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Ghana’s Sanitation Headache: Has Assin Kushea Found a Cure?

Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Today’s issue of this paper, which marks the commencement of its return to publication on Saturdays again, in response to the wishes of the paper’s readers, is yet another remarkable milestone in the Mirror story.

And I believe that in its own way, in future this development in the print media, following a survey, may be viewed as important as some of the governance positives currently happening in Ghana.

However, one issue still tarnishing the country’s image is the long-standing sanitation headache: gutters choked with plastic and other waste; refuse in public spaces and neighbourhoods; open defecation.

A solution to this problem has been the bane of successive governments.

Happily, it has emerged that a town in the Central Region, Assin Kushea, may have found a cure for this persistent, most embarrassing national vexation.

As reported by Adom TV News late December, last year, Assin Kushea has a sanitation strategy which, in my view, could be useful to the Ministry of Sanitation (and Water Resources).

It could also help achieve President Akufo-Addo’s vision of Accra becoming the cleanest city in Africa.

I was fascinated by the Adom News item when I came across it on a social media platform and it has since been on my mind.

Thus I saw a possible link when I heard President Akufo-Addo’s comments on sanitation in his State of the Nation Address to Parliament last week, on February 21.

The President told the House: “Last year, I reiterated before you my pledge of improving sanitation in the country, and making Accra the cleanest city in Africa by the end of my term.

There has been a significant improvement in sanitation, even though, I acknowledge, more can be done ….

“In 2019, apart from continuing with educating and sensitizing people, we intend to use the bye-laws to enforce cleanliness ….

Persons who litter would be tried and punished, and so would those who steal litter bins from our streets.

“We are launching a National Sanitation Brigade to help us carry this out, and, through this vehicle, we will not only keep our towns and cities clean, but will also provide jobs for our young people ….” the President said.

The following is an abridged version, loosely translated from Akan, of Adom TV’s compelling report filed by reporter Alfred Amoh:

* * *

AMOH’S REPORT: Sanitation continues to be a big challenge to many towns in Ghana. But when the Adom News team’s rounds took it to Assin Kushea (Assin North), Central Region, it found it to be the cleanest town in that Region.

Our conclusion reflects the vision of the Paramount Chief of Assin Kushea, Ehunabobrim Prah Agyensaim VI (President of the Owirekyiman Traditional Council.)

Going round the town, we saw no sign of dirt or litter anywhere.

All along the streets are big refuse bins, painted in the national flag colours.

No one dares put any litter anywhere else but in the bins.

In the town, if anyone makes the mistake of dropping litter on the ground, the offender is summoned to the palace and pays a huge fine, so nobody wants to be guilty of litter dropping.

Adom News spoke to some of the townsfolk about the secret of their clean-town success. Some of the views follow:

One woman, a trader, said: “The chief doesn’t like dirt, likewise, none of us likes dirt. There are rubbish bins along the streets.

When you drink sachet water, you put the empty sachet in a bin.”

A schoolboy: “It’s the tradition that the elders have laid down.

Nobody puts litter on the ground. Not even here in school. If you litter, you will pay a fine.”

Another woman, speaking against a backdrop of a neat, tarred street and an amazingly clean stretch of gutter, and some of the conspicuous, branded bins visible along the street said: “I came here from Takoradi but I realized that cleanliness is the regulation here.

They don’t tolerate dirt or litter.

Even if you drink from a sachet and put it on the ground, a passer-by will tell you to pick it up.”

A workman: “If you have litter, for example, after eating something, you drop it in a bin – or put it in your pocket till you come across one of the bins.”

Nana Kwame Acheampong, Adontenhene of Kushea: “Our chief is very enlightened, well-travelled; very wise.

On returning from his travels, he aims to introduce here all the good practices he comes across abroad.

Europe is clean and so he wants his people too, to live in a clean environment.”

The Assemblyman of Kushea, Mr Adamu Frimpong: “Every Wednesday, we do communal labour and through that we have constructed a bank, clinic and a post office.

These are all through our own efforts. You see the bins? They’re not from the Government.

It’s Nana’s initiative.”

Assin North District Chief Executive, Mr Charles Ohene Andah: “Even the children have been taught that it’s not right to put any litter on the ground.

If you are a visitor, say, you came here for a funeral and you put any litter on the ground, a child will tell you, the adult, to pick it up ‘because we don’t do that here’.

“It’s all due to the leadership of the Paramount Chief, Ehunabobrim. I intend to encourage all the other towns in the area to follow the Assin Kushea example.”

* * *

Every time I watch the video, I am enthralled anew. What I find particularly striking is the evident ownership by the people, especially children, of the Paramount Chief’s sanitation policy.

If even children feel obliged to tell an offending adult that “we don’t do that here”, then the town’s sanitation education campaign is a huge success.

Here in Accra, every now and then I see vehicles branded ‘Clean Accra Project’ and regularly hear of, or read about, sanitation blueprints.

Yet, everywhere one turns, the situation of gutters is still the same: choked with months-old plastic waste, and other refuse – not to mention the stench.

Even in the city’s industrial areas, where numerous important industries are located, as well as the supposedly upper and middle class areas, the story is no different.

My suggestion to Sanitation Minister, Ms Cecilia Dapaah: Assin Kushea has shown the way. Nana Prah Agyensaim’s practical example demonstrates how a ‘clean town’ or ’clean city’ can be achieved.

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