More than 10,000 inhabitants of 22 communities in Northern Ghana can now access potable water through the intervention by UNDP’s CREW project. (Photo credit: Stephen Kansuk/ UNDP in Ghana)
Even though the number of people living in poverty has reduced in recent years, there remain significant gaps between rural and urban areas, as well as the North and the South. This inequality deepens the vulnerability of populations. In Ghana, small and manageable hazards adversely impact vulnerable population, in terms similar to large-scale disasters, resulting in needless loss of environmental, social and economic resources.
Recognizing the importance of addressing the impact of climate change and disaster risks in achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction in Ghana, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding of US$ 5.2million from the Norwegian Government, and in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Organization, implemented a four-year project aimed at building national and local capacities to reduce disaster risks. The project, dubbed “Community Resilience through Early Warning (CREW)’’, seeks to improve better understanding of hazard risks, reduce vulnerability to hazards, and enhance capacities for disaster risk reduction in ten districts of Ghana.
Reversing the risk of drought/flood impact on human life
Despite the significant progress made since 1990, an estimated 663 million people globally still do not have access to safe drinking water, many of which live in rural areas.
In Ghana, ensuring adequate water supply all year-round for multiple uses and users remains a challenge. In the rural savanna region, 64.5% of households depend on wells compared to 32% nationally. Moreover, 20.9% depend on natural sources of water (such as rivers, streams, rainwater, dugouts, ponds, lakes, dams, canals etc.) compared to the national average of 9%.
The results of Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS7, 2014) show that, each day, more time (about 31 minutes) is spent on fetching water in rural savanna compared to the national capital (1.9 minutes). This situation may further deteriorate due to climate change impacts, as temperature increases and rainfall amount reduces.
As part of UNDP’s efforts to increase the adaptive capacity of rural communities to climate change impacts, while supporting the Government of Ghana to achieve Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Access to clean water and sanitation – the CREW project supported the drilling of 22 operational boreholes in 22 communities in the Bawku West and Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo Districts of the Upper East and Northern regions respectively. These boreholes are providing access to clean water to over 10,000 beneficiaries, mainly women and children.
The simple hand-pump borehole technology was adopted for various reasons. First, boreholes can reach deeper aquifers than wells and, thus, are more flexible for use in Northern Ghana where aquifers are located 10 to 60 meters underground, averaging 27m. Second, the low-income levels of beneficiary communities and their disperse settlements make boreholes a more effective and efficient water supply system given their low maintenance cost.
Water availability is critical for the livelihoods of rural communities. The lack of, or inadequate drinking water arising out of extreme climate events such as droughts and floods, increases the exposure of people, especially women and children to water-borne and hygiene related diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera. The provision of the 22 operational boreholes has helped to significantly reduce the vulnerabilities of the rural dwellers, especially women and children to adverse climate change impacts.
“We no more spend long hours in search of potable water and in competing among ourselves and with livestock for water”, says Faustina John Kitunam of the Bombilla community, a beneficiary of the intervention.
Interacting with a section of the Timon- Gurre community, UNDP Country Director, Mr. Dominic Sam emphasized the critical role women play in making communities resilient. He encouraged members of the communities to ensure active participation of women in the management of the water supply systems.
Sapeliga, a community in the Bawku West district of the Upper East Region, has been suffering from the yearly flooding that results from heavy rains and the opening of the spill ways of the Bagri Dam in Burkina Faso. This phenomenon pollutes water bodies with both human and animal excreta leading to several cases of diarrhea and cholera especially among school children. This situation has largely been eliminated through the provision of the boreholes under the CREW project. Now, the communities have become more resilient. Even when flooding occurs, they have access to clean water and no more rely on the contaminated flood water to survive.
“All the women and children in this community are well prepared to welcome the rains. We are no longer worried; our water supply system is flood resilient. We will no longer spend money treating cholera and diarrhoea cases”, says Madam Awinpanga Alale, a leader of the women group in the Sapeliga community.
These boreholes serve not only for domestic uses, but also provide water for more than 3,000 livestock in the beneficiary communities. “The provision of the boreholes by UNDP has not only helped reduce water borne diseases and the time and distance our women and children cover in search of water but also served our animals. Now, our donkeys, cattle and goats do not die from drought”, says Julius Agolisi, an Assembly member of Timon-Gure electoral area in the Bawku West District.
Last year, UNDP in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) and a USD$8.2 million funding support from the Adaptation Fund, initiated a new project to enhance the resilience and adaptive capacity of rural livelihoods to climate impacts and risks on water resources in the three northern regions of Ghana. The project will build on the best practices of UNDP recently completed and ongoing projects.