Community management of water and sanitation facilities in Nanumba North District

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Sustainable provision of potable water to rural communities is a herculean challenge to most governments and development planners in developing countries. The major contributing factors militating against the efforts include frequent breakdowns of facilities which are often attributed to incompetence on the part of beneficiary communities to manage, operate, maintain and expand existing facilities to meet demands for water. In Ghana, the Community Water and Sanitation Programme (CWSP) was launched in 1994 to involve beneficiary communities to play active roles in the process of providing water. The programme sought to commit beneficiary communities to contribute to capital cost (5% for communities and 2.5% for small towns) and to pay the fill operations, maintenance and repair cost of their facilities, ensure sustainability of the facilities through Community Ownership and Management (COM) and maximize health benefits by integrating water, sanitation and hygiene promotion interventions. Since the implementation of this policy, all facilities that were provided and maintained by the government through the Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation (GWSC) and other Development Partners have been handed over to communities to manage, operate and maintain. The programme is in accordance with the concept of decentralization which seeks to promote grassroot participation in the development of their communities. However, many communities in the Nanumba North district are unable to effectively operate and maintain the potable water facilities (bore holes) that have been handed over to them, resulting in lower community access to potable water in the district. This study seeks to examine why committees that have been mandated to manage, operate and maintain the facilities are not able to function as required of them and also find possible ways of improving access to potable water. This study focused on the Nanumba North district and employed a number of approaches including sample surveys, group discussions, interviews and observations to collect information in order to assess the situation. A sample of 67 WATSAN committees was selected proportionate to their population in each area council. The data collected through interviews were validated through one focus group discussion in each area council. Discussions were also held with the District Water and Sanitation Team (DWST), Partner Organization (P0), the Department of Environmental Health and Trained Area Mechanics. The data gathered was presented according to area councils for analysis. The major findings from the study indicate that, most WATSAN committees did not meet regularly and also there were still a number of bore holes without committees (orphan bore holes). Committees did not keep written records; revenue was raised through fixed rates, household levies and donations; monies raised were kept mainly in the bank accounts of bore holes; bore holes were maintained by the DWST from Bimbilla; committees only cleaned the surroundings of the bore holes that they managed while the community sanitation concern was handled by the District Assembly through the Environmental Health officers of the Department of Environmental Health in the form of periodic inspections to communities often characterized by summons and threats of prosecution to defaulting community members. Majority of the people in the district defecated in the bush. Common conflicts at bore hole sites were resolved through persuasion and dialogue. In communities with a mixture of ethnic groups, bore holes were allocated on the basis of ethnicity in other to minimize escalations of petty quarrels which are inevitable at water points. Membership of WATSAN committees in the district was purely voluntary. They were only intrinsically motivated by the fact that their community members have access to potable water. Recommendations for the remedy of the problem include: WATSAN committees should be mandated to regularly (quarterly) submit minutes of their meetings through the DWST to the DA further training should be organized by the DA through the DWST on record keeping for them to appreciate its importance in the management of the bore holes; Committees should widen their revenue sources by encouraging the youth to organize themselves and offer labour for money; money could be invested in grain banking since prices of foodstuffs are very low during harvest seasons and rise very high during the lean seasons; bore holes could be used to promote ethnic harmony and thus foster ethnic integration if access to the bore holes was based on ability to pay and proximity to the facility; there could be periodic opportunities for the communities to appreciate the sacrifice of the committee members
A Thesis Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of the Masters of Science in Development Planning and Management, 2005