Livelihood Ghana: Home-Based Food, Energy And Water Production Systems

Fri, 26 Aug 2011 Source: Arthur, Patrick Kobina

While many citizens and policy makers continue to believe that the best way

to ensure that water, food and energy is supplied to homes and businesses is

by expanding the existing systems and installing new ones. I prefer to look

for solutions in small and independent systems that use unsophisticated but

smart technologies to create and maintain the supplies basic to our

existence. It is not realistic to think that every household can meet all of

its needs within its walls, but with clever designs, many systems can be

installed that can deliver water and energy and to some extent food in a

year round manner.

This is easily achievable in our tropical Ghanaian situation by making

these systems a part of the design of our homes that are yet to be built or

re-engineering existing homes to equip them with water storage and

purification systems as well as energy. The big energy generation and water

supply systems are prone to frequent breakdowns and cost a lot of money to

maintain. The situation in Accra is clearly a demonstration that big

systems do not work or work only for a few people, and yet our tax money is

used to fund the systems that will not benefit all of us.

**The Current and Future Challenge*:*

Majority of houses in Ghana have designs that are not suitable for a

tropical climate as we have here. There are times of the year when there is

excessive heat and low wind currents and many of us suffer greatly, being

unable to sleep until early hours of the morning. In the face of

insufficient energy supply, many houses are built complete with slide doors

and windows, ostensibly to meet the style and status requirement. All of

these bad features coupled to the increasing population argues for an

immediate policy to avert future crisis as though the current crisis is not

debilitating enough.

In addition to these shortfalls, the earth’s climate is changing; it will

continue to do so far into the future at rates projected to be unprecedented

in human history. Ghana’s vulnerability to the risks associated with climate

change may exacerbate the current social and economic challenges. The

effects of climate change are inevitable and the earlier Ghana adapts the

better. The effect of this phenomenon on the social life of the population

is overwhelming especially in the areas of agriculture, energy and water


Ghana Water Company currently cannot provide the water needs of the

population in Ghana. The company only produces two million out of the total

needs of about five million gallons for inhabitants of Accra, not to talk of

other parts of Ghana. These problems are worsened by the changes in climate;

the proposal therefore will look at interventions at the household level

with the aim of adapting to climate change. The recent earthquake in Japan

has forced the shutdown of the large nuclear plants and the private sector

is suddenly producing small energy production systems for homes.

**The Solution to Production Shortfalls*:*

The current social and economic paradigm of making huge investments into

building even bigger systems for energy, food and water production must give

way to small, low-tech, smart systems. These independent systems of a

necessity must be home-based and the new policies must empower the

individual with technical assistance to generate their own basic needs.

Currently, most Ghanaians are doing this anyway, many rural communities are

not connected to the water and electricity supply grid of the country and

even in the big cities like Accra, there are suburbs like Dome that meet all

of its water supply needs by boreholes.

> **Water Supply**

Apart from borehole water, storage tanks that can hold rainwater for 6

months at full capacity will effectively put Ghana Water Company out of

operation. The difficulty with independent supply systems is that many

people hate assuming responsibility for many things, but when there is a

crisis and the lights are off and the taps are not flowing, people wake up

and do whatever is necessary to meet these basics. The idea is to activate

this survival instinct and use them in a proactive manner to ensure that all

households will install systems that can provide water and energy. When this

is successful, we would have developed the capacity to deal with worse case

situations that will cripple large systems.

> **Food Supply**

The interventions in food supply will take the form of balcony gardens,

backyard farming and ‘flower pot’ agriculture. While this measure may not be

able to meet all the food supply needs of households, it can cut a

considerable percentage off. Placing the challenge of food supply in the

hands of individual household means that they can tend their garden at their

spare time; eliminating the long supply chain that is associated with the

current food supply system. Households will also reduce their food wastage

and improve their ability to recycle biological waste in the form of

conversion into manure through a simple processing plant to fertilize their


> **Waste Treatment**

Waste management is also becoming a major problem for city authorities,

connecting manure production to recycling of bio-waste will separate it from

the waste generated. Paper and plastic waste will be easier to recycle if it

is not fouled by decomposing bio-waste. Manure preparation is odorless and

environmentally friendly; employing the activity of earthworms in a

fortified plastic container as a bioreactor. The benefit is inproved yield

of backyard garden and reduces the burden of bio-waste handling which

generate many infectious disease cases.

* >*Energy Production**

When I saw a young man on the TGIF show reporting the development of a

system that allows the use of few solar panels to power a home, I was

excited and more so when President Mills for a meeting invited him. A

technology like this can make it possible for households to operate their

own energy supply systems. In addition to this, small wind turbines as well

as biogas production systems all can be integrated into an efficient

home-based energy system for cooking and lighting. The provision of the

right kind of technical assistance in the form of modules and

light-equipment to enable such home-based systems to run efficiently will

make a big difference in our livelihoods.


Patrick Kobina Arthur (PhD),



Columnist: Arthur, Patrick Kobina