Sota – A land between two streams but dying of thirst
It is not an exactly cool morning. The sun is up already, but the green canopy of the trees all around, have provided a welcome serenity and shade that unfortunately bellies the predicament this beautiful community finds itself in.
Sota, a village near Dodowa in the Shai Osudoku district of Ghana’s Greater Accra region, derives its name from an akan word – ‘nsutam’ which translates ‘between two streams’ but which has been corrupted over the years to its present name.
Ironically though, the community’s population of 638 have constantly lived in want of water, which has become a very scarce and expensive resource for them. Thus, for instance, a 34-inch sized bucket of water, which sells at 5 Ghana pesewas or 10 Ghana pesewas in other communities, sells at 40 Ghana pesewas at Sota.
This is mainly because the two streams between which the community was sited, when the piece of land was purchased from the people of Amanokrom in Ghana’s Eastern region in 1831, named Dodowa and Kyenku, have all dried up and only try unsuccessfully to come alive during the raining season.
Although the community can not pinpoint what caused the drying up, interactions with them suggested it is the result of human activities at the streams’ source and climate change. “There even used to be a Kyenku waterfall!”, some community members recounted with relish.
But adding to their dilemma, is the fact that several attempts (about six in all) by well-meaning organisations such as World Vision Ghana, Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) among others, to sink boreholes, have not yielded any fruits.
The Chief of the community, Nene Teiko, disclosed to a four-member team from WaterAid Ghana, Pronet-Accra and the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN) who were on a visit in March 2013, that the groundwater in the village was full of mineral content, hence the inability to draw water fit for human consumption.
Saying the community had been severally advised by water quality experts not to attempt drinking water from the ground since it would be injurious to their health, Nene Teiko informed the team that the community had thus resorted to tanker services to fill some polytanks donated by an organisation from Finland – the Joensuu – Ghana Registered Association.
Expensive tanker service
Speaking to the high cost of water tanker services, the chief said because the community does not own a tanker and there is none nearby which they can hire, they have to depend on a truck from another district capital several miles away – Prampram, which has to leave empty to Ghana’s industrial city, Tema, to fetch the water before transporting it to the community.
This is done every fortnight because that is how far the water from the two polytanks can go. “We buy GH¢600 for the two polytanks every two weeks but do not get that amount from the sales,” Nene Teiko however, lamented.
Later at a meeting with the community’s five-member WATSAN committee and three natural leaders, the chairman, Michael Tei Asimenarh confirmed they were in dire straits with regards to access to water and that they only depended on the two polytanks and some ponds, which dry up during the dry season.
He hinted that few households had initiated the rain harvesting technology, which only came in handy during the rains.
Giving more insight to their quandary, he disclosed that the community lost the seed money of GH¢350 given to them by Joensuu- Ghana because they only realised GH¢235 from each of the 3,000 gallon capacity water tanks when they sold the water initially, while their inability to match the cost of the water ferried by the tankers has continued till date.
“After we had used up the water that was given to us as seed money, we were able to negotiate with someone to get the water at GH¢300 for each of the tanks, but when sold we only had GH¢235 for each of the tanks so we made a loss,” Asimenarh disclosed.
Proposed solution to water crisis
He thus proposed either the community gets a water tanker that is closer them, which they had tried but to no avail, or that water be tapped from the main water company pipe line at a community about 6km away known as Odumse.
“So we are saying that we need a nearby tanker. It is the tanker that is giving us a problem because they bring the water from Tema and that costs us most,” Samuel Adjokatse, the WATSAN committee secretary chipped in.
However, Michael Asimenarh who has lived in the community since 1978, said early estimates done on the cost of getting the water from Odumse, showed that for such project the community will have to dispense with GH¢ 200,000.00.
Impact of crisis on women and children
Women in the community are 177, which means they outnumber the men who are 149, whereas children number 312. The women and children are however more disadvantaged as a result of the crisis.
Touching on how the scarcity of water has affected women and children in the community, 32-year-old Vida Maku Nartey, a mother of two and committee member who was born in the community but has lived there for only 22 years of her life, said: “It affects me a lot. Even in my kitchen. Washing of my kids’ clothes is also a problem for me.”
“I don’t have good water to cook. As for me I bath three times a day but because of that [water scarcity] I bath just once a day,” she added.
“Even when it is the dry season you will feel pity for the children. You will see them holding water which is not good for consumption but what will you say? You cannot ask them not to drink because they are thirsty,” Fuseina Bawa, a hygiene and sanitation educator and teacher at the Sota DA Basic School, also bewailed.
Intimating that her 10-year stay in the community right after Training College, has been very difficult, the primary one teacher and member of the WATSAN committee said: “The situation has affected me a lot – my washing, drinking, cooking, bathing,” adding, “I depend on pure water for drinking,” referring to sachet water.
Fuseina divulged that she uses a pack of 30 sachet water pieces every two days for drinking and sometimes has to rely on it for cooking and bathing when there is no other water. “As for the cooking, sometimes when I harvest rainwater I store some. Also I use the pond water to bath and also to wash – I put alum in it and use it to wash and also to bath. That is what I do.” she stated.
Impact on school hygiene and attendance
Fielding a question on how her pupils wash their hands after using the school’s latrine, the Sota DA Basic School teacher revealed: “We were having polytanks there, where we harvested rainwater for the children but unfortunately for us the four polytanks were stolen.”
Now the children have to provide their own water for washing of their hands when they use the latrine.
But that is the least of the school’s worries. Fuseina Bawa divulged further that especially during the dry season the pupils do not report for school early “because they will go far away to fetch water, unless we are firm on them that we are going to check the roll and cane them. Otherwise they will come to school late.”
Although the teacher insisted the pupils do not absent themselves from school because of the water crisis, she was worried about their 30 minutes or one hour lateness at certain times, which always drew lessons back.
Any end in sight?
But if the Sota school as well as the entire community of over 600 people will have any respite from their woes, their best chance will be to receive support from individuals, organisations and the Shai Osudoku District Assembly, to connect to the main pipe of the Ghana Water Company at Odumse.
From the chief to the last person spoken to, everyone in the community seems to have given up and sees the situation as hopeless, as they have tried all they could to remedy the situation but to no avail.
If help does not come quickly there is no telling what may happen in terms of higher cost of water and the breaking of a deadly water-borne disease.
By Edmund Smith-Asante