Minimade is a rural community of about 540 people who are predominantly cocoa farmers in the Ayensuano District of Ghana’s eastern region. As the community struggled with access to safe water and sanitation, the Rotary-USAID partnership drilled a new borehole and trained a Water and Sanitation Management Team (WSMT) to take over long term management of the system and promote latrine construction and hand washing in households. Residents agreed to pay a fee of 10 pesewas per 34-liter bucket of water, with the collected funds slated to cover the cost of operations and maintenance. To support the WSMT in fulfilling its responsibilities, Rotary’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) advocacy champions are regularly carrying out monitoring visits. However, this is still not enough to ensure sustainability.
As Rotary WASH advocacy champions became aware of conflicts between Minimade’s WSMT and the community, and dysfunctions with the management of the borehole and the promotion of hygiene and sanitation in households, they were compelled to organize a public community meeting (locally referred to as a durbar).
Community meetings are intentional engagements to sensitize community members and stakeholders on their roles and responsibilities, WASH policies and governance and accountability for WASH service delivery. These gatherings also serve as a forum for sustainability problems to be addressed.
On July 20, 2021, with the help of Minimade community leaders, Rotary WASH advocacy champions John Michael Appiah-Acheampong and Rockson Dutenya, in collaboration with Michael Djassa, community development officer at Ayensuano District Assembly, mobilized 56 residents to participate in the forum.
The meeting started with the reintroduction of the WSMT to the community. WSMT members were asked to explain their roles to the gathering. Then, community members were asked if those roles were being carried out well and if they had any reservations. The discussions revealed problems which typically arise when communities take charge of a water supply system.
Community members said the opening and closing times of the pump were unclear to them. This was addressed collectively and water collection times were set to 5-8 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.
Residents generally paid for the water but they complained that some members of the households of WSMT members were getting the water for free. Consequently, the gathering decided that only the water vendor would be exempt from paying for water.
Residents did not know how much money the WSMT had collected in water tariffs and how/if the funds have been used. WSMT members had the records but they complained that community members did not show up at scheduled community meetings. A consensus was reached for a date for the WSMT to render account of the funds collected to the community.
The WSMT itself met irregularly due to a lack of a fixed meeting schedule. In the meeting, members agreed to meet on the third Wednesday of every month.
A lot of young people spoke up about excluded in decision-making and many felt unmotivated to participate in the community affairs. Rotary members reminded them about their responsibilities to their community and the crucial role they can play. The elders agreed to involve the youth more deliberately.
The discussion became heated with the problem of domestic animals roaming and defecating everywhere, including at the borehole site. A task force of WSMT members and community members had been setup to take care of this problem, with owners of animals such as goats, sheep and pigs facing a fine of 10 cedis (US$1.62) for each animal apprehended by the task force. But community members accused members of the task force of discriminatory enforcement. They said task force members stopped only animals belonging to people they have personal issues with, while turning a blind eye to those belonging to their family and friends. This was causing confrontations between WSMT members and community members. In one case, a community member assaulted the WSMT chair over apprehended goats. To resolve the conflict, the community member who assaulted the WSMT Chairperson was invited to appear before the community elders and the joint visiting team after the durbar. The offender was remorseful, expressed regret for his action and apologized to the WSMT Chair who also accepted the apology.
Relatedly, WSMT members said they had stopped visiting homes to monitor household toilet construction and hygiene practice. They blamed community members for this, saying residents badgered them with repeated verbal abuse during the visits. Community members on the other hand accused some of the WSMT members of working under the influence of alcohol during their inspection visits to homes. Rotary’s WASH advocacy champions encouraged the community members to take the visits more seriously and to be more accommodating. They also explained and suggested the application of Rotary’s 4-Way Test to guide the WMST members in their interactions with community members.
Having helped the community resolve its challenges, Rotary WASH advocates took the gathering through the Facility Management Plan, which outlines the operation and maintenance costs, community financial contributions and management of those funds. Rotary members tasked the WATSAN committee to develop this plan in two weeks’ time.
Finally, the WSMT learnt about the support services that they should be receiving from the local district government. “Beyond establishing an efficient system for communities to raise funds, great emphasis should be placed on institutional, management, and technical factors that influence the sustainability of WASH service delivery,” said Dutenya. “These include a functional district local government water and sanitation team appropriately resourced to monitor, support and train WMST members, as well as the availability of pump parts and area mechanics to repair broken-down facilities.”
Rotary WASH advocates thanked the community leaders, the WSMT and community members for their participation and urged them to be committed to the key decisions at the durbar.
Contributed by Rotary members Rockson Dutenya and John Michael Appiah-Acheampong.
Piping safe water to a small townRead Story
Flowing piped water into a health centerRead Story
Balancing volunteer and professional commitmentsRead Story
Advocating for MHM public policiesRead Story
Equipping schools with girl-friendly toiletsRead Story