In the Brong-Ahafo region in western Ghana lies Obengkrom, a small farming community of 1,144 inhabitants. The population relied on hand pumps to draw water from two boreholes.
Due to the high demand for water the boreholes were under constant pressure which led to frequent breakdowns. The locals had to wait for hours in long queues to get water. Some chose to pay GHS 15 (2.65 USD) to go by motorised tricycle to neighbouring villages where water was easier to come by.
THE SOLUTION & IMPACT
With the intervention of World Vision, Obengkrom now has a stable solar water pumping system. World vision international in Ghana partnered with Grundfos to design a reliable solution which included a solar submersible pump. This pump lifts water into three storage reservoirs located within the community. The locals are then able draw water directly from standpipes which provide a continuous water supply 24 hours a day.
• The community only pays RWF 20 (about 0.02 USD) per 20-litres of water. The system provides clean water 24-hours-a-day directly to the village.
• Medical bills have beenreduced by 75% which means that the children now spend more time at school and lesstime in the clinic.
How it works
First, the community tests the borehole water regularly to secure it is safe. After chlorination, the safe water is pumped into tanks by solar power. From there, gravity distributes the water through pipes to the Grundfos AQtap water ATMs. The AQtaps are located centrally in the villages.
The villagers can collect safe water for their households and small businesses at the water points at any time of day or night with pre-paid WaterCards. It costs 100 shillings for 20 litres of water – that is the equivalent of about USD 0.03/20 l.
“We wanted a solution that would be cash-free and that would ensure transparency in the running of the whole system,” says Unnur Orradóttir Ramette.
Data from transactions and operations are processed and published online, as well as the operating data from the pumps. “It’s extremely easy to transfer money in the AQtap system compared to others I have seen,” says Maurice Ssebisubi. “And second, you manage everything online. The troubleshooting can be done online. We don’t need to call anyone.”
Water Mission Uganda’s Country Director Tom Kisubi says that the system’s financial management increases the project’s social sustainability. “We have a cashless transaction. Even as we speak, people are able to get credit onto their water cards. People don’t have to hold cash. That increases accountability. It increases financial management, and in the end, sustainability of the whole system.”
Maurice Ssebisubi adds, “All the money is centralised at the district, but people have WaterCards. Here we have a district official with an account where the money is banked. Everyone can see it. It’s all channelled to one person. With previous systems, it was channelled to different committees and treasurers, and the end result was that everything would just collapse. With AQtap, traceability has been really improved.”
He says the other big plus of the AQtap water ATM is its durability. “They have withstood the test of three years in these communities,” he says. “We haven’t had any issues. I always tell people, ‘These are the iPhones of water.’”
The outcome of safe water
In Bugoba village where the AQtaps have been running for more than two years, villager Annet Kasukya says you can see a difference – everywhere you look. “The village is so clean. And we no longer see sick people vomiting or having diarrhoea. People have learnt how to be clean. To maintain cleanliness,” she says.
“The situation has changed a lot because now we have fresh water,” she continues. “The water is accessible. You can get it whether it’s at night or in the morning or at noon. I can afford the 100 shillings. I can buy 20 litres. It’s not that costly.”
She adds that now her family can save money on medicine and clinic visits, and her children can go to school. In Bugoba, local teachers say that the number of children enrolling in school has almost doubled after the villagers got access to safe water and sanitation.
According to the embassy’s preliminary data after just one year in 2018 throughout Buikwe District, the rate of sickness related to waterborne diseases fell 7%. The district does not yet have WASH programme 2019 data for all the fishing villages. But in Bugoba, the number of diarrhoea cases among all age groups has reduced 45% from 2017-2019. Among children under 5 years old, it has reduced 65%.
While the Iceland Embassy will do a full assessment of the project, initial figures show that safe water access in the district has grown to about 90% of the population, says Maurice Ssebisubi. “The aim is for total eradication of diarrhoea-related diseases in the villages by the end of 2019,” he says.