By Margaret Jackson
June 10, 2013
As the country’s population grows, so are the basic needs, the severe challenges to the poor and vulnerable, and the unemployment situation among the youth. Ghana is not the only country confronted with these issues. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. And most advanced countries are today, cutting down on mere rhetoric in place of strategic and measureable programs to confront these problems which have the propensity of reaching explosive levels.
But when agencies or institutions charged with the responsibility of making life bearable for the youth, the poor and the vulnerable encounter some challenges, oftentimes many are those who turn a blind eye on its overall positive impact on the society at large.
As a result, there have been instances when laudable programs have been run aground at the expense of the country. The “Operation Feed Yourself” program introduced by the late General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong is just one example.
Today, many Ghanaians talk about the “Operation Feed Yourself” with nostalgia as one heck of a program that should have been sustained in spite of the challenges it faced down the road. Many believe that had those responsible for the program adopted some concrete steps to arrest the problems it encountered, Ghana will not today become just a buy and sell hub, whereby even tooth picks are imported from outside.
The waste and sanitation unit of the GYEEDA is one social intervention program that has touched the lives of so many Ghanaians since its inception in 2006. To date over 43,000 people have benefited under the program which cuts across all the regions of the country. The table below shows the regional breakdown;
REGION NUMBER OF OPERATIVES 1 WESTERN 4,211 2 VOLTA 3,279 3 UPPER WEST 2,153 4 UPPER EAST 2,692 5 NORTHERN 5,939 6 BRONG AHAFO 4,183 7 CENTRAL 3,587 8 ASHANTI 6,815 9 EASTERN 4,480 10 ACCRA ZONE 3,768 11 TEMA ZONE 950 12 ACCRA DISTRICTS 979 TOTAL 43,036
The above table gives an indication that each region in Ghana has had its fair share of the program. And no one can deny the fact that the waste and sanitation unit being managed by Zoomlion has brought a lot of sanity into the country.
We are all witnesses to the daily sweeping of public places by beneficiaries of the program. Refuse which used to pill up and spill over in so many areas are now under manageable levels. We can also point to chocked gutters that are de-silted by the beneficiaries.
Many drains that were blocked with sand which led to severe flooding during downpours have seen remarkable improvement. What is more, Zoomlion and the metropolitan authorities have been organizing monthly clean-up exercises to help improve the overall sanitation in the country.
One remarkable thing about the program is making people masters of their own. We always cry about lack of work for the youth in the country and the inability of the government to create avenues for the youth to make it on their own.
That is why it is important to note that some of the trainees of the waste and sanitation program who started as sweepers have been assisted to buy on credit the “Borla Taxis”, which they are using to cart refuse from markets, homes and other places to the landfills.
I believe that as the government assists more of the beneficiaries to buy on credit the “Borla Taxis” to operate them, the more we help to reduce the burden of unemployment in the country. As the society grows, the waste and sanitation issues move on parallel lines with it, therefore, the country needs to do more in pushing more people to invest in the waste and sanitation areas.
The program may have encountered some problems just like any other human institution, but the government has to craft a strategy to salvage it. I strongly believe that the committee that was set up by the government will come out with a comprehensive strategy that will straighten up the program for the overall benefit of Ghanaians. We need more of such programs and more Ghanaians to manage their own affairs after they have benefitted from such programs through training.
One thing that is gratifying to mention is the sponsorship of some women who started as sweepers to China to undertake training in the operation of bulldozers and excavators. We need to clear the misconceptions about some of these social intervention programs, because many times we tend to condemn such programs without taking a critical look at it overall impact to society.
Today some people are calling for the disbandment of the GYEEDA waste and sanitation program without considering what will become of the lives of the 43,000 beneficiaries. Have we considered the chaotic implosions that will emerge if the lives of the 43,000 people are thrown under the bus? Every institution in the country has problems, but when you have problems you find solutions, you don’t run away from the problems. That is leadership!