very happy because the ordeal we used to go through has been lessened and we now use our free time to intensify our studies,” says 18 year old Ibrahim Kande. The access to clean water has also improved health, “previously, when getting water from the river, after a few days you could see a lot of debris [at the bottom of the bucket], which meant we were eating a lot of dirt from the river. But with this [borehole water], after a few days, there is nothing at the bottom of the bucket- it is clean water,” one community member said.  People more regularly wash their hands at critical times and are working on obtaining status as Open Defecation Free (ODF).

And Daboya No. 2 is not the only village benefiting from the borehole. At least two other nearby communities make use of the new water source as well, which now supports over 2,700 people in the district. Though the pump yields high volumes of water, it is intended to serve only 300 individuals. This increased use of the borehole has the potential to strain the system, and Global Communities is exploring ways to improve the existing hole with mechanized pumps and storage tanks, or attempt the drilling of additional holes.

WASH for Health will continue to implement activities throughout Ghana, and expects to drill 210 boreholes by 2020, providing clean water to an estimated 66,000 people. For now, and for a long time to come, Ayishetu and the other women and men from Daboya No. 2 and surrounding communities can rest easy knowing that they no longer have to cry out for help on the trail for water.
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