Posts tagged ‘Ama Kudom-Agyemang’

June 12, 2016

Ghana: Kpale-Xorse Community is Open Defecation Free by Divine Principles

Ama Kudom-Agyemang
June 12, 2016

Long before the global community ever decided to pursue the open defecation free (ODF) agenda of ensuring responsible defecation using household toilets, a small Ghanaian community was already practicing the principles of ODF. For the people of Kpale-Xorse in the Ho West District of the Volta region, it has been a taboo to defecate and leave faeces in the open.

Poor waste management poses the greatest danger to human health and can have fatal consequences

Poor waste management poses the greatest danger to human health and can have fatal consequences

To ease themselves, each community member would instinctively dig a hole, defecate in it and afterwards, cover it up. The people of Kpale-Xorse have always consciously covered their shit not for health reasons, but for divine motivation. The guiding principle for this lifestyle was the biblical book of Deuteronomy 23:12 – 14.

“You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. You must have a spade among your other equipment and when you relieve yourself outside you must dig a hole with the spade and then turn and cover your excrement. For the Lord your God walks about in the middle of your camp to deliver you and defeat your enemies for you. Therefore your camp should be holy, so that He does not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.” (Cited from the New English Translation Bible).

While, some communities would normally construct communal latrines, the Kpale-Xorse Community established by the Christ Apostolic Faith in 1931, has never constructed a communal toilet. Rather, defecation was in accordance with the biblical provision for the Israelites when they wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, following their escape from Pharaoh and Egypt, according to the biblical book of Exodus.

Open defecation (OD), known as “free range,” in Ghana, is said to be the riskiest of all sanitation practices, posing the greatest danger to human health and can have fatal consequences – particularly for the most vulnerable, especially young children. The risk lies in the fact that human contact with human excreta can transmit many infectious diseases including cholera and typhoid. It also affects the growth of children under five leading to stunting – a condition that distorts the physical growth and intellectual abilities in children.

In Ghana, open defecation is deemed the greatest sanitation challenge. Therefore, UNICEF with its sponsors, is supporting the Government of Ghana to address the problem in Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Volta and Central regions as well as the Ashiaman district of the Greater Accra region, where the practice is said to be prevalent.

Members of the Kpale-Xorse community say they cherish a close commune with their maker, “God Almighty,” and therefore “covet His blessings such as sound health and long life, which He has generously bestowed on us.”

The Head of the Community, Pastor Henry Johnson testified that “since we settled here, we hardly fall sick and the youngest person to have died among us three years ago, was 59.”

A sign post displaying the ODF status of the community

A sign post displaying the ODF status of the community

This is so unlike in other communities, where people are always falling sick and dying from preventable diseases that are common because open defecation is the norm.

The Kpale-Xorse community members quickly embraced the ODF concept through the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach, introduced to them by field officers from the Regional and District Environmental Health Offices In October 2012. The approach emphasizes households having their own toilet facilities.

Within three months, the community become ODF and is now aspiring to become a sanitised community where every household has its own toilet facility. But Kpale-Xorse is not the only ODF community in Ghana.

A recent regional press tour in four of the five UNICEF supported regions, revealed that more communities are gradually abandoning the norm of open defecation and embracing the ODF concept.

The regions toured are Volta, Northern, Upper East and Upper West. The ODF communities visited included Kusale, Tubong, Kariyata and Lijobilibu.

But some challenges are threatening the ODF status of some of these communities. For instance, Lijobilibu in the Mion District of the Northern region is completely transformed now, in terms of sanitation and hygiene. Community members now happily share their stories of transformation from filth to cleanliness, from sickness to health, and from bad oduor to a refreshing breeze.

However, these gains made are being threatened by the lack of access to safe water. There is no water facility in the community. Its only source of water is the River Dakar, which, community members say they share with their cattle. It is about four miles away and one has to trek through a rocky terrain and descend into the valley. This makes the return journey with water rather tedious, as the path is an ascent and can be very slippery at times.

Water has always played a central role in human societies

Water has always played a central role in human societies

The youth of the town are unhappy about this situation, because according to them the district authorities who promised to help “are doing nothing about our plight.” A representative, Catechist Joshua said they have decided to protest by mounting a “NO WATER FACILITY, NO VOTE,” sign post in their community.

“Unless we get water, all our efforts at maintaining our ODF status and even becoming a sanitised community will be in vain,” he added.

April 15, 2016

Ghana: Water Minister Calls for Strategic Repositioning of Water Issues

Ama Kudom-Agyemang
April 15, 2016

Ghana’s Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Dr. Kwaku Agyemang Mensah notes that the quantity and quality of water can change lives and livelihoods of workers and even transform societies and economies.

The Minister calls for a strategic repositioning of water issues noting that the way they are addressed “will affect the successful achievement of the country’s Medium Term and the Planned Long Term National Development Agenda.”

He in particular stresses that world water day celebrations should “serve as enough inspiration for us to intensity our commitment and awareness drive at reversing the deterioration of our waters … developing a preventive based culture, involving our women, children and youth … in ways that they can contribute effectively to resolving the country’s issues.”

Mensah was recently speaking during the World Water Day celebrations that were crowned with a stakeholders dialogue at the palace premises of the James Town Mantse (Chief) at James Town in British Accra. The area boasts of some historic colonial structures including Ussher Fort, James Fort, the two light houses and the building of the Ghana Bible Society.

Nii Oblempong Ababio addressing the gathering. Seated on his left hand side is Ghana’s Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing Dr. Kwaku Agyemang Mensah

Nii Oblempong Ababio addressing the gathering. Seated on his left hand side is Ghana’s Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing Dr. Kwaku Agyemang Mensah

Speaking during the same occasion, the Managing Director of the Ghana Water Company Limited, Fredrick Lokko expressed regret at how the Company loses significant volume of water produced daily to illegal activities of some consumers.

“This,” he said “impacts negatively on the capacity of the company to sustain the supply of this vital resource without which there is no life.” Mr. Lokko mentioned some of the illegal activities as connection to distribution lines; and perforation of pipe-lines by gardeners, farmers and cattle herdsmen.

He urged Ghanaians to be “patriotic and do the right things to support the Ghana Water Company to serve you better.”

These sentiments were also expressed by the Ashiedu Keteke Sub Metro District Environmental Health Officer Rev. Chris Gawugbe. He said damage to pipelines expose treated water to communicable diseases, which affect the health and well-being of most of the people. The Vice Chairman of the Coalition of NGOs on Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), Bishop Nathaniel Adams said, “The issue of water in this country is about safety… we need to change strategies and bring in new methods to make our water safe…”

For his part, the Chief Executive of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Clement Bugase noted that “there is a cost and responsibility to safe water.” He said his Agency currently has a huge challenge to provide about 450 thousand small and rural communities with safe water, saying, “the need is huge and it requires urgent measures to conserve our water resources.”

The street procession of school children marking 2016 World Water Day in Ghana

The street procession of school children marking 2016 World Water Day in Ghana

The James Town Mantse Nii Oblempong Ababio who was chairman for the function said, “it has been a lesson learning event,” and called on Ghanaians to protect water bodies and stop dumping refuse in them. He urged the children who participated in the event to educate their parents about the messages on water.
The durbar was preceded by a street procession of school children carrying placards with inscriptions such as “water is life, save water save life,” and the health of our water is our responsibility.”

As part of the activities marking national World Water Day, a School’s Tree Planting Competition was launch at the Ayalolo Cluster of Schools in Accra. The Chairman of the Planning Committee for World Water Day, Mrs. Adwoa Dako explained the rationale for the competition saying, “it is a way of involving school children in the celebration and educating them on the importance of trees as a buffer against erosion and storms.”

A Tree Validation Auditor of the Greater Accra Regional Forest Services Division, Frank Ankomah, reminded the children of the importance of trees for sustaining lives. The Ayalolo Circuit Supervisor Mrs. Christiana Maclean was hopeful that the children will take good care of the seedlings and nurture them into matured trees, so that the premises will become shady and beautiful.

The participating schools are Asia Mills Primary and Junior High, Ayalolo 1 & 2 Primary, Akoto Lante Junior High, and Central Mosque Basic Primary and Junior High. They will be evaluated and awarded at the next celebration of World Water Day.

The writer can be reached at: kudomagyemang@yahoo.com

April 11, 2016

Water in Newsroom: How Did Ghanaian Media Contribute To World Water Day Celebrations

Ama Kudom-Agyemang
April 11, 2016

Every year, the world marks Water Day on Mach 22. In this article, one of the founding members of WaterSan Perspective, Ama Kudom-Agyemang based in Accra, Ghana, asks and responses to the question of whether there is any reason to celebrate water in Ghana?

To some Ghanaian media persons who hosted radio and television discussions in relation to celebration of World Water Day, there is absolutely no reason to do so. Their contention is that some Ghanaians still lack access to safe water.

One of the television discussions was done against the background of a news story from a community in the Volta region, where the people are just fetching water from a filthy stream, because there is no other source of water. In some instances, the water source is just a murky pond that community members share with cattle. Besides, the periodic outbreaks of cholera and other diarrhoea diseases, which are all water related are blemishes in the country’s water status.

To these media personalities, as long as a cross section of Ghanaians still lack access to safe water, there is no cause for celebration.

Dry season rice cultivation through water supplied from the Tono Irrigation Scheme along the Wa – Navrongo road in Ghana. Water availability through major and small scale irrigation schemes is empowering small scale farmers to shift from total dependence on rain-fed farming. Thus, during the dry season productive farming can still take place especially in Ghana’s savannah zone. (By Ama Kudom-Agyemang)

Dry season rice cultivation through water supplied from the Tono Irrigation Scheme along the Wa – Navrongo road in Ghana. Water availability through major and small scale irrigation schemes is empowering small scale farmers to shift from total dependence on rain-fed farming. (By Ama Kudom-Agyemang)

But upon sober reflection, these bothersome water related issues also provide the basis for Ghanaians and the world at large to celebrate water. In 1992, the United Nations instituted March 22nd as World Water Day, to draw global attention to the importance of water as a vital resource to life. The celebration is also used to remind people everywhere that scarcity and misuse of fresh water, pose a serious and growing threat to sustainable livelihoods and development. Furthermore, the celebration is an opportunity to learn more about water related challenges and be inspired to take action to make a difference.

Consequently, since 1993, World Water Day has been celebrated annually to highlight an aspect of water that requires urgent attention. Themes such as water for life, water for the future, coping with water scarcity, clean water for a healthy world, water and food security, the world’s water is there enough, and women and water, have been the focus for past celebrations.

The international celebration for this year’s World Water Day focused on “Water and Jobs,” while the Ghana’national theme was, “Improved Safe Water Access for Sustainable Livelihoods.” Both themes highlighted the two-way relationship between water and the decent work agenda in the quest for sustainable development.

The celebration made water the subject of media reportage and debates throughout the country. The media engagement brought to the fore, the issue of how water scarcity and shortages in supply are undermining job sustainability, livelihood opportunities and socio-economic development in some parts of the country.

If you consider that Ghana is an agrarian nation with significant number of people engaged in agriculture, then, the issue of sustainable water availability becomes crucial. Water availability for agriculture becomes urgent especially in the face of dwindling farm lands, competing land uses, soil erosion and degradation, and climate change impacts. So, improved safe water access for sustainable livelihoods is not just about water for domestic use, but also water for agriculture, industry and the environment.

Therefore, we celebrate water because it is about the – 1.5 billion people – including farmers and all other workers whose jobs depend on the availability of freshwater.

Woman watering her onions farm along the Bolgatanga – Bawku road in Ghana(By Ama Kudom-Agyemang)

Woman watering her onions farm along the Bolgatanga – Bawku road in Ghana(By Ama Kudom-Agyemang)

In his statement to commemorate the Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon noted that, “all workers can be harmed by poor water and sanitation.” The statement said “of two million work-related deaths every year, nearly one-in-five are caused by poor quality drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.”

According to the statement, the Secretary General was concerned about the fact that people with the least access to water and sanitation often also lack access to health care and stable jobs, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty. The statement said the Secretary General was convinced that “the basic provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services at home, at school and in the workplace enables a robust economy by contributing to a healthy and productive population and workforce.”

The writer can be reached at:kudomagyemang@yahoo.com

March 29, 2016

Ghana: Experts Root for Research on Water, Land and Ecosystems

Ama Kudom-Agyemang
March 29, 2016

Ghana’s savannah ecology zone is well endowed with a large expanse of land, which under normal circumstances should have better served the people. But the harsh environmental conditions including the dryness of some areas, threats of desertification, water scarcity, land degradation, soil erosion and climate change impacts, have hampered development in the area and entrenched poverty among majority of the people. The area covers Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions.

Research institutions and development organisations working within the savannah zone, are seeking evidence-based solutions built on actual understanding of these issues to create awareness among local stakeholders and implement appropriate development projects in the zone. The Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research Programme on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) is spearheading the process.

Women in Ghana engaged in dry season rice farming through irrigation

Women in Ghana engaged in dry season rice farming through irrigation

CGIAR WLE in collaboration with the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), as well as USAID’s sponsored projects in the zone, among other organisations, have begun discussing ways of tailoring research to meet the needs of the people. They want to ensure that agriculture and natural resources oriented research provide sustainable solutions to poverty and underdevelopment in the area.

Under the auspices of the SADA, the concerned bodies as well as others have held a two-day Knowledge Sharing Fair in Tamale, Ghana. The Fair provided a platform for discussing issues pertaining to how research can inform policy, planning and practice. It was also an occasion for exhibiting over 10 research for development projects on-going in the SADA zone.

It was the right timing for development organizations and donors to deliberate on research for development related issues. It enabled the WLE program to show case its research contributions to the SADA objective of ensuring accelerated, integrated and comprehensive development of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone.

The Fair facilitated the sharing of experiences and learning on current research and development projects across locations and subjects; and set the pace for better coordination and networking of actors across projects.

The main discussions focused on the means of promoting the expansion of improved land and water management technologies and practices in the SADA zone; positioning SADA to effectively monitor all development efforts to ensure synergy and desired impacts; and how to strengthen the alignment between research, policy and practice within the SADA zone.

The Chief Executive Officer of SADA, Charles Abugre, said the research on water, land and ecosystems was very timely and paramount to the aspirations of SADA. He acknowledged that unique opportunities exist in harnessing the water in the Volta basin, its values and ecological goods and services to provide livelihoods and transform the economy of the SADA zone.

The Upper East Region Commissioner of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Ambassador Donald Adabre called for the pooling of efforts to narrow the poverty gap between the SADA zone and the rest of the country. He said, “This can be done by translating research and incorporating it into policy, planning and implementation of activities within the zone.”

The representative of the Vice-Chancellor of the University for Development Studies (UDS) and board member of the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP), Professor George Nyarko, told the participants that UDS has the potential to assist in accelerating the development of the SADA zone with quality research. He therefore urged SADA to support the university’s research activities.

The Chief of Party for the USAID/ATT project, Dr. Micheal Dockery said in the SADA zone, his organisation was implementing projects such as “Secure Water” aimed at ensuring water availability for dry season farming and increase yields. He said most of the USAID related projects were geared towards nutritional outcomes, improved seed development and water for irrigation.

The Head of Office of IWMI West Africa, Dr. Olufunke Cofie said in order to deliver its core mandate of providing a Water Secure World, IWMI works with several partners from academia, research institutions, NGOs and Development Partners. She noted that Research by the CGIAR centres such as IWMI, “aims to achieve the four strategic outcomes of reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving nutrition and health, and ensuring enhanced sustainable management of natural resources.”

In a presentation on “Informing the Development of Innovative Agricultural and Water Management Solutions,” Dr. Cofie highlighted the priority WLE projects in the SADA zone. “These projects,” she said “are focused on intensifying sustainable agricultural production through: improving smallholder irrigation, flood recession farming and enhancing rain fed production systems and related ecosystems services.”

Additionally, there is another set of projects focused on “managing water variability &climate change at catchment scale through enhancing adaptation to climate variability; enhancing public and private investment in agricultural water infrastructure.” A third category of projects are aimed at recovering useful resources from waste materials; while the last group of projects are centred on integrating ecosystems solutions into policy processes.

All of these projects as well as the others are geared to improving agricultural production through integrated water and land management. The ultimate goal is to make farming in the SADA zone attractive, viable and sustainable. According to Dr. Cofie, within the sub-region, IWMI is working as a think tank that drives innovative research and solutions.

The writer can be reached at:kudomagyemang@yahoo.com

March 29, 2016

Ghana: Agricultural Resources Dwindle as Water Crisis Heighten

Ama Kudom-Agyemang
March 29, 2016

In Ghana, small scale farmers are national assets. They form the bulk of the workforce in the agricultural sector, which is totally dependent on water availability and are the ones feeding the nation.

But the sector is no longer as productive as it used to be due to shrinking land for farming as population soars; evolving competitive land uses; soil degradation; water scarcity; desertification and climate change. Farming methods and practices are still at best rudimentary.

Thus, the tradition of generational farming in farming communities is gradually dying out and threatening the country’s food security. This attest to the fact that the country’s agri-food systems are not sustainable nowadays.

But sustainable food systems are crucial in providing a healthy and productive future for young people in Ghana and the Africa continent as well as around the world.

The situation calls for radical transformation. And according to the CGIAR Consortium, “analysis of food system challenges shows that radical transformation is urgently needed. Such transformation requires accelerated innovation and that, in turn, requires increased investment in agri-food research to power the engine that drives innovation.” That is, innovation specifically targeting agri-food systems.

CGIAR’s Initiative
To this end, CGIAR has launched the second generation of Consortium Research Programmes (CRP). It is focused on improving coordination and collaboration among CGIAR related institutions and organisations within selected geographical areas known as Site Integration at country levels. Here, activities are within specific field research sites with a clear mechanism to produce outcomes in line with national agriculture development priorities. This approach has the potential to accelerate productivity in prioritised areas of agriculture.

This CGIAR supported initiative is being implemented in 20 countries including Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Nigeria, DR Congo, Mali and Niger, have been selected as Site Integration areas. Other countries are Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. The rest are Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Vietnam.

A Steering Committee consisting of representatives of all CGIAR Centers and CGIAR Research Programmes (CRP) operating in Ghana has been formed, to drive the country collaboration process under the auspices of the International Water Management Institute.

The National Consultative Process in Ghana
The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a member of CGIAR Consortium has been assigned the coordination responsibility for the planning and the organization of the National Consultation for Ghana.

The idea is to establish a network of CGIAR related research institutions and organisations in Ghana for effective dialoguing, information generation and sharing, integrated planning and collaborative research. The goal is to institute a system for ensuring cost effectiveness, governance and scaling of research impacts.

To ensure that all partners in Ghana are abreast of these issues, IWMI in collaboration with MoFA and CSIR on the 2nd – 3rd March, 2016, organized a two-day National Consultation Workshop in Accra. They discussed how the integrated efforts of CGIAR Centres can be aligned and made to complement national priorities and those of other partners, to support the overall national development agenda. They also devised plans for tracking, monitoring and assessing the impacts of implemented activities.

They have additionally advanced a mechanism for enhancing the knowledge base that will support the dissemination of best practices in institutional development, policy development and capacity building for agricultural research. The network is expected to make significant contribution to CGIAR’s work in Ghana.

Participants at the National Consultative Workshop

Participants at the National Consultative Workshop

Initial CGAIR supported programmes in Ghana have produced tangible results. These include serving as a source of information and tools on a range of issues in the agriculture sector feeding into policy processes and development of medium term plans. Another is the development of a National Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Security Action Plan (2016 – 2020) to promote climate-smart agriculture and operationalize the national climate change policy of Ghana.

Other achievements are establishment of rice sector development hubs in various ecological zones; and creation of Innovative Platforms that provides a forum for dialoguing among farmers, service providers, input dealers, aggregators, processors, millers and retailers; contribution to the development of enhanced varieties of root tubers and banana crops. The programme is also involved in recycling urban liquid and solid waste by developing waste-based organo-mineral fertilizer that can enhance agricultural yields.

The CGIAR Centres in Ghana are also implementing several activities on agricultural water management for dry season farming. This is building the capacity of farmers to move away from total dependency on rain-fed agriculture to irrigation based farming, thereby ensuring sustainable agricultural production year round.

The writer can be reached at: kudomagyemang@yahoo.com

March 21, 2016

2016 Water Day: Celebrate Water, Promote Its Sustainability

Ama Kudom-Agyemang
March 22, 2016

Celebrate Water!!! Water is life, water is good, water is simply relaxing. Water is the first thought that comes to one’s mind when one’s throat is parched, or when one is extremely tired, or when one feels hot and sticky. While other liquids, can easily be replaced, water does not have that quality and it is this attribute that makes water so unique. And in the state when one’s entire being is seeking for water, nothing can ever satisfy that urge, like “simple wholesome water.”

water day today

So, when water is simply not available in the form that can meet a particularly need, there is chaos for the individual, household, community, industry and nation at large. Lives may be lost, jobs are affected, productivity comes to a standstill, socio-economic gains made are eroded, healthy lifestyles are compromised, poverty is entrenched and development is undermined.

Therefore, concerns about water should go beyond having the resource available and being able to access it. People should become much more concern about the source of water, the processes it goes through for distribution, the system that ensures such distribution, jobs that makes the all-inclusive structure function and the sustainability of every part of the whole chain or cycle.

It is against this background that the global community has dedicated this year’s celebration of World Water Day (WWD 2016) to “Water and Jobs,” and the national theme is: ““Improved Safe Water Access for Sustainable Livelihoods.” Both themes provide important opportunities to highlight the two-way relationship between water and the decent work agenda in the quest for sustainable development.

World Water Day is marked on every 22nd of March. The Day’s celebration was instituted by the UN to draw attention to the importance of freshwater and advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

The focus of the celebration this year, touches on sustaining the system of production and distribution; while, efficiently identifying and addressing problems that affect the sustainability of the resource and distribution. Another point is ensuring equity in the distribution process so that no user – be it individual, household, industry, businesses, agriculture or the environment suffers.

Sustainable water supply refers to the sufficient availability of and access to water into the foreseeable future. It also means the availability of sustainably functioning water systems that provide adequate water quantity and appropriate water quality for a given need, without compromising the future ability to provide this capacity and quality.

Yet, ensuring sustainable supply of access to water is an increasingly critical challenge. The challenge arises from the fact that globally, water as a resource is changing due to population growth and migration, land use pressures and energy choices, and the changing climate. These factors are causing changes in water quantity, availability, and quality. The changing of the water resource is evidenced by its scarcity that afflicts poor people the most.

Children fetching water in Bangula camp in Nsanje district of Malawi

Children fetching water in Bangula camp in Nsanje district of Malawi

Meeting the water challenge through “building a sustainable water future,” will require a national effort that incorporates recognition of the cause of the problem and measures developed to mitigate the drivers, where possible. The mitigating measures should include designing water infrastructure to meet the needs of a people in a changing water environment; and developing adaptation strategies for the changing water environment. Additionally, the measures should also embrace sensitising communities to make better choices about water resources. Industries and manufacturing companies should endeavour to incorporate wise water use management practices; while the agricultural sector should adopt best practices that eliminate wastes and abuse, adapt to the impacts of climate change and enhance productivity.

Furthermore, measures must be put in place to ensure better monitoring, modeling, and forecasting of the national water future, so that stakeholders and decision makers have better information upon which to act.

However, ensuring water supply sustainability requires investing in water infrastructure in ways that can create jobs, reduce pollution, improve human health, and promote economic growth. A Study on Sustainable Water Jobs undertaken by the Pacific Institute, identified as many as 136 different kinds of jobs involved in implementing sustainable water strategies, from plumbers to landscapers, engineers to irrigation specialists.

The study indicates that 37 of these job types can have high growth in an overall economy, with each projected to have more than 100,000 job openings across industries by 2020. The Pacific Institute identifies numerous sustainable water occupations that are accessible to workers without advanced degrees. Most of these jobs, generally require on-the-job training, with some requiring previous experience and associate’s degrees or technical training, but not bachelor’s or graduate degrees. This translates to a more feasible pathway to employment for adults without formal education beyond high school.

Even though the study was conducted within the context of the USA, the results have bearings for a country like Ghana. As the national unemployment rate rises, and with unemployment and underemployment rising especially among low income earners, family-supporting jobs are greatly needed. Creating good green jobs in the water sector that reduce both pollution and poverty can, and should, be a national priority. These jobs are in many industries, such as the manufacturing of water conservation products and the installation of water infrastructure. Importantly, many of these jobs can provide career path- ways and good wages while promoting regional economic development.

But then, the issue is not just about sustainability of the resource. It is also about household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS). Granted that the water sources and supply system are sustainably managed and functional; how water is handled and stored at the household level can promote or endanger the lives of the people.

According to a UNICEF Report “at the household level, contamination of stored water is common. Citing a WHO source, the Report “Promotion of Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage in UNICEF WASH Programmes,” says studies in a number of pilot countries revealed that more than half of household samples from stored water showed port-source or after collection contamination.

This, according to the report is consistent with a large body of research worldwide that has shown that even drinking water which is safe at the source is subject to frequent and extensive faecal contamination during collection, storage and use in the home. This means that in areas where the practice of open defecation is widespread, faecal contamination could easily occur at the point of collection or even storage.

What is worrying about this situation is that unsafe drinking water, along with poor sanitation and hygiene, are the main contributors to an estimated 4 billion cases of diarrhoeal disease annually, causing more than 1.5 million deaths, mostly among children under 5 years of age. It further results in malnutrition and other health hazards.

Over half of all people in developing countries suffer at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits

Over half of all people in developing countries suffer at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits

Research has established that treating water at the household level is one of the most effective and cost-effective means of preventing waterborne disease in development and emergency settings. Promoting household water treatment and safe storage helps vulnerable populations to take charge of their own water security by providing them with the knowledge and tools to treat their own drinking water.

Because it prevents recontamination of water in the home, treating water at the household level is more effective than conventional improvements in water supplies in ensuring the microbiological quality of drinking water at the point of consumption. This translates into improved health outcomes. Household Water treatment methods include disinfection by using approved chemicals or boiling, and filtration through slow sand, ceramic or membrane filters fitted in a container.

To this end, the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate and Community Water and Sanitation Agency of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Ghana, is being supported by UNICEF to implement the Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage programme. The current focus of the programme includes the implementation of WASH activities in five regions in the country namely – Central, Volta, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions. The associated activities are being implemented in collaboration with THE Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS).

In Ghana, World Water Day, is being observed with a number of activities including a schools tree planting competition among the Ayalolo Cluster of Schools and a Stakeholders Dialogue at the Mantse Agbonaa Park, James Town, Accra.
(The writer can be reached on kudomagyemang@yahoo.com/kudomagyemanf@gmail.com)

February 25, 2016

Ghana: Parliamentarians Demand Explanation for Water Crisis

Ama Kudom-Agyemang

February 25, 2016

Usually, it is the agitations of residents that give an indication of water shortage, scarcity or crisis. But when a nation’s legislature become the agitators unanimously, it is a signal that water has now become an urgent political matter.

It is a good sign that, the current water crisis that has hit portions of the country has alarmed and shaken the nation’s Parliamentarians to demand an explanation from the relevant institutions. It indicates that leaders are beginning to understand with greater depth and clarity the urgent need to pay attention to water.

The crisis has come just at the heels of the commendation Ghana received for having made significant progress in attaining the water targets of the now ended Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In other words, Ghana was able to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water. The country’s attainment is pegged at 80 percent coverage.

Water scarcity is one of the world's leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally

Water scarcity is one of the world’s leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally

While, ordinary citizens might be wondering what has gone wrong, water experts might not be puzzled by the unfolding events of water shortages or access to safe water in sections of the country.

They are aware of the fact that the country is well endowed with significant freshwater resources that could compare to current uses at that time and demands in the foreseeable future. They are also not ignorant that the amount of water available changes distinctly from season to season as well as from year to year. Moreover, the experts know that distribution of freshwater is not uniform, with the south western part of the country or the high forest zone being better water than the coastal and northern zones or savannah wood and grass lands.

The National Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Plan prepared in December 2012, by a team of experts in consultation with representatives of the key stakeholders, warned that the nation’s water resources, “are at risk of depletion and degradation…”

According to the document, problems are emerging because of uncontrolled catchment degradation due to human activities such as poor agricultural practices especially farming along river banks coupled with population pressure, deforestation and surface mining, which all always affect surface water availability and quality.

Another major problem identified in the document include pressure from climate change and climate variability, which impact on the natural flow of water in river channels. The document notes that “Fresh water regimes have been modified resulting in shrinking of the resources, and affecting water supply and river transport.” Consequently, some areas experienced severe floods, with others drought.

A third key problem has to do with increasing population growth and urbanization leading to increased demand on land, water and other natural resources, resulting in conflicting and competing water uses and pollution.

On Friday, February 26th, 2016 when Parliament convenes, top on the agenda is a statement to the House by the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing. The Minister and his key officials including the Executive Secretary of the Water Resources Commission will respond to queries regarding the current situation from the House.

It is certain that they will touch on the challenges such as weak enforcement of regulations; lack of regulations on dam safety and control of industrial effluent and sewerage outfalls and lack of adequate data on surface and ground water quantity and quality. They are also likely to mention the non-incorporation into sectorial water management strategies of climate change and climate variability impacts on water and other natural resources.

Water problems in developing countries are acute and complex

Water problems in developing countries are acute and complex

It will be prudent on the part of the Minister to also mention that unregulated activities in river basins leading to catchment degradation and poor water quality as well as inadequate systems for early warning and mitigation effects from floods and droughts are additional key challenges confronting the sector.

The Minister should be able to impress on the House that in the face of the increasing population and growing uses of freshwater vis a vis depletion of usable freshwater resources, water requires careful management and monitoring in its use and availability. The House will need to appreciate that the time has come to re-think the nation’s development priorities and institutions should be made to work.

As Parliamentarians spearheading national legislature formulation, they have the power to negotiate and resolve the current conflicts besetting the natural resources sector. Conflicts that could have been prevented if the there was a working National Land Use Policy in place. Such a policy would have identified practical land use options and provided guidelines for the competing land uses – agriculture, logging, mining and biodiversity conservation including integrated water resources management.

But the current water crisis in parts of the country is not an isolated case and happens to be one of the global scenarios. Scientists are even arguing that the current situation has arisen because “we’ve been significantly underestimating our water footprint.” New studies published in the Science journal estimates that “global water consumption has increased by nearly 20 percent,” adding, “we may have crossed an unsustainable threshold in our water use.”

It is against this background that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon convened an emergency panel of heads of states to prompt a political response to the world’s increasing scarcity of water. This was at the special session of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting earlier this month during which a special Panel was formed to move global water actions forward.

The Secretary General stressed that “Water is a precious resource, crucial to realising the sustainable development goals, which at their heart aim to eradicate poverty.” He hoped, “the new panel can help motivate the action we need to turn ideas into reality,” and said “countries needed to take the lead on tackling the problem.”

The President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, who was at the event said “achieving the global water goal would have multiple benefits, including laying the foundations for food and energy security, sustainable urbanisation, and ultimately climate security.” He expected the panel to “accelerate action in many countries so that we can make water more accessible to all.”

 (The writer can be reached on kudomagyemang@yahoo.com/kudomagyemanf@gmail.com)

February 13, 2016

Ghana: Journalists to Scoop Awards for Reporting About Open Defecation

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang

February 13, 2016

The fight to make Ghana an Open Defecation Free (ODF) country, has been taken to another level following the institutionalization of an award scheme for Ghanaian journalists dubbed, “Face of ODF Media Feature and Photo Contest.” It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and UNICEF, Ghana.

The scheme, launched in December last year, is meant to compliment national efforts in attaining the goal of ODF Ghana by 2020 as contained in the Ghana Sanitation and Water for All document of 2014.

A makeshift bathroom. Few people in developing countries are familiar with the dangerous health risks their families face due to their poor sanitary facilities.

A makeshift bathroom. Few people in developing countries are familiar with the dangerous health risks their families face due to their poor sanitary facilities.

However, it is doubtful, if the majority of Ghanaians are aware of this national goal which is just four years away.

The goal of an ODF Ghana by 2020, no doubt, has been necessitated by the nationwide practice of open defecation (OD) popularly known as “free range.”  It is a practice whereby people just defecate or shit in the open, leaving the faeces exposed and not giving a damn about the consequences.

But open defecation is deemed the riskiest of all sanitation practices, posing the greatest danger to human health and can have fatal consequences – particularly for the most vulnerable, especially young children. The risk lies in the fact that human contact with human excreta can transmit many infectious diseases including cholera and typhoid. It also affects the growth of children under five leading to stunting – a condition that distorts the physical growth and intellectual abilities in children.

Experts say one gram of human faeces contains over 10 million germs and once faeces is exposed, coming into contact with it is very easy – The fact is that we pick up germs with our hands from various points including when we clean ourselves after using the toilet, during playing or working, from objects such as doorknobs and stair railings as well as from handshakes. As long as the immediate surroundings and wider environment is polluted with faecal matter, it stands to reason that everything within its reach will be contaminated with the germs.

Probably, the practice is on-going because people are ignorant of the relationship between the practice and their health and general well-being. Additionally, they may be unaware that the practice perpetuates the vicious cycle of disease and entrenches poverty. Information dissemination is therefore crucial in the national fight to eliminate open defecation from the country.

To this end, the media is paramount and their contribution to the campaign against open defecation, should be appreciated. But much more, media innovativeness in investigating into issues, packaging the information collated and disseminating it to the public is to be recognized and awarded. Fact is, it is the Constitutional mandate of the media to disseminate information on all matters of public interest to the public.

The Ghanaian media was reminded of this Constitutional obligation by David Duncan, Chief of WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene), UNICEF, Ghana, at the launch of the “Face of ODF Media Feature and Photo Contest,” in Accra on Tuesday, December 2015. He said the Constitutional provision establishing the freedom and independence of the media, also charges the media to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people of Ghana.

David Duncan, Chief of WASH, UNICEF, Ghana

David Duncan, Chief of WASH, UNICEF, Ghana

Mr. Duncan stated: “This is both a very powerful right and a very powerful responsibility.”  He noted that in the national quest to end open defecation, the media could discharge its responsibility, “by highlighting the challenges of open defecation in Ghana, by highlighting successes and failures in rising to this challenge, by telling the stories of how Ghanaians are impacted by open defecation, and how they are responding. By raising the profile of open defecation.”

He added that “… both the media and the Ghanaian public are then well placed to question how the country is not responding to these challenges and to hold ourselves accountable.” Mr. Duncan expressed concerned about the almost stagnated pace towards eliminating open defecation from Ghana. He said while the rest of the world is improving in the area of ensuring that most the population has access to toilets, “Ghana seems to be standing still.”

To support this claim, Mr. Duncan quoted some national statistics. “In 1990, 22% of Ghanaians defecated in the open. The 2014 DHS survey tells us that 21% of Ghanaians still do so. A one percent improvement in 24 years.” He pointed out, “At this rate, Ghana will be free of open defecation in 500 years.”

Mr. Duncan was of the view that media contribution could help reverse the current trend and facilitate the process towards the attainment of the goal of an open defecation free Ghana.

The Deputy Director of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate of the MLGRD, Cosmas Kambozie was of the same view. He said “with the support of the media the national goal of ODF Ghana can be achieved in the nearest foreseeable future.” He however pointed out that in addition to media contribution, the realization of the goal of ODF Ghana will require “significantly increased investments in order to improve sanitation.”

Mr. Kambozie noted that investments in sanitation will not only provide basic services, but will also reap benefits well beyond the water and sanitation sector. He stressed that “investments in water and sanitation in fact are investments in health, education, the environment and poverty reduction.

The “Face of ODF Media Feature and Photo Contest,” is open to all Ghanaian journalists. Thematic areas for the media to focus on, as stated in the factsheet on the Contest include: the menace of open defecation; community efforts to become ODF; exemplary leadership (by DCEs, REHOs, natural leaders, etc.) that has triggered ODF initiatives; conflicts in the implementation of the ODF initiative and how they can be turned around for the benefit of the people and nation at large; and a cost benefit analysis of OD & ODF.

According to the factsheet, submitted articles should have been published or broadcast between January to June 2016. These stories should be accompanied by compelling photos that can tell stories on their own. Submissions from the radio categories are however exempted from this criteria. The choice of words and tone of voice in such stories, should vividly portray the imagery of the “Face of ODF.”

(The writer can be reached on:  kudomagyemang@yahoo.com   or kudomagyemang@gmail.com  )

 

October 15, 2015

Have You Washed Your Hands Today?

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang,
Accra, Ghana
October 15, 2015

Today Thursday October 15th, 2015, is Global Hand Washing Day and Belinda Kotoka of the Konsuaso community in the Kejebi District of Ghana’s Volta region, is demonstrating that it is possible to wash one’s hands under running water no matter where.

It is an issue of simple ingenuity – “get a gallon, make a small hole and plug with a stick, fill it with water and then mount it on two sticks. When you’re ready to use it, just remove the plug and bingo, you have running water to wash your hands.”

Belinda Kotoka of Konsuaso, Kejabi District of Volta region in Ghana washing her hands

Belinda Kotoka of Konsuaso, Kejabi District of Volta region in Ghana washing her hands

Belinda and her entire community understand that simple hand washing is the single most inexpensive effective way to prevent the spread of infections especially among young women and children.

The fact is that we pick up germs with our hands from various points including when we use the toilet, during playing or working, from objects such as doorknobs and stair railings as well as from hand shakes. So when we forget to wash our hands, we can spread these germs to other people or give them to ourselves by touching our eyes, mouths, noses or cuts on our bodies.

Statistics compiled by UNICEF indicate that hand washing with soap at critical times – including before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet – can reduce diarrhoea rates by more than 40 per cent and cut down the incidence of acute respiratory infections (ARI’s) such as influence and pneumonia by around 23 per cent.

Hand washing can also be a critical measure in controlling pandemic outbreaks of respiratory infections. Indeed, hand washing with soap has been cited as one of the most cost-effective interventions to prevent diarrhoeal related deaths and diseases.

The theme for this year’s Global Hand washing Day is “Raise a hand for hygiene.” It’s an action oriented theme to identify one as a hygiene champion. It is also a reminder that it is possible for governments to count how many people wash their hands and have access to hygiene facilities in homes, schools, and healthcare facilities. Additionally, it is a call on governments to measure hygiene indicators to know where resources should be concentrated.

Global Hand washing Day was created at the 2008 Annual World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden and initiated by the Public Private Partnership for Hand washing. The Day was first celebrated on October 15, 2008, to coincide of 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation by the UN General Assembly.

The campaign was initiated to reduce childhood mortality rates, related respiratory and diarrheal diseases by introducing simple behavioral changes – hand washing with soap. So the message is simple and clear: “WASH YOUR HANDS TODAY, BE A CHAMPION FOR HYGIENE AND GOOD HEALTH.”

In Ghana, the Community Water and Sanitation Agency is facilitating the national celebration of Global Hand washing Day with a ceremony in Tamale.

October 6, 2015

Wise Up To Climate Partnership Discusses Planned Pwalugu Dam

Ama Kudom-Agyemang
October 06, 2015

All things being normal, in about 15 months from now construction works will start on the Pwalugu Multi-purpose Dam (PMD) on the White Volta River, a tributary of the Volta that passes through Pwalugu along the Tamale – Bolgatanga highway in the Upper East Region. The Volta River Authority (VRA) is the implementing agency of the dam, for which preparatory work is steadily progressing. And as it was with the construction of its two sister dams – Akosombo and Bui, communities around the catchment area are in a high state of expectancy that includes a possibility of a “new and better” way of life.

This is the feeling one gets from reading the brochure on the project, the components of which comprises boosting the country’s energy supply; developing the irrigation potential of the area to support regional and national agricultural productivity; and enhancing the area’s fisheries industry.

It is worthy of note that 50 years on after Akosombo, some communities are yet to realise their expectation of even getting light. Bui also has its own issues with community members as they struggle to adjust to the changes it has brought to their lives. Fortunately, these two, provide vital lessons to be captured into the construction of the PMD.

WISE UP’s Views on the PMD
Various initiatives such as the WISE UP to Climate partnership is working towards ensuring that the PMD will not just serve its intended purposes, but will additionally enhance the integrity of the ecosystem utilised, and ensure that it continues to provide the services on which the people are dependent.

Furthermore, such physical facilities built on natural ecosystems, should equip and position riparian communities to adapt to climate change, which as the experts say “will get worse and worse.”

The partnership’s position on the development of any physical infrastructure such as a dam in a water basin like the Volta is that it should eventually result in a “multifunctional climate resilient balanced facility within a basin.” That is an ecosystem whose functioning is enhanced, and is supporting and enriching the socio-cultural and economic lives of dependent communities.

Multifunctional Climate-Resilient balanced basin

Model of a Multifunctional Climate Resilient Balanced Water Basin
Findings of preliminary studies in relation to the planned PMD conducted by the WISE UP to Climate partnership indicate several levels of challenges. First of all, the existing climate induced challenges such as delayed on-set of rains and floods that affect harvests, and secondly, the operation of the Bagre dam in Burkina Faso that results in increase base flows and unregulated spills causing floods and damage. The findings suggest that once the Pwalugu dam is constructed, these challenges could be addressed through harnessing the increased base flows for irrigation, flood mitigation and flood recession farming.

The understanding is that the flow of water should not be curtailed in any way by the construction of the dam. This is because, sustained natural flow is an essential requirement for the generation of ecosystem services that support both the effectiveness of the infrastructure built on it, and the livelihood of the riparian communities. But according to members of the partnership, “this will only happen dependent on the dam’s operation decisions.”

Some Issues Raised at Recent Meeting
These issues were discussed at length by members of WISE UP to Climate partnership from Ghana and Burkina Faso at a recent meeting in Accra. Among other things, the discussions raised some bothersome questions – Will the appropriate trade-offs be done to ensure balance once the construction is completed? Has the expected efficiency of the dam been defined? And if ecosystems are destroyed during the construction, how will they be accounted for in relation to political gains?

The Director of the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr. Joseph Ampofo; a lecturer of the University of Ouagadougou, Professor Dogola Eraristec; and the President of Green Cross in Burkina Faso, Ousseini Diall, stressed the need for the construction to have a holistic view and take into account all considerations. In their view, once this happens, “PWD will bring about a win-win situation that will benefit people at the local level and the countries at the national level.”

The Executive Director of the Volta Basin Authority (VBA), Dr. Charles Biney, was hopeful of the PMD creating a transparent trans-boundary governance system for a vibrant Volta basin. He said, “the discussions at this point are critical since it is possible to pioneer the ideas generated for other river basins in the Sub-region.”

Romanus Gyang of CARE International Ghana said since the construction is still in its preparatory stages, “there is need to generate reliable data such as climate information to feed into the decision making process, for proper projections to made about how the lives of the people will be affected and the options that will be available for them.”

A lecturer with the Department of Planning, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Kumasi, Dr. Ronald Adamtey who is a research partner in WISE UP urged VRA not to be just interested in generating energy from the PWD. “VRA,” he said, “should also be interested in maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem, since the dam’s sustainability will depend on a healthy ecosystem.”

About WISE UP to Climate
WISE-UP is the acronym for Water Infrastructure Solutions from Ecosystem Services underpinning Climate Resilient Policies and Programmes. It is a global partnership involving the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSRI) in Ghana; the African Collaborative Centre for Earth System Sciences (ACCESS) of the University of Nairobi, Kenya; and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). Others are the UK Overseas Development Institute (ODI); the University of Manchester; the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This partnership has brought together a wide variety of expertise including resource scientists, engineers, computer modellers, governance and political economists, water managers and climate change specialists. WISE-UP is being funded by the International Climate Initiative (ITI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

WISE UP to Climate is working in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Kenya over a four year period – to demonstrate that natural ecosystems or infrastructure are nature based solutions for climate change adaptation and sustainable development. The essence of the demonstration is that without healthy ecosystems in well-functioning watersheds, the infrastructure built for irrigation, hydropower or water supply may not function sustainably, let alone achieve the economic returns necessary to justify investments made.
(The writer is an environment, climate change and science journalist. Contact: kudomagyemang@yahoo.com)

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