Sustainable sanitation helps a “Queen Mother of Oranges” reign supreme

Fruit seller Diana Kumi is also known as the “Queen Mother of Oranges” at her market

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GHANA: In Ashaiman, a district town in Ghana’s Greater Accra Region, shoppers know they can count on Diana Kumi to have the municipality’s freshest fruit for sale. However, for years, Esi Maame Kumi – also known by her popular nickname “Queen Mother of Oranges” in the Twi language – held court in a crowded open-air market that she describes as more like an open sewer.

Next to the fruit stalls operated by Kumi and other members of the Orange Sellers Association at the Ashaiman market was a dumping ground for waste and fecal sludge, which created a foul order and unsanitary conditions; the market lacked sanitation infrastructure.

“We were getting some informal waste collectors to collect the waste and dump it in a nearby open field. These collectors were charging us a lot,” Kumi said, referring to a fee of $5 to remove 1,000 kilograms of waste. A kilo of oranges at the market sells for about $0.17.

“Sometimes, after collecting waste from one vendor, they would move to the next shop and drop some of the waste there – then charge that vendor to remove it. This behavior was messing up the market,” Kumi added.

The unsanitary conditions are not unique to Ashaiman’s commercial markets. Residents say unplanned urbanization has resulted in a majority of households not having toilet facilities. With limited access to public toilets, residents were defecating openly. According to the African Development Bank, only 23.3% of Ashaiman’s 240,000 residents have access to sanitation services, which exposes the community to diseases such as diarrhea and cholera.

Compounding the problem, Kumi notes, was that informal waste collectors also accepted household waste, and simply dumped untreated sewage in fields or open ground.

A 2013 Ghana sanitation sector review indicated poor levels of sanitation for many cities, including Accra. Ashaiman Municipal Assembly, one of the 10 district assemblies in the Greater Accra Region, lacked a proper waste management system at the time. Ashaiman’s Municipality Assembly, the Training Research and Networking for Development Group, an NGO, and Safi Sana Ghana Limited approached the African Water Facility for funding to implement a project to improve Ashaiman’s sanitation and waste management. The project aimed to produce and sell bio-fertilizer and renewable energy derived from community fecal and organic waste.

In 2014, the African Development Bank-hosted African Water Facility and the Netherlands Government provided $1.18 million and $481,896, respectively, for the project, a Public Private Partnership led by Safi Sana Ghana. In under three years, the project had constructed or rehabilitated 11 public toilets; improved organic waste collection services; rolled out a hygiene awareness campaign, constructed an anaerobic composting waste treatment plant; launched production of waste-based bio fertilizer to sell to farmers; created 22 jobs, and connected renewable energy power sources to the municipal grid. Approximately 125,000 Ashaiman residents benefited from the project.

The reuse of solid waste as bio fertilizer and as energy contributes to climate change mitigation by reducing the volume of organic waste dumped in landfill. Organic waste in landfills often leaks methane gas into the environment.

“The Bank’s water policy and strategy promotes innovative approaches and climate smart technologies in waste management. The Safi Sana Project is a model the Bank will replicate in other waste management projects,” said Wambui Gichuri, the Bank’s Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.

During Amsterdam International Water Week 2015, the Safi Sana project won the €25,000 Sarphati Award, for the most innovative and entrepreneurial WASH sector project.

Safi Sana was also one of 25 entities to be recognized at the Ghana Green Awards and Expo in 2016. The Awards - with the support of Ghana’s Energy Commission, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation and its Environmental Protection Agency - encourage environmentally sustainable practices and development in Ghana.

Patrick Tsigbey, Head of the Waste Management and Environmental Health Department described the project as an opportunity to develop new business models along the sanitation value chain.

“The Sani Sana business model was successful, improving access to sanitation in urban poor areas of Ashaiman Municipality. It has created business opportunity and employs more than 300 Ashaiman, residents,” said Omari Mwinjaka, Coordinator of the African Water Facility. “The project also created a clean and sanitation environment where women like Kumi have opportunity to sell fruit and attract more customers,” he added.

Following the project’s success in Ashaiman, authorities prepared feasibility and design studies for the construction of seven new fecal sludge treatment plants coupled with bio-fertilizer and biogas production units in Tamale, Kumasi, and Cape Coast among other areas of Ghana.

In Ashaiman, Diana Kumi says “Our work environment is much cleaner now. We save money instead of paying informal waste collectors. This is because Safi Sana doesn’t charge us for cleaning the market,” Kumi said. “Safi Sana’s frequent collection has removed the bad odor we used to experience in the past.”

Source: Africa development Bank