Before us lies a small milky tea coloured dam, so murky that one can barely see any reflection on the surface of the waters. A group of women enter the dam, delicately balancing large tin bowls on their heads to collect this water for their use at home. In the distance, bellowing cows belonging to the cattle herding community gather at the edge of the dam to quench their thirst. This body of water is a central location for human and animal consumption and it is heavily polluted. The World Vision team is in Segbale village, Agortime -Ziope district in the Volta region, southern Ghana. World Vision established a new Area Programme (AP) in the region on the 1 October 2020, and six months on, the team is investigating the various challenges faced by this community.
Access to clean potable water is critical in this area, and needed so desperately. Despite communities' efforts to explore various options, all have failed. Edna, one of the mothers at the dam explains: "Sometimes I go to the dam and collect water or I buy water from the vendors who collect from the river and then there is a stream. None of them is good. The best is the stream, but every year it dries up. The dam water is the worst, followed by the water from the river. I have to add chemicals to the dam water, sieve it and let it settle, but even then my washing comes out brown". In order for Edna to get one bowl of fairly clear water, she has to collect two more bowls and go through the entire cleansing process before she gets a semi-clear bowl of water.
Ntogo, a child registered under World Vision's sponsorship programme, assists his mother Edna to lift the full bowl of water onto her head, as his mother walks away he tells the World Vision team a story about his own experiences with water: "I am not happy at all because I can see that the water is no good. I am now 12, but since birth I have not drank clean potable water. I just have one memory of a funeral where the organisers brought fresh bottled water. When I tasted it, I felt like I was in heaven".
The Agortime-Ziope district is predominantly rural, with more than half of its population (51.4%) employed in the agricultural industry. The region is characterised by flat lowlands, which are generally poorly drained, leading to frequent floods. The rivers do not provide all-year-round water supply to communities. During the dry season, water levels reduce and some dry up completely, often leading to a shortage of water for both agricultural and domestic purposes. The district has only one major road - the Ho Aflao road, all other communities are connected to the district capital with untarred roads and footpaths.
During the construction of the road where the dam now exists, the community found water, so they used shovels to dig and access the water source, even though it was not potable water. Chief Togbe Sadzo for Segbale village addressed how the issue of water is affecting the community: " The water they dug up wasn't clean. In fact it was brown. The community is commonly affected with diarrhoea, bilharzia, cholera and other waterborne diseases because of the condition of the water. People have even lost their lives due to the polluted water. Assistance would be very welcome in this community. On behalf of the elders and the community, we have heard of World Vision's interventions across the world and we are appealing to the organisation to provide us with potable water and adequate toilet facilities".
The World Vision team meets up with another family that does not use the dam water, but has opted to purchase water on a daily basis from vendors. Edem, who lives in the community has three children, Abigail being her last born. Edem is a hairdresser, but because of her disability she is unable to walk the two kilometre distance to the dam. Her physical disability means that Edem has to buy water on a daily basis, and this is costly. "I normally buy water at 15 Cedis (2 US Dollars) for 15 gallons of water a day from the tricycle vendors. Water which I use to bath, cook and wash school uniforms. Sometimes the child does not go to school because there is no water. We are hoping World Vision can step in and help us establish a borehole", explains Edem.
There are various ethnic groups in this community including the Agortimes, the Ewes, Hausas and Fulanis and they generally coexist peacefully. However, one of the ongoing issues regarding the dam is the defecation of the cattle in one of the communities' only source of water.
Abigail, Edem's 12-year-old daughter, explains that this issue concerns her: "The water has gotten progressively worse. We cannot use this water anymore. The cows defecate in this water and we would like World Vision to construct a borehole so we can drink clean water".
Aside from the issue of potable water, most of the households in the area do not have access to latrines and toilet facilities. World Vision is vested in providing such needy communities with these basic amenities through the implementation of mechanised boreholes and latrines, through the CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation) programme. Salome Yeboah is the World Vision AP Manager for Agortime-Ziope, Volta Region and she explains the plans the organisation has for this new AP: " The major challenge that the communities are facing is lack of access to potable drinking water. As a result, the community is forced to access unwholesome sources of water through streams and ponds; which is quite detrimental to their health. As an AP, what we intend to do is to provide the communities with potable water through the provision of mechanised boreholes. We will also address sanitation in the community and open defecation by collaborating with the District Health Management team and the Environmental Health Unit to motivate communities to own their own their household latrines."
World Vision will be working in close collaboration with the Agortime-Ziope District Assembly to resolve some of the most challenging issues regarding water and sanitation in the area. The district has already started a programme to implement boreholes for some of the most needy communities, but the communities are unable to maintain these boreholes when they break down. As John Kwaku Amenyah, District Chief Executive for Agortime-Ziope District Assembly explains, they are pleased with World Vision's presence in the region and they hope that the organisation can step in and facilitate in this area. "We were very pleased to hear that World Vision was setting up a new AP in the area. The organisation can do a lot to help us achieve our objectives and bring the district to a level that is acceptable in terms of water and sanitation and we are are committed to this new partnership. We need a paradigm shift when it comes to water management. The management of the existing boreholes is already an issue. When they break down, the community is not able to repair them, so we need to regularly assist them in this matter. Through World Vision, we hope to put systems in place to manage water and sanitation facilities and create long-term sustainability of these systems."
After every five years, World Vision will conduct an evaluation of Sponsorship, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), and Education to assess their impact on the lives of the people in Segbale Village in Agortime-Ziope District. Where there is no impact, World Vision will restructure programmes; tailoring them to the needs of the community.