Monday, August 1, 2011

One borehole, 1,800 people – The story of Akpokope

BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE

The Akpokope lone borehole

Akpokope is a fairly large settler community of kente weavers and tomato farmers in the Adaklu Anyigbe District of the Volta Region of Ghana, who must live contented lives, since their major livelihoods bring them much gain.
The revered Ghanaian fabric – kente, goes for GH¢5 per stole or strip, whilst a wrap goes for GH¢30 (three of these make a half piece cloth which sells at GH¢90 and GH¢180 for the full piece).
Tomatoes, which are in season, on the other hand are sold for between GH¢40 to GH¢120 for a big crate to clients from Accra and as far as Kumasi in the Ashanti Region.
Ordinarily, these economic gains must make a person, group of persons or community very happy. This is however not to be said of the people of Akpokope, whose joy has been taken away from them as a result of their very poor access to potable water.
Currently, the over 1,800 inhabitants of Akpokope, most of whom are Ga-Dangmes who migrated from the Greater Accra Region, find themselves in dire straits living in fear of a day coming when they will have no clean water to drink.
The fairly large community currently gets its daily supply of water from a single borehole at the price of 5Gp per four 18 litre buckets, which invariably brings so much pressure to bear on the facility, that it is only a matter of time for the borehole to cough out empty air when the fitted hand is swung as is done around the clock.
Furthermore, what is pertaining at Akpokope is a far cry from the nationally and internationally acceptable figure of 300 people to a borehole.
The community’s situation came to light when 14 journalists belonging to the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN) undertook a tour of the Volta Region from July 27 to 29, 2011, to assess access to potable water, improved sanitation and hygiene education in some communities, as well as facilities put in place by service providers to ensure access.
At a community forum, the Chief of Akpokope, Nene Ahlor Tetteh Bediako II said that the situation had arisen because two other boreholes providing water for the community had all broken down and could not be repaired for lack of funds.
He explained that although seven attempts had been made to sink boreholes in the community, only three had been successful and the two broken down facilities could not be repaired, as the water and sanitation committee overseeing the facilities had been dissolved for non-performance, while the interim committee lacks the technical know-how to repair the broken down facilities.
It however, turned out at the forum that the community leadership did not follow due process in dissolving the watsan committee two years ago and had also not informed the overseeing Adaklu-Anyigbe District Assembly of their plight.
Reacting to this revelation, Mr. Oscar Ahianyo, a consultant with the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Volta Region, submitted that “If there is a breakdown for more than a week it is a big problem from the CWSA point of view.”
“If there should be the dissolving of a Watsan Committee, CWSA must be informed,” he charged.
Thus, in all the perplexity surrounding the provision of potable water for the community, it is the 1,800 inhabitants bearing the brunt as expressed by an indigene.
“In fact it is very difficult for us – the pipe is one and the way we have been pumping it…we do it too hard that in the dry season we don’t get water,” Mrs. Sarah Tornu said.
Explaining other steps they take to get water if the borehole becomes inadequate, Sarah said, “We walk for more than four miles to a place called Tordzi,” adding, “Children don’t get water and some teachers don’t go to school because they don’t get water.”
Commenting on the current situation in the community, Nene Ahlor Tetteh Bediako II stated; “If the last borehole breaks down, there will be suffering. We will then have to rely on tanker services.”
In his view, they would be saved from their predicament if government through the Ghana Water Company, extends its pipeline from Kpeve to Aflao as they fall between that stretch.
“We also need pipe borne water,” the chief stressed.
The lack of access to potable water is not the only predicament of the community. According to Akpokope’s chief, “There is only one public toilet in the community and very few household latrines.” “As a result of this, people still defecate in the bush,” he added.
On maintenance of the single public latrine, the chief said, “When there are challenges with the public latrine we use money from the water sales to fix it.”
He lamented that the pay before use system that was employed at the initial stages broke down as people rushed to use the latrine when they were hard pressed and declined to pay after they had used it.
“Others also rush into the bush to defecate when nature calls urgently and currently there is no caretaker. The community once a while organises and cleans up the place,” Nene Tetteh Bediako II divulged further.
The field trip was intended to give the journalists a hands on experience of access to water and improved sanitation in rural Ghana as well as interventions put in place by government and other stakeholders to inform better reportage.
The journalists were led by Mr. Attah Arhin, Manager of the EU-funded Improvement of Water Sector Performance Management Framework (IWSPMF) project of the Water Directorate of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing which sponsored the tour.

GJA 2010 Award Winners

GJA 2010 Award Winners
Dzifa, Emelia and Gertrude

GJA 2011 Award Winners

GJA 2011 Award Winners
GWJN's 2011 GJA Award-Winning Team

New WASH-JN Executives

New WASH-JN Executives
They are from left - Edmund, Ghana, Aminata: Guinea, Alain: Benin, Paule: Senegal and Ousman: Niger

Celebrating Award

Celebrating Award
The benefits of Award Winning!

Hard Work Pays!

Hard Work Pays!
In a pose with my plaque