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Canada helps improve access to livelihoods and water for communities in northern Ghana

Having a dependable source of water helps local families to have safe drinking water throughout the year. This water is also needed to run businesses.

Clean water underpins health and livelihoods. A young woman fetches water from a community standpipe for household activities.

This overhead tank in Tatale stores water pumped from the boreholes for distribution to the community.

The annual rainy season in northern Ghana runs from March to November. When the rains arrive late, however, there are serious consequences for the incomes and livelihoods of the local peasant farmers and livestock keepers.

The people of Gbungbaliga, a small town in northeastern Ghana, have traditionally relied on the rainy season to provide for all their water needs, including for household and commercial use. A late start to the rainy season can have devastating consequences for the community. With Canada’s support, however, circumstances are improving. Now when the rains are delayed, there are seven new standpipes in town that provide the community with water to drink and to use.

Iddrisu Fusiena, a polytechnic graduate with a diploma in Business Studies, lives on the income she receives every month working as a systems manager for the Gbungbaliga Small Town Water project. Iddrisu explained that she and her two colleagues manage the facility by charging 10 pesewas (about three Canadian cents) for a “galawa” of water. “The money is used to buy parts to repair faulty pumps and to pay our wages,” she said.

The water project has not only provided access to safe drinking water but has also improved incomes in the community. Sixty-five-year-old Fati Adam supports her three children and six grandchildren with income from her business making groundnut-paste (similar to peanut butter and a common ingredient in Ghanaian cooking). She relies on the water to process the paste, which, when sold at the market, generates enough money to provide for her family. “My family uses about 20 galawas of water every day for my business and household chores,” Fati said. “It is affordable and better than water from the dam.” She is also pleased by the convenience of the standpipes, explaining that the dam where she used to draw water is approximately 2 km from the town.

The operation of the water system has been smooth but inconsistent electricity supply from the national grid affects how frequently water is pumped and released through the pipes. In addition, rising electricity costs mean that the community group that manages the water system may need to increase the price of a galawa of water.

Canadian funds disbursed through Ghana’s Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing have supported a larger project in Tatale, serving more than 5,000 people in this district capital in northern Ghana. Here there are 20 community standpipes and water is delivered directly to homes. Residents pay for the quantities of water used and the fees collected are used to manage the system. A water and sanitation management team has been trained by the district assembly to manage the system.

Ben Kwame Ali, who is a member of the water and sanitation management team and a trained borehole mechanic, says that the project has been beneficial to residents who used to travel 19 km to the nearest town, Zabzugu, for clean potable water. “The only water we had at that time was from the dam we shared with our livestock and a few hand-dug wells.”

Ben says he pumps a minimum of 400 cubic feet of water (approximately 12,000 litres) sourced from three boreholes every day into an overhead tank for distribution to the community.

“Some residents package the water in sachets, refrigerate it and resell for income,” Ben said. “We distributed water during the dry season and the community was not affected by the lack of rain. Now we don’t pump the same amount of water because the rains have started and residents rely on harvested rainwater for some of their domestic chores.”

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