Tag Archives: Ghana WASH

The Old Man at Nyekornakpoe

Nyekornakpoe is a small village of around 250 inhabitants located about 1 kilometer before my village, Abutia Teti. In Ewe, Nyekornakpoe roughly translates to turn and look. As you speed down the road in a taxi to my village you really have to quickly turn your head and look for Nyekornakpoe or you will miss it. The Ghana WASH project has provided Nyekornakpoe with about a dozen household latrines, which have catered to a large part of the community. However, not everyone has benefited from the latrines, because they are only partially subsidized – the beneficiary still foots 60% of the cost of their latrine. Since each latrine can cost almost 1,000 cedis, or about $500, the poorest community members often cannot afford to work with Ghana WASH project to build a latrine.

In Nyekornakpoe I identified a household that was in dire need of a latrine. Just outside of the house people regularly defecate out in the open because they don’t have any other place to go. The house belongs to an old man who wanted to partake in the project, but could not due to a lack of money. I could tell he understood the importance of owning a household latrine, so I spoke to the director of my local NGO, EDSAM, to see how we could get a latrine for him. After some brainstorming, we were able to scrounge up some extra materials in the form of sand, concrete blocks, and labor for the old man. This meant the old man only had to provide about 25% of the cost of his latrine by digging his pit and proving water and stone chippings.

Despite this, the old man still had difficulty providing for his latrine. Perhaps the most difficult part was digging the pit for his latrine. The two options are to perform the backbreaking work yourself or pay a laborer to do it for around 150 cedis. Since he doesn’t have any money, the old man chose the former. After he dug the pit he said sarcastically, or maybe not, the pit should instead be for his grave rather than his latrine.

The old man with proudly standing in front of his completed household latrine.

The old man proudly standing in front of his completed household latrine.

Eventually we finished constructing his latrine and now he and his family have a place to relieve themselves. Through this experience I learned how people are truly suffering because of their poverty. Through the Ghana WASH project we’ve build a number of latrines for people who don’t really need them, such as Government officials, village chiefs, and people who already have WCs in their houses. However, the old man is someone who desperately needed a latrine and I’m happy we had the opportunity to provide him one.


Abutia Agove School Latrines

A while back I wrote that I had a grant approved to build two institutional latrines for a Kindergarten, Primary, and Junior High school in a nearby community, Abutia Agove. Well after a lot work and a few setbacks, the latrines were finally completed during the first week of July. Now that the school children have a viable place to do their business, they won’t be tempted to “use the bush as their toilet”.

Completed 6-seater latrine with one of the artisans, Jackson.

Completed 6-seater latrine with one of the artisans, Jackson.

Part of the reason the project took almost 6 months to complete was because the pits were so difficult to dig. Under the terms of the grant that I received from Ghana WASH, the community was to dig the two pits seven feet deep. However, it turned out the ground is full of stones that were very difficult to dig through. In fact, the community broke 4 pick axes before giving up at six feet. Another problem we faced was the initial placement of the Kindergarten latrine. After we had already the begun excavation, a man from the community threatened to take us to court for trying to build the latrine on his land. Even though we believed the land belonged to the school, we decided not to go to court and move the latrine to another site. We were also set back another couple of weeks because our cement supplier ran out of cement. When conducting business in Ghana, encountering problems like these is the norm.

To go along with these brand spanking new latrines, we also trained a school health club, food vendors, health teachers and head teachers. The school health club consists of 30 students from the Primary and Junior High school to act as health and hygiene leaders in the school and ensure that the latrines are properly used and cleaned. Properly operating a latrine isn’t a trivial task, especially when a whole student body is using it. Plus, there are no school janitors.

Me and the teachers that attended the workshop.

Me with the teachers that attended the workshop.

I still struggle when leading workshop sessions, because I haven’t reached the point where I can facilitate hour-long sessions in Ewe. Fortunately I can use English with the teachers and most of the older students. But the food vendors and younger students learn the best in Ewe. During the course of the workshop I facilitated sessions on hand washing and latrine operation and maintenance. Overall, the 4-day workshop was a success and I’m looking forward to seeing the schools positively change their health and hygiene practices.

Student demonstrating how to wash hands.

Student demonstrating how to wash hands.

Me and my counterpart with the school health club.

Me and my counterpart with the school health club.


Photos from a Ghanaian Village

A few weeks Ghana WASH conducted video shows in a few of the communities we’ve been building latrines in. The purpose of the video shows was to sensitize the community on the need of proper sanitation and to determine whether the community is ready to continue with the Open Defecation Free (ODF) evaluation process. Some communities in Ghana are designated ODF by the Government of Ghana. The idea is to give the community the a sort of badge of honor when all its community members stop open defecating. And other communities can look look at ODF communities and also strive be get the designation.

Before the video show, we walked around the community between 4pm and 6pm to take photos to show to the community during the video show. Here are some of the photos I took:

Men playing Spa, a popular card game in Ghana, under a tree.

Men playing Spa, a popular card game in Ghana, under a tree.

A woman preparing some food.

A woman preparing some food.

Children love to be photographed.

Children love to be photographed.

A woman grinding corn at the mill.

A woman grinding corn at the mill.

Girls fetching water from a stream.

Girls fetching water from a stream.

Just another Ghanaian child scared of a white man.

Just another Ghanaian child scared of a white man.

And you can thank me later for not posting any open defecation photos.

World Water Day

In case you were unaware, the 22nd of March was World Water Day. To celebrate the day I attended an inauguration ceremony for a water facility in Aveme, a community along the Volta River. For the previous nine months or so, my NGO and I have been working the community to prepare them for the water facility. This included forming and training a Water Board composed of community members to manage the facility. We are trained school children, food vendors, and natural leaders in the community on the importance of using clean water. We hope that the people we trained will eventually educate the rest of the community.


The water facility, provided by Safe Water Network, pumps water from the Volta River and filters it using slow sand filtration. The interesting part about the slow sand filter is that it uses a natural biological process to clean the water as opposed to other filters that use UV rays, chemicals, etc.


The water is filtered to United States standards. After the ceremony I drank some of the water directly from the tap and it tasted very pure. In fact, I think I may have gotten a little sick the next day because my body isn’t used to drinking water that pure.

Free water! Free anything will cause a mob in Ghana.

Free water! Free anything will cause a mob in Ghana.

For more reading on the facility’s inauguration you can read Ghana WASH’s press release here:


WADA Water

Here is an article about a water system Ghana WASH helped build in Asukawkaw, Volta Region, Ghana. Asukawkaw is about a three hour drive from my community.


I thought this part of the article is very indicative of development work:

While Cornelia and others are ready to patronize the new water center, there are still some who continue to source water from the river. Cornelia says these households know that it is the water making their families sick, but it will take time to change everyone’s behavior.

It is easy to give a community water facilities, toilets, etc. But changing people’s bad habits is very difficult. It is especially frustrating because the change is a gradual process and often occurs many years down the road. Many times you never see the fruits of your effort.

Disclaimer: I had very little involvement with this project.

First Grant Approved

Some of my previous blog posts seem to suggest that I’ve been on vacation for the past eight months. Contrary to popular belief, I’ve actually been working. Sometimes it’s just more exciting to write about the “fun” things that I’ve been experiencing. However, this post will be just business.


A latrine artisan I’ve been working with in a neighboring community informed me that the kindergarten, primary, and junior high schools in the community don’t have toilet facilities. The students were defecating in the outskirts of the school, because they had no other place to go. Aside from the negative health implications, it also causes the students to be late for class and puts them at risk of snakebites. He pleaded with me to try to do something about it, so I applied for a small grant to build latrines for the school.

I was just informed today that the small grant I submitted over a month ago was approved! Now the actual work will begin when I have to monitor the construction of the school latrines and form health clubs in the school.

Other Projects In the Works

  • I am currently writing a small grant to get shutters and doors for a school in my community. Having classrooms without doors and shutters causes many problems. You can read about the problem here, as it was featured in the news. My community seems really gung-ho about it, so I’m excited for the project.

No doors and shutters leaves the classroom open to the elements and potential thieves.

  • I’m looking into getting boreholes for some nearby communities. My community received piped water right before I arrived, but some of the neighboring communities don’t have the same luxury
  • I agreed to teach ICT once a week at a junior high school in my community. Teaching is really challenging for me here. I have to speak very slow and clear for the students to have a chance of understanding my English. Also, students aren’t taught how to think critically at school; they “learn” through rote memorization. I’m a firm a believer that you aren’t learning unless you are thinking. Needless to say, I’m up for a challenge.

On top of all this I’ll be supporting my Local NGO, EDSAM, with all of their Ghana WASH activities and household latrine construction in the Volta Region. We are trying to finish building 200 latrines before we start building another phase of construction. I think I’ll be very busy in the foreseeable future.

Damanko Trip Part II

The next day we left Nkwanta at 7:00 am to finish the last leg of the journey to Damanko. This last 50 km takes us two and half hours, because the road isn’t paved. Fortunately I was starting to feel better at this point so the bumpy road didn’t affect me too much.

The reason we came to Damanko was to train Ghana WASH latrine beneficiaries and community volunteers on the importance and use of household latrines. Recently, a Peace Corps volunteer who lives in Damanko had about 100 latrines built there. However, many of these people haven’t had a toilet to use their whole lives so they don’t understand why they should use one. If you are given something and don’t understand the importance of using it, there is a good chance you won’t use it. This isn’t Field of Dreams, just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come.

The first two days in Damanko, we held workshops for the latrine recipients. We asked them where people defecate in the community. The typical responses were “in the bush”, “in the refuse dump”, “in the gutter”, or “behind the house”. From here it was easy to make the connection between feces being everywhere in the community and the types of diseases that will result from it. We also taught the basics of how to use a latrine, such as never put chemicals into the latrine pit, but always put anal cleansing materials into the latrine pit. Before coming to Ghana I didn’t know of some of these principles. The final two days consisted of similar training except to community health volunteers.

The biggest challenge wasn’t the material being taught, but the language barrier. Not only was there a language barrier between me and the people from Damanko, but also between my Ghanaian NGO colleagues and the people from Damanko. The majority of people living in Damanko are from the Konkonba tribe that speaks Konkonba and my colleagues are from the Ewe tribe that speaks Ewe. So, most of the lessons were done in Twi (a more common Ghanaian language) and English with a Konkonba translator. You know there are a lot of languages in Ghana when there is a language barrier between the natives. My lessons on latrine maintenance and hand washing were done in “yevu English” and occasionally translated to Ghanaian English (more on that in another blog post).

My work counterpart training household latrine recipients with a translator.

After the four days of lessons we attended part of a Konkonba funeral, were people were dancing around large drums. The dancers held props, such as shovels, tree branches, and machetes. I’m told the Konkonbas have a tendency to fight, so holding props while dancing makes them feel powerful.

People dancing at the funeral.

Drums in the center of the dancing circle.