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Transforming Villages in Ghana

Posted by: admin on Tue, 2011-05-10 15:12

In northern Ghana, a “bottom-up” approach to improving the health and environment of rural villages is logging positive results. ICT interventions relying on mobile technology and e-learning play a big role in implementation.

By Kwami Ahiabenu II

A project in Ghana seeks to improve the lives of rural villagers by marrying information and communication technologies with the use of “change agents” – selected community members who receive special training. Operating out of their head office in Kumasi, near the middle of the country, the eCAP Ghana Foundation works in the northern villages of Niliyungdo and Nagbi. The project focuses on topics related to health, the environment, microfinance and education.

The transformation of one of the participating villages has been “remarkable,” according to Eva Kagiri, who works for eCAP’s international partner, the Swedish NGO MKFC. In an April interview with ICTWorks , Kagiri described how eCAP trained three young men to be change agents. They then taught village residents in Niliyungdo how to clean water using the “solar disinfection method”, and about waste disposal and environmental issues to avoid spread of diseases. To convey information to residents in an engaging manner, the young men used using role play, pictures and videos.

“We learned how to clean our water,” a female resident of Niliyungdo later told the eCAP team. “We also learned to keep our water covered. Some of us who did not believe what we were doing would make a difference now believe. We are no longer going to the hospital because of the sickness from the water. “

Bottom-up approach

Explaining their approach to implementation, Kay Obiri-Mainoo, the Project Coordinator of eCAP Ghana, says they try to establish a close bond with community members so that they feel comfortable opening up and talking about anything that might be bothering them. Obiri-Mainoo also emphasized that his organization believes in the “bottom-up approach,” where they target and train individuals and later scale up to the larger community.

The goal of the project is not only to encourage positive change in the lives of community members themselves. The project also prepares these communities to become agents of change and pass knowledge on to other communities within their district.

One of the project’s biggest challenges, says Obiri-Mainoo, has been language barriers. Facilitators often do not speak the local dialect of the communities where they are working, thus forcing them to rely on an interpreter which sometimes complicates the flow of communication.

Mobile plays a big role

In addition to video, mobile phone technology is central to the project. In between visits to the village, team members stay in touch by communicating with community leaders, chiefs, teachers and opinion leaders through mobile phones. Typical mobile correspondences are done by either text message or voice calls. The project also uses mobile phones as a broadcast mechanism for sending out regular reminders. For example, text messages are sent to the community to remind them to disinfect their water using the solar method. Mobile phones invariably save project facilitators time and travel costs.

One unique technology employed by eCAP Ghana is the Opit online learning platform. This tool enables project facilitators to get instruction themselves, then go back to their community and implement what they have learned.

Obiri-Mainoo is emphatic about the importance of ICTs in project implementation: “Without information and communication technologies, we will not be able to acquire relevant information and knowledge, share it with the communities, keep in touch with them and share information with our local implementers.”

Initial assessments have indicated positive results in both project villages, each of which has a total population of about 2,000. Signs of progress include an increase in villagers’ environmental awareness, a reduction in cases of diarrhea and malaria, and better waste disposal leading to the reduction in the spread of diseases. Another significant outcome the project counts as a success is that parents are now sending their children to school because they appreciate the value of education.


Kwami Ahiabenu II works at penplusbytes.org

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