Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ghanaian Soccer and Canadian Celebrations

World Cup fever has definitely died down since Ghana was unceremoniously dumped in the 1/8th finals in a match against Brazil that was decidedly poorly refereed, with a Ghanaian offence that decidedly lacked the ability to score. However, although it’s reduced, the fever is still here – take the wild jubilating that apparently broke out across the country on Saturday after Brazil’s exit at the hands of the French. And today’s Daily Graphic has front page photos of Ghana’s president John Kufuor bestowing the Order of the Volta upon the Black Stars.

The whole experience has certainly left its mark on Ghana. While I was biking home after Ghana’s defeat nearly two weeks ago, I was angry and saddened that my favourite team’s chances had been cut short in such a frustrating match. However, it was Ghanaians who ended up consoling me. “It’s okay!” more than one person yelled to me, “2010!!” they said, an allusion to the next World Cup to be held in South Africa.

People here are incredibly proud of their team’s performance, which, on the whole, was definitely impressive. President Kufuor is quoted in today’s Graphic saying: “Over the past few weeks Ghana has been experiencing a new wave of confidence, patriotism and goodwill which we have never experienced in this country before.” Adjusting for the healthy dose of hyperbole in that statement (I wasn’t around in 1957 when Ghana gained its independence, but I imagine that similar words were spoken then), there’s certainly still much truth to it. Ghanaian flags can still be found hanging throughout Tamale – flags that weren’t there just one month ago. People are talking excitedly about the 2008 African Cup, to be held in Ghana. The Black Stars have given Ghana something big to look forward to in the future.

In other news, this past weekend some of us EWBers celebrated Canada Day by setting up camp in a small community outside of Tamale. We invited along our Ghanaian friends to partake in a campfire, guitar playing and hotdogs roasted on sticks. It was just like back home, except for the 30 or so children who gathered around our campsite and silently stared at us for hours on end. It was kind of like a seen out of an African version of Children of the Corn.

In work news, Sarah and I are currently in full diagnostic swing. We’re not doing any kind of exciting tangible activity like measuring well depths or taking GPS coordinates, but I have high hopes that the work we’re doing will yield some very positive impact.

As a bit of political structure background: Ghanaian regions (like the Northern Region, where I live) are subdivided into Districts, with their own administrative governments. Ghana is undergoing a process of decentralization, meaning that much power is being downloaded from the national and regional levels to the district level. In theory, this means that the district level should be assuming quite a bit of responsibility for its water and sanitation facilities. (See the picture below for a basic outline of the government structure in Ghana.)

Sarah and I are working out of the regional level CWSA office, but we’re currently performing a diagnostic at the district level. We’re travelling to six different districts in the Northern Region in order to analyse the capabilities of the District Water and Sanitation Teams (DWSTs). These DWSTs are made up of governmental officers who are responsible for monitoring the quality of all water and sanitation facilities in their districts – this basically means travelling to every small community and ensuring that boreholes are functioning properly, that latrines haven’t collapsed and that proper hygiene practices are being followed.

The DWSTs are an incredibly important link between the communities and their district government. For instance, the DWST is supposed to dispatch a mechanic to any community where a problem arises with a pump. Another example is in district-donor advocacy: when a district is fighting for funds from a donor (like UNICEF, for example), they need detailed statistics on their current water coverage rates. They have to be able to make their case that their district needs additional water facilities, and they have to know which communities need them the most.

However, decentralization is moving in stops and starts in Ghana, and the DWSTs often aren’t getting the proper support from their districts – they don’t have the money or, in some cases, the training necessary to do their job as well as possible.

Sarah and I are looking at the possibility of working with a DWST in order to help boost their monitoring and computer skills. As unsexy as it sounds, if the DWSTs can increase the quality and amount of their water and sanitation information, it could have big implications for people in small communities throughout their district.

Finally, I’d like to wish a happy Independence Day to any Americans reading this. Sorry about the World Cup thing.

See below for some before and after photos from the Ghana-Brazil match.

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