By Mohamed Keita, RI staff, Administrative Coordinator, Areas of Focus, Programs and Grants
In January, a new government came into office in Ghana and set a different tone in addressing access to water and public sanitation in the country. President Nana Akufo-Addo announced the creation of a Ministry for Sanitation and Water Resources. It is the first time an administration has dedicated the centrepiece of an executive cabinet agency to public sanitation.
Ghanaian Rotarians who are involved in the rollout of the Rotary-USAID International H2O Collaboration, a $4 million initiative to support lasting, positive change to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) initiatives in Ghana, have welcomed the move.
“A major challenge facing our country is access to water to our people. Indeed, ‘water for all’ is one of our slogans for our 2016 manifesto,” the president declared in the press. “We also made a slogan ‘a toilet for all’ and these are matters we take very seriously.”
Previously, WASH related issues in Ghana fell under the purview of the Ministry of Water resources, Works and Housing. President Akufo-Addo said the change was necessary because of the major challenge facing the country with respect to access to water and sanitation.
Both local and international stakeholders involved in WASH activities in Ghana have applauded the creation of the new ministry. “This is like being alone in a boat which is struggling to go upstream and suddenly getting another person to help with the rowing,” Ako Adotei, chair of the Host Committee of the Rotary-USAID partnership in Ghana, told me. The partnership, which involves 36 Rotary clubs, Global Communities, USAID’s implementing partner in Ghana, and the government via the Community Water & Sanitation Agency (CWSA), is preparing to roll out activities to improve water and sanitation conditions in 165 rural communities.
Beyond simply building infrastructure, the Rotary-USAID partnership involves peculiar aspects that are unusual in most Rotarian projects: empowering communities in: a) financial self-sustainability to support infrastructure maintenance b) advocating with local authorities for equitable resource allocation c) developing innovation from lessons learned. To this effect, about two dozen Rotarians participated in a training workshop on advocacy in mid-January in the capital Accra.
In Ghana, the poorest communities rely on local government and outside support for funding maintenance and operations costs for sanitation infrastructure. However, funding gaps and delays at the local district assemblies prevent the resources allocated by the Ghanaian government to trickle down to the neediest communities.
“Holding the district assemblies to account – that is really the greatest challenge,” says Peter Aniglo of the Rotary Club of Sunyani Central. Aniglo feels the workshop made clearer the pertinence of understanding the laws and regulations in order to train communities to understand their rights, the importance of helping communities organize self-funding methods, and the need to engage decision makers at the district assemblies.
The Rotarians came to the workshop with no prior experience with advocacy, but went away with a better understanding of its value in elevating the work of Rotary. Beatrice Baiden of the Rotary Club of Accra Dzorwolu, says “the training made me gain better understanding of the WASH sector with regards to policy and guidelines available, challenges of the WASH program, and how we could use advocacy to address the challenges as Rotarians.”
Aniglo notes the advocacy training is going a long way in helping sustain projects.
Learn more about the Rotary-USAID International H2O Collaboration