Marc and Chris are on a field mission in Ghana to interact with communities and Hilton Foundation Grantees in the Safe Water Strategy Initiative in the Asutifi North District. With disarming humility, the local choir welcome the guests amid dancing and songs of praise for Hilton Foundation. But there is much more to this town than dancing and singing. As it turns out, Panaaba is quietly achieving full Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) coverage with support from the Hilton Foundation and its grantees. Prior to the intervention, Panaaba had one unreliable borehole that served nearly 800 people in the community. Residents were therefore compelled to walk long hours in search of water for domestic use. For many girls this meant time spent out of school in search of water. Access to WASH services is a necessity in life. Life without proper WASH services often results in poor health, education and nutrition. For Panaaba and other communities in Asutifi North, the intervention of the Hilton Foundation and its partners working on a shared vision towards full WASH coverage is enough tackle their WASH problems and a reason to celebrate. “There are so many reasons to celebrate”, says Nana Amaniapong. “We now have access to safe water and every household is in the process of having a toilet facility ”. "We can now live in dignity with our families and our children will now stay in school; our town has faced many water and sanitation challenges in the past; and we are grateful to the Hilton Foundation and its partners for coming to our aid by providing us with clean water”.
Partners working together on a shared vision in Asutifi North
Since 2017, IRC Ghana, World Vision, Safe Water Network, Netcentric Campaigns, Aquaya Institute and the Center for Disease Control (CD), (otherwise known as the Hilton grantees), together with the Asutifi North District Assembly have been working on a master plan to collectively achieve full WASH coverage in Asutifi North with funding from the Hilton Foundation. The Master Plan also known as the Asutifi North Ahonnidie Mpontuuo, (ANAM Initiative, loosely translated as, working together on a shared vision to achieve full WASH coverage in Asutifi North) involves a joint visioning and partnership between the Hilton Grantees and the District Assembly geared towards achieving SDG6 in many communities including Panaaba. The relationship between the Hilton Grantees and the District Assembly in the master plan is built on shared interests and shared values that continue to thrive and remain strong. “With the gentle progress made in Panaaba and other communities, we are moving closer to our target of “Every person in Asutifi North District, approximately …. 84,423 in 2030 having access to sustainable safe water, sanitation and hygiene services in a conducive environment where water resources are sustainably managed”, says Jeremiah Atengdem, IRC Ghana Water Expert, who has been conducting the team around the communities in the company of staff of the Asutifi North District Assembly and other project partners.“Our commitment to the objectives of the Asutifi Master plan is unwavering and we will work together to keep our partnership close to tackle the problems of WASH in Asutifi North”, he adds. The partnership strategically gives room to all the partners to play defined and agreed roles in their area of expertise. For example, Safe Water Network is working to establish small water enterprises in urban and peri-urban areas in the District including Wamahinso where a community water taker system has been constructed and ready for use. World Vision is also working to provide water services in rural and deprived communities like Panaaba and Gambia No. 2 where they have constructed boreholes to ease the burden of the farming communities. Aquaya Institute on the other hand is developing approaches for drinking water quality management including piloting a water kiosk in Ntotroso. Netcentric on the other hand is providing technical support to assess the seven elements of connection among the key players in the District who must have the capacity to work as a network. The CDC is supporting WASH in schools and health facilities, whilst IRC Ghana provides the backbone support and partnership with the District Assembly and other partners to achieve full WASH coverage.
The District leadership and participation
The vision of the ANAM Initiative fits perfectly in the decentralized WASH Service in Asutifi North District Assembly (ANDA) under the Local Government Act, 2016 (Act 936) which mandates the Assembly to facilitate the operation of WASH Services in the District. The Assembly is also mandated to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 which include Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. This kind of alignment in the visioning of the ANAM initiative is the building block of the district partnership in the initiative. District Chief Executive, Anthony Mensah who was with the mission on the two-day visit believes achieving full WASH coverage involves more than just drilling boreholes and building toilets. “It involves district leadership and participation; that is why from day one we have been interested in the ANAM initiative”. “Together with the communities, we are participating fully in the initiative where we are able to influence project planning, decision-making, implementation and monitoring phases including leveraging additional funding to support the initiative”. “Because of this we have received a considerable number of requests from other districts to learn from our approach; government and or donors alone cannot achieve sustainable WASH services; it must have the support of other organized forces at the local level including a strong district leadership and community participation”, says the District Chief Executive. Marc J. Holley, Vice President of Strategy and Programs with the Hilton Foundation who is visiting Ghana for the first time believes the district leadership together with the participation of the people in Asutifi North in the ANAM initiative, the shared and collective vision of the Hilton Grantees are the perfect ingredients on the road to full WASH coverage. He said: “I am struck by warmth of the people and the leadership demonstrated by the District Assembly; your investment, time and leadership are a signal to all the partners that this can be sustainable”. In addition, Chris Dunston, Senior Program Officer, Hilton Foundation said instead of duplicating activities, the Hilton Grantees are able to build their own capacities through knowledge transfer, leveraging the expertise of key partners, technical expertise and sharing global best practices with the goal of scaling these practices across Ghana.
Walking through some key achievements of the ANAM initiative, James Atta-Era, Planning officer at the Asutifi North District Assembly points to the development of a WASH masterplan, demonstrated political and financial commitment from District Assembly. He is also quick to add that there is an ongoing construction of 9 limited mechanized schemes in towns and peri-urban areas and institutions in the district including 24 boreholes in rural communities and in institutions to provide water to an estimated population of 7,200. “There is an ongoing pilot of water kiosks and Water Quality Assurance Fund mechanisms to address lack of or irregular water quality testing by service providers”, says James as he is affectionately called. “An ANAM WASH Desk and Website, and Radio Programme have also been set-up to mobilize and build a network of citizens to support the masterplan implementation”, he added. Through the unique shared vision and participatory approach, the ANAM initiative will revolutionize WASH services delivery in Asutifi North District and Ghana as matter of fact. It is therefore important to encourage the partners to continue working together, to make sure no one is left behind in accessing WASH services.
By Abdul-Kudus Husein, Coordinator, Ghana WASH Resources Centre Network, IRC Ghana.