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In early fall of 2012, we applied for a partnership with the community of Gomoa Gyaman (“go-Moh-ah Jah-mon”), Ghana. Gomoa Gyaman is a village of approximately 2,500 individuals located about fifty miles from Accra, the capital of Ghana. The community had reached out to Engineers Without Borders – USA seeking help to improve their current living conditions. We were accepted to begin this program with the community in early spring of 2013.
We traveled on an initial assessment trip to Gomoa Gyaman from August 16th to August 27th, 2013. During our time in the community, we met with village elders to discuss the needs of the community. We also conducted interviews with several residents to get a better idea of what problems they were facing. We learned the community suffers from a sanitation issue due to a lack of adequate places to go to the bathroom. The Ghanaian government constructed two latrines (containing six stalls each) for use by a local school house. One of these is filled and unable to be emptied due to its construction and location. The other is reserved strictly for the school and it is illegal for it to be used by anyone other than the students during the school day. The community has constructed public pit latrines, however these are little more than holes in the ground. When these are filled, they top them off with soil and dig a new latrine next to it; this wastes valuable property in the community. They have also been digging their latrines too deep in an effort to increase the service life of the latrine. The extra depth has the potential to endanger their water supply as waste infiltrates into the soil. For the poorer areas in the community, they use the woods behind their house, offering potential for contracting fecal-born diseases.
After two years of overcoming many design and logistic obstacles, we returned to the community in August of 2015 to begin construction of the first of four ventilated pit latrines. We arrived in the community after twenty hours of travel and were greeted with open arms. Our first day on site consisted of material evaluation, dimensioning of the pit, meeting with community members, and a lively ceremony initiated by the Queen Mother and the Elders. For the ensuing two weeks, we worked cooperatively with local workers to construct the substructure of the latrine. The design plans changed often as we ran into difficulties finding materials similar to those used in the United States. The community support and effort was essential in completing this first phase of this structure. People of all ages were involved in the process and eager to help. Some days, we worked well past sunset and into the night. A considerable amount was learned both about the materials and construction used locally. In the upcoming months, we will be remodeling the superstructure design based on community input.
The final latrine structure will feature 12 gender divided stalls, 10 of which will be toilets and two of which will be hand washing stations. The roof will be made of aluminum and feature a gutter system to catch and funnel rain into water reservoirs to be used in the hand washing stations. The walls will be made of concrete masonry units and feature windows for increased lighting and ventilation inside of the superstructure.
Ultimately, there will be four latrines constructed in the community. Each is designed to service one quarter of the community, roughly 700 residents, for up to five years before needing to be emptied. A professional waste removal service from a nearby city is able to be contracted to remove the waste as needed.
The team plans to return to Gomoa Gyaman in February 2016 to complete the rest of the first latrine, educate the community on proper hygienic practices, and to assess other needs of the community.