Our community, our city, our say — participatory urban governance in Accra

Francis Zana Naab, Accra Community Manager
Accra, 27 May 2015

Accra is often faced with challenges in providing potable water and good sanitation for its inhabitants due to rapid population growth, poverty, and urban governance issues. Low-income urban residents who live in slums are the most affected. While local groups like youth groups, dressmaker associations, and traditional leaders do cooperate with one another to advocate for communal needs, their efforts are limited by the negligence of local and metropolitan authorities.

To respond to the needs of these low-income communities, the organization Global Communities has helped improve not only water accessibility and sanitation, but also local community participation in local and municipal governance. This is done through their IncluCity, Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene for Urban Poor (WASH-UP), and Slum Communities Achieving Livable Environments with Urban Partners (SCALE-UP) projects. Global Communities (formerly CHF International) is a catalyst for long-lasting positive change in low- and moderate-income communities around the world, including Accra. Working on social, economic, and environmental conditions, Global Communities has fostered a citizen-government partnership that improves the needs of poor communities in Accra. The objective of the WASH-UP and SCALE-UP programs is to increase equitable access to water supply and basic sanitation for poor urban communities by promoting cooperative efforts between civil society organizations, local service providers, and the government.

In partnership with the Nimba Community Support Services and 68 Community Based Organisations, the project seeks to involve low-income communities in participating in decision-making with respect to communal needs. Global Communities has been able to empower and serve the interest of about one million people living in 24 poor communities across Accra.

Global Communities and their local partners have been able to assemble community action plans from low-income communities through a consultation process which brings together community members and their leaders. By acting as a link for these poor communities, they are able to dialogue with districts and municipal assemblies to include these ideas in their short and medium-term plans for the district. These proposals are then sent to the central government to be included in the national development plans. Grants are awarded to communities, which implement the projects based on the priority of needs in the community action plan. Community members often provide labour, often using their local knowledge.

Avenor, an Accra neighborhood, is one of the communities that has been improved through the provision of public water systems and sanitation facilities. With help from municipal and metropolitan authorities, the Ghana Water and Sewerage Company, and local CBOs and leaders, tap water was installed in local houses and connected to water mains. With the leadership of Global Communities, the project was financed by the metropolitan authorities and Global Communities, with the local community providing the labour needed at no cost.

Through this community-based participation in decision-making and project implementation, poor communities are able to make their own decisions as well as implement and manage them for the common good of their communities. With the leadership of Global Communities, the views and needs of these poor communities are considered and inclusive development is achieved through bottom-up planning.

Photo: Global Communities

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