In 2016, Monica Bawah, a development officer with the Ayensuano district in Ghana’s eastern region approached the Rotary club of Accra-Labone as Ghanaian clubs, in consultation with partners—USAID through Global Communities Ghana and the government of Ghana’s Community Water and Sanitation Agency—were in the process of identifying communities for intervention. Bawah advocated for the inclusion of Ayensuano district communities including Dokrochiwa, a small and growing town.
With a population of 3,500 people, Dokrochiwa is the largest of the dozens of communities that the partners selected for intervention in Ghana. “Dokrochiwa had two boreholes with hand pumps and one hand dug-well with a hand pump then, but they were not yielding enough water to meet the water needs of the community,” explained Theophilus Mensah, Rotary program manager of the partnership. “Furthermore, the existing water systems were old, with reducing yields, and their locations were such that some community members had to walk long distances to access water,” added Dominic Osei, deputy chief of party of Global Communities Ghana.
“The area spread was quite wide, so if we did boreholes and hand pumps, it meant that we’d have to do them around several locations because it was a big area,” according to Charles Amamoo Tawiah Boakye, a member of the Accra-Labone club. Furthermore, Dokrochiwas was a peri-urban community, unlike the vast majority of rural communities in which the partners worked.
“We knew from the Sustainability Index Tool study we commissioned that people in such communities prefer and value mechanized water supply systems as opposed to boreholes with hand pumps,” said Mensah. Rotary’s 2019 study, conducted by Agua Consult, was an unprecedented sustainability check on partnership interventions from the first phase of the program six years earlier. It validated industry wisdom. “From experience we have gathered in the sector, the pipe systems are more sustainable than point sources (hand pump boreholes),” according to Osei.
Accordingly, Dokrochiwa received a piped water supply system with a pump house, with an elevated concrete 50,000 liter water storage tank, 2,300 meter long transmission and distribution pipelines, five standpipes and a chlorine dispenser. It was Rotary’s largest single investment in the program. “The system is serving a projected population of 5000,” said Osei. Members of the Accra-Labone club engaged the community leaders and the municipal authorities in order to get their buy-in, and collaborated with Rotary’s partners supporting the formation and training of a water and sanitation management team (WSMT), social and behavioral change communication for the adoption of good hygiene practices.
The Dokrochiwa system is managed by a 7-member WSMT team which employs professional staff (a revenue collector, two technical operators and five vendors (one for each standpipe) to operate the system and generate revenue from the water services, according to Mensah. Vendors are paid commissions at the end of each month, based on revenues generated on a pay-as-you-fetch basis at the standpipes. The revenues are put in a bank account managed by the WSMT treasurer and pay for operations and maintenance and the salaries of the professional operators.
“Communities are willing to pay for water from the pipe systems rather than the hand pump boreholes because they see it as more improved. Because the system manager and operations manager receive allowances, they are motivated to ensure the system continues to function.” This is radically different from point water sources where the operators are trained volunteers.
Notwithstanding, this may still not be enough to ensure sustainability and this is where advocacy by Rotary members comes in. “We realized that, as much as they were making some payments for the water, there is still a major difficulty in that, whatever amount they raise might not be enough to take care of [maintenance and repairs],” explained Boakye of the Accra-Labone club. As a result, Rotary members are not only maintaining their presence with regular monitoring visits but they are also engaging the Ayensuano District Assembly civil servants and elected representatives to ensure that local government provides the supervisory and financial support it is mandated to provide to the community.
Written by RI’s Mohamed Keita.