The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation supports collective action in many countries. Ghana is proudly one of them.
Photo caption: Launch of ANAM implementation phase. IRC Ghana
In Ghana we believe that names influence character and behaviour. A name can be a good omen or spell doom and can also be a motivating influence for success. We also believe that a bundle cannot be fastened with one hand. These beliefs guided the chiefs and key local stakeholders in Asutifi North district when it came to naming their ambitious initiative to deliver safe water and sanitation to everyone within the district: the Asutifi North Ahonidie Mpontuo (ANAM for short) – or in English, the Asutifi North cleanliness initiative. They coined the name in acknowledgment that no single actor can deliver such an ambitious agenda alone. It was also to reinforce citizens’ understanding that their desire for a clean society can only be achieved with safe water, sanitation, and good hygiene.
The name and the vision of universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) across the district, was arrived at following a year of extensive context analysis, stakeholder consultation and inception meetings to stimulate local understanding and buy-in.
The ANAM WASH initiative seeks to test a local-authority-led partnership with NGOs to drive district-wide access to WASH services. In recognition of the complex dynamics of providing access to everyone, the model further aims to give voice to and empower the socially excluded in decision making. This latter, by stimulating popular support for WASH through the creation of a WASH network supporting proactive citizen engagement.
To support the local authority in driving the process, the initiative includes a hub function to facilitate the intricate task of partner coordination. This function is performed by IRC, who have leveraged partners’ shared ambition for collective success by guiding the processes of joint visioning and implementation, fostering harmonisation of partners’ efforts and innovations, and ensuring mutual accountability for progress towards equitable outcomes.
Being part of this discovery journey since its inception in 2017 has felt like working in an aircraft manufacturing process (impact lab). Each partner has focused on developing parts of the whole thereby contributing to a collective effort of knowledge building and developing harmonised, scalable solutions. We have co-created and tested solutions to improve aspects of the service delivery machinery required to drive universal WASH access in a district.
The principles and actions fostered by the initiative may not be particularly new, rather, the uniqueness of the approach lies in how district actors are being brought together through deliberate convening and coordination by the local authority and traditional leadership with support from a dedicated hub organisation.
The evidence thus far from the experiment points in the direction of a more coherent and productive WASH system in the making. A climate in which all experience a genuine stake in the district’s increasing WASH prosperity is being fostered.
It is gratifying to note that the Asutifi North District Assembly is becoming more confident and able to offer effective leadership to actors in its WASH sector. Likewise, citizens are feeling a greater sense of shared ownership of the district WASH agenda as their opinions are sought in formulating responsive solutions and their WASH grievances are addressed. There is a remarkable improvement in water services and the district is on track to achieve universal access ahead of the 2030 target. We see how collective power can drive success when challenges are locally felt, solutions locally owned and leadership is taken on at the right levels. By 2020, an estimated 11,500 people had experienced some level of water service improvement. This includes 7,000 people getting to safely managed services and 4,500 people getting to basic water services. A total number of 52,000 people (of a total population of 63,000 in 2017) now have at least basic water services in the district.
2020 has been an unusual year with the COVID-19 pandemic but there has been a bright side to the twist despite the disruption. Empowered and inspired by the ANAM initiative, the local authority is providing clear and responsive leadership in rallying its WASH stakeholders to mobilise resources to implement a range of short- and medium-term interventions to mitigate and recover from the impact of COVID-19.
As Asutifi emerges from COVID, the partnership will shift attention to ensuring the resilience of existing WASH systems, whilst identifying and addressing the specific needs of hard-to-reach areas. It will also continue to bring lessons to inform sector dialogues, policy reviews and scale-up in other districts.
In recognition of its success, the district was one of three selected by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) for documentation of inspiring examples of efforts towards achieving SDG6 in Ghana. Through this, the ANAM delivery approach has been included in the “Good Practice of WASH” compilation published by NDPC and shared with metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies across Ghana to inform their WASH delivery practices. Currently, NDPC is considering incorporating learnings from the initiative into the next cycle of planning: developing WASH guidelines for all districts in Ghana to use in preparing medium-term WASH strategies and plans.
The sector in Ghana is charting a new course to respond to changing needs by formulating new national development policy frameworks, revising sector policies and strategies, and reforming institutions. The processes are providing an opportunity for the sector to engage and clarify roles, but many issues including the role of local government and communities in water service delivery in the future state remain undecided. The Asutifi North district authority, the traditional leaders and people, IRC and other partners working in and beyond the district, are well placed to constructively engage in the sector change dialogue using the evidence curated.
These processes promise to shape how to consolidate fragmented WASH interventions and improve accountability under a single institution through a network of people and functions working together to deliver WASH services to everyone.
The name ANAM WASH initiative will not be lost in sector history.
ANAM WASH is supported by a broadly based partnership of national and international actors including: the Asufiti North District Assembly, IRC, World Vision. Safe Water Network, Aquaya Institute, Netcentric Campaigns and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It receives financial support from these partners and also from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Dutch Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS).
While collective action such as that of the ANAM WASH initiative takes place at district level, our goal is to inspire replication and wider impact. Click here to find out how partners in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Uganda are working together for safe water, supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation's Safe Water Strategy. This set of advocacy and outreach materials has been designed to ensure that what we learn is shared and adopted in more districts in the countries where we work, and in other countries.
You will find even more examples of collective action under Useful Links.