EWB E-conference 2011

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Water and Sanitation

A brief summary of today’s discussion:

Firstly Alison Furber described how in Ghana, cows increase substantially in value as they mature, and thus they may be used as an income source to maintain water supply systems (they are commonly used as a form of personal insurance in Ghana). In addition, fish farms and a community farm may provide a steadier income to help with running costs (such as petrol). We also heard how a lack of fully qualified engineers in Sub-Saharan Africa limits the technologies implemented, in particular leading to excessive borehole projects (which presumably causes the water table to fall?). Anna Le Gouais was in agreement that there is potentially a role for foreign engineers to play in training local engineers, through the District Water and Sanitation Teams. Alison Furber also highlighted how Ghanaian engineers may be as foreign to the rural communities as people from overseas, many of them being Akan as opposed to Ewe.

Anna Le Gouais asked about NGO involvement in the running of the water system, to which Alison replied that the project was carried out by a group of volunteers. The project management and engineering design was carried out by Alison and her colleagues (volunteers with Engineers without Borders?).

Later we heard how there are already animals living freely in the village in Ghana so the cows do not pose any additional problems in terms of contaminating the water. There was space for the cows, away from the village. This land is controlled by the chiefs and elders, so with their approval, cows can be kept here.

Then Anna Le Gouais discussed different forms of water supply in Benin: Rainwater harvesting is not generally used for drinking. River water is used where there are no other sources are available, but its use is associated with cholera outbreaks (as well as being time-consuming if the river is far away). This is understood by people, who want to use groundwater sources for drinking. Generally people are prepared to pay for better water provision, allowing maintenance of water supply systems, although a minority will not be able to pay, and their access to potable water must be maintained (presumably for ethical as well as public health reasons?)

I thank everyone for your involvement today, and I encourage you to continue discussing these issues tomorrow.
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