In August 2011, the rural community of Abutia Teti in Ghana’s Volta region welcomed with great fanfare a prominent delegation including Ghana’s deputy minister of Water Resources, USAID Ghana’s Health Office chief and Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee.
The occasion was the handover to the community of a new piped water system, including a 40 meter-cube concrete reservoir and 11 public standpipes, constructed during the pilot phase of the RI-USAID partnership program in Ghana.
But by 2019, the situation in Abutia Teti had changed. An independent sustainability evaluation commissioned by the partnership found that the system had broken down for 240 days in 2018, leaving the community without safe drinking water for most of that year. The evaluation noted that several of the system’s public standpipes, which connect to 66 houses, leaked. Worse, the system scored poorly in management and financial sustainability and the study noted with concern that the local government was not fulfilling its monitoring duty.
These findings were confirmed when representatives of the partnership and local government officials visited Abutia Teti in June 2019. Tensions within the community over allegations of misuse of the community’s water and sanitation funds had resulted in a shake-up of the water and sanitation management team. Rural officials had not been involved in the training of this new team. Community members complained that the local government had been absent in monitoring the system. Officials, on the other hand, complained of lack of human and financial resources to do monitoring. Electric bills for the system’s pump had gone unpaid, and the pump had been disconnected from the national power grid.
Rotarians facilitated a meeting bringing together community leaders and government officials to address the problems. According to Emmanuel Odotei, WASH management specialist for USAID/Ghana, the major lesson drawn from the partnership’s experience at Abutia Teti was that a community can manage their water resources well and sustainably only if they have the cooperation of their leadership and the support of local government.
This conclusion was shared by Kwadwo “Willie” Keteku, who chaired Ghana’s Rotary host committee for the program’s pilot phase. “It’s important we build sustainability into projects. That takes cooperation not only from beneficiaries but also from local government officials.”