Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ghana 2010

Once again, we have returned to Obodan. With three members of our team already hard at work building the source-separated latrine (the need for more [and more sustainable] waste infrastructure was identified as a possible project last summer) and four more EWB-ers arriving on Monday morning (hurrah for overnight flights!), this is going to be one busy summer in Obodan, Ghana!

We are building the first of (hopefully) many source-separated (meaning the liquid and solid waste are separate to reduce smell and ease of removal) latrines in the community. We have worked with latrines before, but not like this. A few years ago, the CUEWB Ghana project built a KVIP (Kumasi Ventilated Improved Pit) latrine in the community to reduce the amount of human waste leaking into the groundwater supply. While this fit the needs of the community at the time it was built, this one latrine now serves more people than originally intended. Therefore, it was time to change tactics. One problem with the KVIP system was that the waste had to be removed by a company that would suck out the waste via the original point-of-entry and cart it to some unnamed location. This costs money. With little-to-no organized taxation, it was difficult to collect a universal "tax" from the community to raise the necessary money to clean out the KVIP (although at only a few cents per person, it was a sum that every family in the community can afford). Therefore, we decided to change routes with the new system.

In the United States, we take our toilets at home for granted. Many in the US refuse to use public toilets for varying reasons (they are gross, who knows who sat there last, or because using the restroom with others around is embarrassing) but that is what the KVIP was: a public toilet. Not that there is anything wrong with that. The system DOES work! However, we are seeking to both provide increased waste infrastructure (in a country where most of the groundwater is now contaminated with coliform bacteria due to limited [or nonexistent waste infrastructure] in its major cities... I could list some papers with pretty horrifying statistics) and empower the community through responsibility, ownership, and pride. Therefore, we are building latrines designed to accommodate the needs of only a few families and there will be a primary owner of the structure who will be in charge of its upkeep. These latrines were designed with extensive input from the community and plans have been sent over to Obodan frequently throughout the design project for suggestions and approval. This alone gives the community ownership of the project. Even before we arrived, the community began planning for the next latrine, choosing an appropriate location!

As a first-timer when it comes to visiting Ghana and working in the field on development projects (and living without the basic amenities we in the United States have come to take for granted), I am both incredibly nervous and excited! It is certain to be an incredible experience for everyone involved.

Hopefully there will be pictures up soon of our designs and current progress on the latrine!