Ghana: New wells bring peace

Boreholes in Changli, Ghana
Life is now getting better in Changli after a UN-supported initiative commissioned mechanized boreholes for pumping clean water. Photo: UNDP/Ghana

Instead of going to school, Fatimata Seidu, a 12-year-old girl from Changli in northern Ghana, used to spend long hours fetching water for her family. With only one deep well for a community of 10,500 inhabitants, heated disputes over water sent many children, including Fatimata, on long treks in search of other sources.

“I used to see a lot of confusion whenever I went to fetch water. The boreholes here are few and the people are many, so it was always difficult for us [children] to break through,” Fatimata says about her community's single borehole well, which could only serve about 250 people per day. “We were always getting to school late and there was no peace at the pipe stands,” she adds.

Highlights

  • Though Ghana is considered peaceful, more than 23 conflicts erupted in the north of the country in the past two decades
  • UNDP's Human Security Programme empowers communities and individuals to manage and prevent conflict. Part of its work includes removing sources of tension, such as access to clean water.
  • According to a recent survey, more than 85 percent of beneficiaries feel that tension in their community has diminished
  • UNDP has a lead coordinating role in implementing the 4-year, US$ 3 million programme, funded by Japan
  • UNICEF, FAO, UNIDO, UNU and WFP are partners in the programme

Though Ghana is often seen as an oasis of stability in a region where challenges remain, the country still faces many security issues, especially in the northern region where more than 23 conflicts have broken out in the past two decades. UNDP’s work to analyze the causes of local disputes revealed that many are started by a lack of access to natural resources, particularly water.

Together with other partners, UNDP has invested US$ 15,000 to drill a second, more efficient well in Changli, and this is helping to solve one of the major reasons for tension and contributing to a decline in local violence. The new well, the first of several planned for the area, is more efficient than the old one, which used a manual pump to extract water and could only serve one person at a time. The new borehole is electrically powered and pumps water into elevated reservoirs, where it flows downwards and can be collected by up to four people at once – serving more than 1,500 people per day.

“This new pipe means we have clean water and we will have peace because we won’t fight over water again,” Fatimata says.

"We are extremely pleased with the results of the programme so far and the improvements in the living conditions of those in Changli are more than apparent," says UNDP's Country Director, Dominic Sam. "People we have spoken to not only spend less valuable time fetching water, but have also begun to interact more freely with different factions and tribes in a region which had previously been volatile.”

“We have to work hard to sustain the peace that we are enjoying now," Chang-Naa Azima Mahama, the village chief, says. "We have clean water and our people can now channel the long hours they spend looking for water into other productive ventures.”

As well as calming a reason for local tension, the clean water also prevents the spread of diseases and eases the burden for women and children who, according to traditional social norms, are usually responsible for fetching water.

While progress is on its way, Mahama says local governments must ensure that whatever gains have been made remain stable for the long-term. “Our District Assembly must also support other needs of the community such as creating jobs," he says. "If there are jobs, nobody will have time for petty fights and quarrels.”