Despite Monday’s challenges of how to both build upon the previous years of The Zongo Water Project and satisfy community needs at the same time, the last couple of days have brought additional perspectives and suggestions which in turn, have provided us with a more confident direction. Prior to any conversations with residents, Hammad and I met with the Chiefs of the area to inform them of this year’s mission. We met first with the Chief Wangara in what is often called a Zaure (or entry). After a warm welcome and discussions regarding the social and spatial history of the Zongo (another project I’ve been working on with the community), we arrived at the present and planning for the future – The Zongo Water Project. The Chief explained that whether the community stayed where they are now at Kotokuraba or whether they would be moved to another location, that it was crucial to consider the long-term planning of the area. In other words, if the government decided to move them, that they would need to be provided with houses, a school, a lorry station, community building, and market. I heartily agreed and suggested that the community should also have the right to participate in the design of both the architecture and layout to make sure it satisfied their needs. Furthermore, I explained that through process of The Zongo Water Project, that residents will gain the knowledge, skills, and agency to imagine their own futures. The Chief Wangara nodded his head vigorously and mentioned that perhaps part of the planning this year could consider the community center – where all of the residents gather for conversations on political issues, marriage, funeral, + naming ceremonies, and educational workshops with the youth. “The community must contribute something to it,” he explained. “We must do that. For at the end of the day, it is the community that will benefit.” This certainly seemed like a good possibility – especially if the rainwater collection system could be adapted for a more public use. And perhaps, when complete, that the building could host the soap-making business workshops. Conversations with the Chief Imam and Chief Zongo representative followed the same lines of thought. They all very much liked the ideas of improving the community center, holding business workshops and continuing the rainwater collection systems of last year.
The following day, Muhammad Awal and I continued talking with residents about both the history of their community and planning for the future. We began by giving those we had interviewed in January a compilation of the interviews we had conducted and asked them to contact us with any questions, concerns, or edits. We then transitioned into The Zongo Water Project and asked them to consider how, if at all, this understanding of their history, might inform how they want to plan for the future. The responses from residents were overwhelmingly positive. While some of the residents corrected spelling mistakes in the Hausa language such as “Nagode” (thank you), others led us in prayer for our success and promised to come to Friday’s opening ceremony. One man even promised to deliver us a map of the Zongo produced by the Municipal Government in 2012. According to him, the Government had labeled the area “abandoned” in order to sell it to the Japanese as an investment property. Luckily however, when the Japanese arrived to consider the purchase, they saw that the land was entirely occupied and left without a contract. “You see,” explained the resident, “It was not their land to sell. The colonial masters gave the land to us. We have the papers to prove it.”
That evening at Hammad’s new tailoring shop in the neighborhood of Abura, I described the residents’ overwhelming enthusiasm and their promise to attend Friday’s opening ceremony. To cite examples, I explained that one resident cancelled his plans to go to Accra in order to attend the ceremony and that another who could not make it due to a funeral, placed the closing ceremony on his calendar to assure that he would be there. Hammad turned to me and smiled, “Yes, I agree. They are all very happy. It seems like things are changing this year. People are now really understanding what we are doing.”
Under the fluorescent lights of his shop, Hammad and I worked on the budget late into the evening while fighting mosquitos the entire time. After many of my unsuccessful attempts to kill these “soldiers” as he called them, Hammad laughed uncontrollably and said to me, “They will bite you and then you just clap for them.”