Huge amounts of waste is building up in Ahanta West District. The reason is the delay in funding from the Central Government to Zoomlion, which means that Zoomlion cannot pay their workers, and that the Assembly is using a lot of their common funds to pay for the disposal of waste.
A young woman climbs the mountain of waste, before emptying her bucket on the top like a mountaineer planting the flag. The lonely container standing next to her is already filled to the breaking point. Only twenty meters away the other women are trying to sell their fish and vegetables on the big market in Agona Nkwanta.
» It is hard to believe that Zoomlion actually came and emptied the container only two days ago. They only took the container without doing anything about all the garbage that is lying around here,« says the local cycle mechanic.
He is very upset that nothing is being done about the problem with the disposal of waste, since the huge piles of refuse are a critical source of cholera and the spread of malaria. At the same time he does not blame the workers from Zoomlion for the problem.
» How can one blame them, they have not been paid for months,« he says.
Delay of payment
Zoomlion is the company in charge of the management and disposal of waste in Ahanta West District and the rest of Ghana. Due to a delay of the funding from the Central Government, the workers of Zoomlion have not received their salary for a long time.
» We have not received any payment for the last 6 months, and still we are working. We can only hope that the payment will come one day,« says one of the workers of Zoomlion standing next to the overfilled container.
It is not the first time that there has been a delay in the payment of the Zoomlion workers. One of the workers explains that he once waited seven months before being paid. This is one of the reasons why he is not worried about the situation.
Doing all they can
The deputy Western Regional Manager of Zoomlion, Edward Keteku, is aware of the seriousness of the situation. He says that Zoomlion is doing all they can, to find money to pay their workers.
» It is our duty to clean the waste here, so whatever happens, we need to find the money to do the work, and that is what we have been doing,« he says.
The deputy explains that Zoomlion still have not received their part of the Common Fund from the Central Government, that they were supposed to get over 19 months ago.
» If there is even one day or three days of delay in the funding, it can cause some big problems for us. The current situation that we are in right now, demands us to keep on the work. Making sure that our cars are on the road, and that our workers are on the street,« says Edward Keteku.
He points out that the delay and lack of funding is not only a problem in Ahanta West District, but in the whole of Ghana. Zoomlion is trying to find money within the organisation, but it is a difficult task.
» Zoomlion is working in big numbers. We have over 55000 workers throughout Ghana and we therefore have to look for a huge amount of money. But we are hoping that within this month we will be able to pay our workers,« he says.
In the meantime Zoomlion is sending out officers to try and encourage the workers to keep on doing their job, assuring them that the payment will come later. In Accra the managers of Zoomlion are trying to put pressure on the government, but nothing has happened so far.
Workers Have no Choice
The lack of funding has another downside. It makes it hard for the Zoomlion workers to do the job that they are supposed to do. One of the workers shows his tricycle where both the tires are punctured and the spokes are broken.
» My tricycle has been broken for months. I can barely drive on it, therefore I am not able to fill it with the waste I collect. I have tried to talk to the manager and complained, but no one would listen to me,« he explains, while showing the dysfunctional tire.
The Zoomlion workers are aware that the growing piles of refuse are a huge threat to the level of sanitation in the whole community. Many of the refuse dumps in Agona Nkwanta are located a bit away from the habitation, but due to the lack of containers and cleaning of the area, the refuse dumps are now spreading into peoples homes.
»We used to have more containers here, but one of them got spoilt. and the other one got transferred to another community. The manager told us that there is no money for diesel for the garbage trucks that are supposed to remove the containers, that is why it looks like this,« says one of the workers.
One of the main reasons why the Zoomlion workers keep on working is that they do not have any other option. According to data from The World Bank an estimated 24% of the population in Ghana are living below the national poverty line. It is therefore more attractive to have a job, where you eventually will be paid, than having no job at all.
The worker standing in front of his tricycle are supporting his family by doing some small-scale farming, while he is waiting for his payment, but the farming is far from enough to sustain his family.
Using Assembly Money
At the district Assembly in Ahanta West they are very concerned about the whole situation with the level of sanitation. According to the District Chief Executive in Ahanta West, Hon. Joseph Dofoyenah, it is a huge challenge for the Assembly that the workers at Zoomlion have not received any pavement yet.
» Our community members are not aware of the fact that it is the Central Government’s fault that the communities are turning into giant refuse dumps. Instead they come to us and complain about the level of sanitation,« says the District Chief Executive.
UCSOND were one of the organisations that first raised the issue of the level of sanitation to the Assembly. The assembly are like Zoomlion still waiting to receive the Common Fund from January 2014, but they can not ignore the concerns raised by the community members, since it is the Assemblies responsibility to avoid the spreading of diseases that the refuse potentially could cause. The Assembly is therefore using a lot of their Common fund on hiring private contractors to come and do the job that Zoomlion was supposed to do in the first place.
» We are using a lot of our money on the disposal of waste right now. Money that could have been spent elsewhere on some of the other problems that we have here in Ahanta West. In fact, I do not blame Zoomlion for the problem, but I blame the whole system itself. If the Central Government were better at giving us the Common Fund at the right time, we would not have had this problem,« says Hon. Joseph Dofoyenah.
A Community Problem
To the deputy at Zoomlion in Western District, Edward Keteku, the problem is not only the delayed funding, but in his opinion, the community members also have a responsibility.
» The community members are not helping us either. When they throw their waste anywhere they like, instead of using the particular sites that we have arranged for that purpose, it makes our job even harder,« says Edward Keteku.
One of the Zoomlion workers has the same impression:
» The market generates a lot of refuse, but the women do not want to take their refuse with them when they go home. Instead they leave it for us to clean it up for them, and we do not have the resources to do that,« says a concerned Zoomlion worker.
The problem with sanitation and waste management in Ahanta West district is complex. Hon. Joseph Dofoyenah points out that the Central Government will need to engage more contractors in the disposal of waste in the near future, in order to solve the situation, and the fundings should also not be delayed.
» We hope that the Common fund for the first quarter, will be in at the end of this month, but we do not know,« he says.
Edward Keteku agrees with this:
» While Zoomlion and the Assembly are now waiting for the funds, one could only hope that the community members would take some responsibility and not just leave the whole problem to the Zoomlion workers that are doing the best they can with their limited resources.«