June 20, 2017
Growing up in Ghana, I experienced firsthand how difficult it is to get access to clean water in Ghana. When my family and I were living at Accra New-Town in 2002, I had to walk several miles just to have access to a bucket of water.
Diseases like cholera still cause many Ghanaians to lose their lives are a result of the country’s inability to deal effectively with sanitation issues. Accra, the capital city of Ghana, has a population rate of 5 million and a growth rate of 4% per annum. As a result of urbanization and rapid population growth, waste management in Ghana is basically a burden. The Environmental Protection Agency, stated in 2014 that 97% of all fecal treatment plants in Accra are non-functional. 23% of households in Accra practice open defecation and health threatening bucket, or pan, latrines also exist.
Access to scalable clean water cannot be achieved until the issue with sanitation has been solved as clean water can be undermined by pollution from fecal matter.
The Archimedes Project fellowship provides an opportunity for me to explore Ghana’s water and sanitation problems and identify the reasons why these problems still exist and ways they could be solved. I am very excited about the fellowship because it will provide a platform for me to learn about the key players and what has been done so far to combat the problems that Ghana has and why these solutions have and have not been successful. I am interested in understanding the attitudes of Ghanaians towards waste management and the reasons why the various initiatives that have been set up by waste management companies like Zoomlion Ghana Limited, have not been maintained.
As part of my preparation for the fellowship, I spoke to an agent at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly who refused to give me his name (I find that Ghanaians often prefer to give information in person) but did give me his opinion on the waste management issues Accra struggles with. According to him, the problem is because of poor planning of the capital city by the Town and Country planning organization a resulted in a city that is dirty and congested. He ended our phone call by saying he did not think there could ever be a solution to how waste is managed in Accra.
A major challenge I see is the “wall of complacency” that Ghanaians generally have. Some Ghanaians are like the official I spoke to, they feel there is no need to work at solving those issues since there can never be an effective solution. My main challenge would be to breakthrough and somehow get to them and help them to understand how important the issue is and inspire in them the desire to be interested in solving the problems themselves which is the aim of the social enterprise.
To understand why despite interventions by the government, non-profits, and private companies, Ghana and most especially Greater Accra cannot be considered clean. I intend to pursue the fellowship by reaching out to as many people and organization that have been working in the sanitation sector why despite their interventions as I can. In the next 12 weeks, I will be developing a comprehensive list of key actors in the water and sanitation sector.
In addition, I will interview the local people to get their views on the problem. Consumers have a better understanding of the system, where it goes wrong and what may benefit them. It is important to assess the attitudes and desired of the people to find a social enterprise as a solution to clean water and sanitation.
Patricia Addo-Dombo is a 2017 Frontier Social Entrepreneur Fellow at the Archimedes Project. She is a first year MSW student at New York University who is passionate about helping people and societies. She is fueled by her drive to empower people and foster well-being. She was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa. You can follow her progress here.