Sanitation happens to be one of the major challenges of many local and national governments in recent times.
The industrial revolution brought with it the production and consumption of several kinds of goods and services which led to the generation of several kinds of waste with various kinds of negative environmental, health and economic impacts.
Even from the colonial times there were attempts to address waste management challenges with limited technical expertise and financing being the main challenge.
This coupled with population increase and urbanisation as well as the economic crisis of the 1980s compounded the problem.
The issue of unsightly public areas with piled up waste and drains brought about negative environmental and public health related issues.
Sanitation issues have been on the agenda since the early 1990s when donor support for urban waste management started.
This led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and later waste management departments in the local government structure to see to the management of waste that results from daily activities of the population.
The difficulties in prioritisation led to the inability of these departments to effectively meet waste management targets, hence the private sector was called upon in the mid-1990s to handle 80 per cent of the work, based on the World Bank’s recommendation.
In the late 1990s the need to prioritise environmental issues brought about the first Environmental Sanitation Policy in 1999 to provide the needed guidance at the Policy level and also commit to standard international best practices.
Ghana has always faced some challenges with waste management since its declaration of independence and establishing its local governments.
Further exacerbating the problem has also been the dramatic rise in the country’s population, and the subsequent rapid expansion of urban areas – namely Accra, Kumasi and Tema.
History shows that waste management between the 1960s and early 2000s had generally been ineffective and posed many challenges for the Waste Management Departments.
NYEP/GYEEDA/YEA- Sanitation Module
The National Youth Employment Programme now Youth Employment Agency was formed under Ex-President J. A. Kufuor’s administration in October, 2006 to help address the issue of unemployment among the youth.
Through this initiative the youth in Sanitation module was formed among several other modules, thus, killing two birds with one stone; addressing issue of poor sanitation and unemployment among the youth. This initiative just came at the right time when global unemployment among the youth was on the rise.
The module started with 35, 000 personnel in 2006 who benefited from a GH¢50 allowance when they worked for four hours per day from Monday to Friday. These personnel (average of 254 per MMDA) were distributed among all the then 138 MMDAs.
The creation of more districts later increased the number of personnel from 35, 000 to 45,000 among 216 MMDAs, reducing the number to an average of 208 per MMDA.
Subsequently the beneficiary allowance was adjusted from GH¢50.00 to GH¢100.00.
At the moment Ghana has 260 MMDAs, which means that using the average of the two instances (254 and 208), about 231 people per MMDA will be required to achieve effective cleaning.
This means that the government will need to engage almost 60,000 (59,930) youth under this module to clean up the country in order to achieve a clean Ghana.
Impact of Youth in Sanitation Module
By the early 2007, the streets of Ghana were flooded with the colour of blue and orange clothing of these youth engaged in the module cleaning, weeding and collecting rubbish from streets and markets in Ghana.
They were nicknamed “borla so jata” literally meaning “refuse lion”.
Many of these youth made capital to engage in other businesses after their four-hour cleaning to increase their monthly income as had been the strategy under this module.
Zoomlion became and still is a household name when it comes to cleaning.
We are all witnesses to the daily sweeping of public places by beneficiaries of the programme.
Refuse, which used to pile up and spill over in market places, along the principal streets etc., are now under manageable levels.
We can also point to choked gutters that are de-silted by the beneficiaries.
With over 11 years’ experience in waste management, the company has made massive contribution to improving and sustaining the waste and sanitation module.
Some contributions worth mentioning include but are not limited to the following;
Organising and mobilising communities for cleanup campaigns
Zoomlion over the years has organised series of cleanup campaigns involving the general public. One of such notable campaigns is the “clean mama” campaign where a particular community is chosen every week and the people in the community are mobilised to assist the beneficiaries to clean their communities.
Again Zoomlion was instrumental in the formation of the National Sanitation Day aiming at engaging the general public in proper waste management.
Through this initiative, Zoomlion provided logistical support to assist the general public to get involved in cleaning of their communities.
This initiative by the then Local Government Minister, got the involvement of beneficiaries, police, fire service, etc. in cleaning of the communities.
Training and capacity building of beneficiaries
Zoomlion has over the years continually trained and improved the capacity of beneficiaries under the module.
Many of the riders have been trained to repair both manual and motorised tricycles.
In instances where these people exit the module, they are able to set up their own tricycle repair shops to cater for themselves and their families.
Occasionally, the team leaders are given training on leadership skills and people management to help relate well with the people under them.
It is worth mentioning that some sweepers under the module were selected and sponsored to China to undertake training in the operation of bulldozers and excavators.
This saw these women upgrading from the module to operate heavy duty equipment belonging to Zoomlion.
Public education and public awareness creation
Zoomlion has over the years continually sensitised the public on the need for proper hygiene and environmental sanitation among communities and municipalities through the use of beneficiaries of the YEA and its Zoomkids Clubs.
The Zoomkids Clubs comprise selected basic and senior high schools to champion the issues of waste and sanitation in their respective schools. By this strategy, the children are inculcated with the best practices of proper sanitation which will lead them on to become better citizens who see waste management as a shared responsibility.
Through the organisation of durbars, YEA personnel interact with the public with signage on the effects and the need to adhere to proper waste management practices among community members.
Welfare and Financial Assistance
Zoomlion in the quest to seek the welfare of YEA beneficiaries engaged under the youth in sanitation module created the Zoom Credit in 2008, to further support its personnel in times of financial distress. Under this assistance scheme, beneficiaries were granted soft interest free loans to ease their financial burdens.
Many sought these loans to set up small retailing and petty trading at the market places after their four hours’ work.
However, due to the non-permanent nature of the workers and the fact that Zoomlion did not have direct control in the recruitment or exit of the beneficiaries, many did not service their loans and the assistance had to be discontinued somewhere in 2012.
It is also worth mentioning that, Zoomlion was instrumental in the raising of beneficiary allowance from GH¢50 to the current rate.
Through the Zoomlion Foundation, many of the beneficiaries under the youth in sanitation module have benefited from financial assistance to cater for the medical expenses of accidents, injuries, medical conditions and illnesses arising from the work.
The Way Forward
Notwithstanding the challenges with the module, some of which are unfounded, this module continues to be the most value for money module under the YEA. It continues to arrest the issue of unemployment at the same time providing solution to a serious environmental concern (sanitation).
However, there is the need for the prompt payment of beneficiary allowance as the success of the module is heavily tied to this.
Zoomlion through its District Operations Supervisors (DOS) now District Managers controlled and organised the workers so well that the chain of command was clear.
But with undue delay of government releasing funds to Zoomlion and subsequently to beneficiaries, DOS is not able to mobilise workers for work.
Sometimes workers do not show up for work and the excuse is that, they are going to find money in order to get some food for the family.
Legislation, Enforcement and Education
There is the need for legislation especially targeted at the general public from engaging in acts that will increase litter in public areas and this should be supported with massive public education.
All MMDAs should enforce their sanitation by-laws that would arrest and prosecute people who litter or dump refuse in illegal places.
Those that have not formulated their by-laws should do so and educate the public about their breach and corresponding sanctions.
Recruitment, planned exit for beneficiaries, M & E
There is the need for the government to recruit energetic men and women to work under the module.
The general observation is that, many of the beneficiaries under this module are not youth.
Many of them are in their mid-forties, fifties and a handful forming the youth.
YEA should consider the personnel recruited to work under the module.
The government should take keen interest in exiting people from the programme to get new ones on board.
Zoomlion has over the years done its bit to recruit some beneficiaries into main stream activities of the company such as janitorial work.
Continuous monitoring and evaluation of the service delivery under the waste and sanitation module of the YEA should be considered.
Staff of YEA monitoring and evaluation should be tasked to develop performance indicators under the module together with Zoomlion for proper assessment and evaluation of their performance under the module.