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Rural narratives

Limited access to water adds hurdles to women’s livelihoods in Kpachi

Working with women’s groups in Kpachi for four months taught me a lot of lessons. Even though I observed and have been associated with similar challenges in my own community, but this was way too extreme and, until date, I still bear with them. Kpachi is one of the communities I admire their zeal and hopefulness in a better tomorrow. It has a population of about 577 inhabitants. Their settlement can be described as clustered. Despite living close to other significant communities, they are marginalized when it comes to access to social amenities such as water supply, electricity, and road network. The absence of these and many other social amenities hinder the development of the community, and it is a major worry to the residents.

Farming is the most significant livelihood choice for the dwellers. But the women are mostly involved in the harvesting of leftovers from people’s farms. Due to limited livelihood options primarily for women and girls, there is a high rate of seasonal migration among the young girls in the community. They run down to the southern part of Ghana in search for greener pastures just like girls in other parts of the north. In the South, they are popularly called the Kayaye. Women in this community try to manage the day-to-day household needs and perform multiple roles such as community, productive and reproductive roles. The environment and its constraints, especially limited access to water, worsens their possibilities for income-generating activities.

Animals share the dugout with the community, and children drink the untreated water too.

Getting access to water is a time-consuming activity for the women in this community

Working with the women for four months in Kpachi, I realized that they spend the most significant part of their time fetching water for the household with little time to do other productive work. During the day, they have to walk for a long distance to bring water from the community’s dugout. This dugout contains water which appears unsafe to use. Due to limited options with regards to access to water, they resort to water from the dugout to survive.  The second option for the community is to go to another neighborhood called Cheyohi to purchase water. Cheyohi is a few metres away from Kpachi. They buy the water at a ration. It was also found that there are seasonal productive work options. In the dry season, the majority of them are engaged in petty trading.

Water from the dugout is now in waterpot at home ready for use by the household

In contrast, in the rainy season, women support their husbands on the farm. Majority of the women process rice with the unclean water to sell. It was evident that this community, like any other, has little opportunities and this forces majority of the young ones to migrate to major cities to search for better life opportunities. The predominant daily activities of the women in Kpachi are water fetching, farm working, and firewood gathering. Water fetching emerged as the time-consuming activity by the women.

Health-wise, walking for a long distance to fetch water, exposes these women to a health hazard. There were times most of them complain of body pains during a group meeting. Consequently, they are unable to do any other work after always going for water either from the dugout or the nearby community. The distance also determined the amount of water a household can use. The long-distance to be covered by the women hinders them from going several times to fetch much water for their use. Therefore, members of the family or home have to learn how to reduce the quantity of water for bathing, washing dishes, cleaning the house, and others.

Community hanged small gallons with water in an open spaces to ensure frequent hand washing, following the recent outbreak of the Corona-virus.

Through the long engagement with the women revealed that they will always have to pay for the water any time they go to the other community. Eventually, they spend a lot of their earning on water, ingredient for the family and taking care of the kids. This expenditure burdens their economic status.

The way forward and a better future for Kpachi women

Basic social amenities such as electricity, water supply and access to safe cooking energy source can improve the lives and status of women living in the Kpachi community. Water, in particular, is essential for all aspects of life. According to the United Nations World Water Development report published by UNESCO in 2015, “water flows through the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. Water resources, and the essential services they provide, are among the keys to achieving poverty reduction, inclusive growth, public health, food security, lives of dignity for all and long-lasting harmony with Earth’s essential ecosystems”. However, it is surprising to learn that a community like Kpachi does not have electricity, no access to potable water and sparse road networks.

The non-functioning standing tap which water have not flowed for several years now

The major obstacles for these women to move into the pitch of development includes but not limited to inequitable gender norms, poverty, low social and economic status, and limited livelihoods opportunities. World Health Organization global policy for improvement of oral health general Assembly in 2007 stated that drinking unsafe water is one of the risk factors of oral disease. One can already imagine the plight of the women and the people of this community.

Even though these problems are similar to most communities in Ghana, it is severe in rural communities in northern Ghana and other deprived communities like Kpachi. Facilitating the process for these women to get access to clean, adequate and safe water will help make their time and energy available. This, in effect, will enable them to engage in income-generating activities while focusing on the future of their children, especially the girls. This will ease the rate of migration to other places and improve upon the quality of lives of these girls. Meanwhile, if the water is not made available and accessible, it will be challenging to bring Kpachi to the mainstream. Improving income is prerequisite for them to afford to pay for the water they use.

The writer brings this issue to light, with the hope of seeing it being resolved someday. Currently, the project the writer worked with has offered the women two poly tanks of 300 litres capacity each to start their processing business. The writer believes more can be done by either the government, benevolent NGOs, individuals or philanthropists. Particularly by supporting the community to rebuild and expand the old pipe-borne water to make water readily available, accessible and safe for the people in Kpachi.

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