…Groundwater and renewable energy, sustainable alternatives
Asikasu Number 2 is a farming community in the New Juaben North District of the Eastern Region. It is partially surrounded by a green chain of ridges.
Part of the community is shielded from the intense sunshine by escarpment.
Over the last eight years, residents say they have observed that their only source of water, a stream, dries up faster than before.
Asikasu Number 2 and its adjoining communities have a population of about 5,000. The residents, especially the children, struggle to access water during the dry season.
Surface water decline is not out of place in such communities.
The Ghana Roadmap for Resilient Infrastructure in a Changing Climate has revealed that the incidence of droughts will be on the increase as a result of climate change.
This will reduce river runoff, affecting up to 1.3 million people across the country, with a large impact on women and girls who are often responsible for water collection.
For rural communities like Asikasu No. 2, access to safe water for drinking and for other domestic uses is a dream yet to be realised.
Access to safe water
To make this dream a reality, Nestlé Ghana, in collaboration with the Ghana Red Cross Society, has provided mechanised boreholes under the Ghana Sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (Ghana-WASH) Programme to ensure sustainability and build resilience in the communities.
The joy of having access to improved water, an irreplaceable resource for all plants and animals to ensure survival, is the dream of not only Asikasu No. 2 but also of 12 other communities dotted around the Eastern and Ashanti regions of Ghana, who are benefiting from the WASH Programme.
Residents tell the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the water dispensing points are much closer to their homes and the water also tastes better than the stream, which is polluted by animals and mining activities.
Mercy Amankwah, a class five pupil of Obretema District Assembly School at Asikasu No 2, said she was excited about the new water system in her community. It has reduced the distance she had to trek in search of water and the risk of getting knocked down by a vehicle on the busy Accra-Kumasi Highway she previously had to cross to fetch water from the nearby Densu River.
More than 40 people who supervise the water systems and refill receive “tokens” as monthly allowances.
Madam Benedicta Adika, 38, a teacher at Asikasu, says this offers her an additional income. The GHS 200 (USD 27) monthly allowance she receives has enabled her to speed-up the construction of her two-bedroom house that had initially stalled due to budgetary constraints.
She has not regretted taking up the supervisory vending role in helping community members access water.
“I have dedicated the allowance solely to my building, so once it is paid, mostly in accumulated form, I buy materials to go and continue. It has progressed up to the window stage. My building project would have taken longer to complete without this extra income,” she said.
The water system is a result of partnership agreement between Nestlé and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support water and sanitation activities in Ghana and Ivory Coast, which has provided 170,000 people with access to safe water; 4,581 to better sanitation, while 186,255 people are reached with health and hygiene education activities.
The Mechanised Water Systems
Each of the 12 mechanised water systems has solar panels that generate electricity to pump water from the ground into an overhead tank with two or more distribution points per community.
Mr Ebenezer Appiah, an Engineer with the Ghana Red Cross Society, explains to the GNA that all the distribution points have three taps – two down and one overhead.
“Patrons fetch water with a prepaid token, which they flash anytime they visit. The revenue generated is used to replace parts and ensure sustainability of the systems,” he said.
Mr Appiah indicates that the initiative contributes to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on water and sanitation, clean energy, decent work and economic growth and climate action.
A recent study conducted by the Water Resources Commission (WRC) has revealed that the country is endowed with good groundwater resources yet to be harnessed.
Dr Bob Alfa, the Director of Planning at the WRC, says groundwater is recharged annually but the utilisation is less than five per cent, which is very low.
Mr Daniel Nyarko, the Nestlé Cocoa Plan Manager, says providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene for communities where raw materials like cocoa beans are sourced will help them increase productivity, protect the environment and improve their standards of living.
Exploiting the potential of groundwater and solar energy is an important climate solution, says Mr Daryl Bosu, the Deputy National Director of A Rocha Ghana, an environmental Non Governmental Organisation.
“As a country, we need to work with developmental organisations to expand such initiatives such as these to meet our global commitments,” he said.
Ghana, in her updated Nationally Determined Contribution, is looking at scaling up renewable energy such as solar penetration by 10 per cent by 2030.
What many experts, including Mr Worlanyo Siabi, the Chief Executive Officer of Community Water and Sanitation Agency, are saying is that funding and access to technology are needed to upscale water systems made up of groundwater to quench people’s thirst, and renewable energy, which is sustainable and reduces pollution as well as dependency on power imports.