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Letter from Ghana: heart of the country, Ashanti Region must adapt to stay strong

Themes: Behaviour change Container-based sanitation Hygiene Sanitation Sewerage WASH Water
Countries: Ghana

This is the second in a series of articles named “Letter from…”, written by WSUP’s teams in the main countries where we operate (Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, and Madagascar).  Our second Letter comes from Ghana and focuses on the importance of the Ashanti Region for the country.

By Frank Romeo Kettey, Country Manager, in Kumasi

The Ashanti Region is, in many ways, the heart of Ghana. Considered the cultural centre of the country and home to the famous Kente fabric, it is one of the sixteen Ghanaian administrative regions. The region, located in the middle belt of Ghana, is famed for its gold and cocoa production. The world-renowned Ashanti King has its origins from the Ashanti Kingdom, which originated in the 17th Century.

The Kingdom ruled for centuries until it joined an independent Ghana in 1957, as the Ashanti Region. The region thus retained the rich and culture of the Ashanti kingdom, which includes a 42-day month calendar that helps to mark special traditional days. The Ashantis have a unique way of bidding farewell to the dead, through celebrations that can last for days. Ashanti arts are mostly represented in the adinkra symbols which a many different symbols with distinct meanings.

With a population of about 5.4 million, or about 18% of Ghana’s 30 million people, the Ashanti Region is also urbanising rapidly: 61% of its residents now live in urban areas, against a national average of 56%. Whilst rural urban drift has characterised urbanisation in Ghana for decades, an evolving trend is rural communities metamorphosing into small towns, creating new small urban areas. Rural services are no longer adequate in these communities, and there is a requirement for larger, more formalized systems and services.

The pace of urbanisation has thus outstripped development planning and investment, creating enormous pressure on infrastructure, social support systems, and availability of urban services, including water sanitation and hygiene, especially for low-income communities and the vulnerable.

Much needed pipelines

Just like other regions of Ghana, access to basic water and sanitation is challenging in the Ashanti Region. Only 29% of the population has access to basic sanitation, with water coverage faring better at 95.6%, albeit mainly through public standpipes. Less than 27% of the people have access to safely managed water on their premises, with access available whenever needed and without any harmful contaminants.

In order to support efforts to address the challenge of poor WASH services in this rapidly urbanising part of the country, WSUP has been operating in the Ashanti Region since it started its work in Ghana, in 2010, delivering sustainable impacts in 25 out of its 43 municipalities. Since then, WSUP has worked in partnership with municipalities, utilities, the private sector, and local community actors to drive improvement in water, sanitation, and hygiene access, while strengthening capacities to sustain those WASH services.

Woman uses water pump in the cocoa growing town of Nerebehi, in the Ashanti region

Through these partnerships, WSUP has successfully supported extension of water pipelines by the local urban utility to low-income communities in the region’s capital, Kumasi. This meant supporting communities with 75 public standpipes, household connections, and 200 cubic metres of overhead water storage unit, building the capacity of local communities and water vendors to support sustainable services.

WSUP also works with the utility and small community service providers to adopt and operationalise delegated management model in some communities to support the utility to reach underserved and low-income customers.

Similarly, WSUP has worked across 10 cocoa growing small towns with water and sanitation infrastructure. This has included provision of mechanised boreholes, transmission and distribution lines, standpipes with multiple taps, household connections and 20 cubic metres of overhead water storage units for each of the communities. We have also worked with residents to trigger demand and construct household toilets in locations where open defecation was rife.

We have further worked to engage municipalities in the region to support sanitation enterprises and artisans, in order to improve access to household toilets. WSUP’s work also involves developing markets for onsite sanitation and building the capacity of enterprises in technical specification of toilet systems, basic business management, customer relations, marketing, while connecting them to effective supply chains.

More about WSUP's work in Ghana

Education and empowerment

Our work in the region has also included supporting schools and municipal education officers to improve WASH, with the provision of new facilities (including menstrual changing rooms for girls) and setting up hygiene clubs in 10 basic schools in the region.

At the outset of Covid-19, WSUP worked with 9 municipalities in the region to build the community resilience to Covid-19. In collaboration with the Ghana Health Service, National Commission for Civic Education, municipal authorities and community-based organisations, we effectively disseminated Covid-19 prevention messaging and provided much needed PPEs while further building institutional capacity within the municipalities to respond to health and WASH emergencies.

George Asomaning, assistant headteacher of Nkonya Basic School, in Asamang, and local assembly member

WSUP’s work has helped public and private service providers to respond to WASH challenges occasioned by rapid urbanisation. We work in the major city and urban communities in the region, but also support urbanising cocoa growing small towns in the region with improved WASH infrastructure, supporting municipalities and communities to evolve effective management models for sustainable services, building capacity and creating enabling environment for private sector participation in WASH service delivery in these locations whiles improving regulation.

All those efforts have one major thing in common: supporting the Ashanti Region in its major challenge of dealing with a rapid and broad transformation of its communities.

The Ashanti Region will continue to be an important region for WSUP in Ghana. Our 2025 strategic plan seeks to consolidate the impacts made in the region by expanding our efforts into new municipalities, focusing on empowering service providers and community actors. This aims at ensuring sustainable access to safely managed water, access to household toilets, and stronger systems across municipalities for effective regulation. Being the heart of Ghana, the Ashanti Region needs increasing strength, so the whole country can benefit from its growing health, resilience, and progress.

Top image: Community in Asokore Mampong, part of the city of Kumasi