Even though today’s original agenda had been to first meet with my local non-profit partner, Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust, and then to complete evaluations of the rainwater collection systems installed last year, one stakeholder meeting suddenly turned into three. I’ve come to realize that my most productive days are counter-intuitively those when my plans change drastically – when one conversation leads to new ideas and requires unexpected collaboration. This is exactly what happened today.
It all began with my conversation with Mr. Nyaaba at Heritage House. Upon my arrival, I noted that the large colonial building, once the seat of the colonial government, had been freshly painted since January, that a newly crafted seafoam green sign had been inserted into the same sea breeze-rusted frame, and that even the interior office furniture had been re-arranged. When I asked Mr. Nyaaba about the renovations, he smiled and said that GHCT has been doing very well. He further explained that they are currently working on an expansion to Kakum National Park and engaging the local communities in water, sanitation, and environmental tourism initiatives. What is important about sanitation in particular, he explained, is to gather the information from the community and then presenting a convincing case to the stakeholders – why and how all members would benefit from the project (health, economy, and the environment). We continued to talk at length about The Zongo Water Project and how we should collaborate on a similar sanitation effort here in Cape Coast. He expressed great interest in collaborating on the project and we finished our conversation with the beginnings of a plan – for GHCT, a member from the Municipal assembly, Zoom Lion(a privately owned waste management company), and members of the Water Committee to meet next week to see what could be done. “It is important to make a road map,” he explained, “it is so every can understand where to go from here.”
Thus, this first conversation led quickly to the convergence of the Water Committee at Saied’s tailoring shop in the Zongo. After a lively discussion, all of the members agreed that sanitation was extremely important. Baba Haruna explained that currently the Zongo beats “the gong gong” (a set of two metal bells of different sizes) signaling that it is time for “cleaning exercises” to begin. The process does not happen on a regular basis however, and it costs money to hire the gong gong beater, feed the residents who help, and borrow materials such as rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows, gloves, and a noseguard. “We need to bring in the Municipal Assembly, Zoom Lion and Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust. We need to put our heads together to see what can be done,” reiterated one committee member. Another member added, “Another problem is the collection and the dustbins. Right now we have nowhere to put our rubbish.”
A few calls later, Hammad directed me to follow Baba Haruna to the Muncipal Assembly to meet with Waste Management Services and Director Mr. Frampong. At this point, I knew the day had taken an entirely different turn and that the interviews I had planned would occur on another day. Now in Mr. Frampong’s office, Haruna described the project and our reasons for coming. He finished by adding, “The assembly is higher than us, so we were hoping you could come in.” The Director responded that he was grateful we had come and provided us with two different waste collection options for the Zongo – one in which would be more centralized with two large dust bins (dumpters) on either side of the Zongo and the other which would be more decentralized with every few houses maintaining their own dust bin. Haruna believed the second option would be better because it would require less land in one location and require more ownership of the project among the residents. We continued the discussion by touching on how to potentially cross-subsidize payments, how to effectively educate the residents, and whether we might begin with a small pilot project in which we test the quantity of trash/recycling/compost is collected by each house. Mr. Frampong pondered, “I wonder if the Zongo could even set an example for the rest of Cape Coast!”. With this last hopeful comment, he promised to call me to set up a larger meeting with all of the stakeholders next week.
As opposed to the previous two years, this particular sanitation project has the capacity to engage many more of the Cape Coast stakeholders in The Zongo Water Project – an opportunity I had been waiting for, but had certainly not expected to emerge today…