Sustainable Development Success Stories

Community-based environmental sanitation management

Location Urban/peri-urban, Accra, Ghana.
Responsible Organisation Initiated by the local community, with UNICEF Ghana, Centre for Community Studies, Action and Development (CENCOSAD) Accra Ghana, and the local city authority.
Description Ga Mashie is a low-income community in Accra, Ghana, with a population of 80,000. Housing conditions are poor and 80% of the population does not have access to domestic latrines. Poor sanitation and overcrowding contributes to the prevalence of environment-related diseases. Although a number of solutions have been tried, city authorities could not effectively manage waste removal and disposal. There was an increasing intolerance of the community to insanitary conditions. When the community itself became involved, the situation began to change. Community groups, with the support of the Centre for Community Studies, Action and Development, UNICEF and the local city authority, are now co-operating to undertake monthly clean-up activities.

The community was divided into zones for clean-ups and competitive zonal clean-up activities under sponsorship: The Most Environmentally Clean Sanitary Zone Competition, organised by the residents through a management group, with representatives from the partner organisations. A monthly award system has been initiated for the cleanest zone. Key opinion leaders and influential persons from the community are used as community interlocutors and rallying points to mobilise various segmented groups within the population in zonal community sanitation activities. The zonal activities sustained a practice of meetings to animate and sensitise people on sanitation issues, to raise awareness.

Issues Addressed Capacity Building (community management), Education (hygiene and environmental education), Environmental issues.
Results Achieved Residents divided their communities into environmental sanitary zones and assigned particular zones to neighbourhood groups, youth clubs, affinity associations and other community organisations. A strong environmental consciousness is being developed among residents. The project is resulting in a cleaner environment and better sanitary living and health conditions. The project is also spreading throughout the city.
Lessons Learned
  • Effectiveness of the community taking over waste clearance: UNICEF facilitated dialogue among the partners to transform the previously unworkable centralised system. The fear of the local authority of losing control of sanitation management was overcome by involving local administration in programme planning from the outset. The community was encouraged to acquire, control, store and use sanitation tools and equipment. Decentralisation created a sense of ownership and boosted community participation and commitment. The local people have taken a pride in the positive results of managing their own environment setting up surveillance groups to combat indiscriminate disposal of waste.

  • The Most Environmentally Clean Sanitary Zone Competition, a monthly award system, is the key to community clean-ups. The monthly activities have become a folk event where people from different neighbourhoods interact and work together, enabling people to collectively undertake environmental solutions for their communities.

  • Working through a national NGO with extensive and considerable community mobilisation and development experience: CENCOSAD initiated the participatory process of community empowerment, decision-making and management. CENCOSAD presented a window of opportunity for converging the interests of numerous groups in the community, and also brought a wide network of relationships with city authorities, the business community, public agencies and years of experience in revitalising and rehabilitating the environment of run-down urban slum settlements.

Contact UNICEF Ghana
P.O. Box 5051
Accra-North, Ghana.