The Courtesy Call
Preceding the visit to the GSOP LIPW sites on 9th November, 2016, was a courtesy call on the Regional Minister of Upper East Region, Hon. Albert Abongo (MP) at the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC). The visiting team consisted members from The World Bank Group, Ghana Social Opportunities Project (GSOP), Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) and Land Administration Project (LAP). After self introductions, Mr Henry Kerali, The World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia and leader of the delegation indicated that his appointment has been a year and half old and was glad to lead the Bank’s efforts in fighting poverty in Ghana. Mr. Kerali further stated that the Bank’s mission in the region was to monitor the Bank’s efforts in the Land Administration Project, the Social Opportunities Project and the Urban Water Project.
Hon. Albert Abongo expressed his profound gratitude of the Bank’s call in the region and warmly welcomed the delegation. The Minister applauded the Bank’s strides in improving land administration and expanding both rural and urban water access in the region, though he remarked that some of the water pipes were obsolete and needed replacement. On GSOP, the minister expressed his joy on seeing rural poverty being alleviated through direct income earnings and local infrastructure development. The National Coordinator of GSOP, Mr. Robert Austin, on his remarks, congratulated the Bank for such impact-laden social protection interventions in Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) and Labour Intensive Public Works (LIPW). Mr. Austin recounted on the activities of the Ghana National Household Registry (GNHR) in the three northern regions and how relevant it would serve as a database for social protection interventions going forward. Mr. Austin also echoed the critical role of LIPW in transforming the lives of the rural poor, especially in northern Ghana, indicating that LIPW has so far provided short-term employment to 165,860 extreme poor persons (61% of whom are women) and has in the process transferred GH₵ 71,476,014 to these persons as wage earnings through electronic means. Mr. Austin however expressed concern that the Project is scheduled to end in June, 2017 and called on the Bank and Government of Ghana to continue the project owing to its phenomenal impacts in rural poverty reduction. Mr. Austin emphasised the need for a 6-month extension (July-December 2017) to complete the current phase of GSOP and proposed a second phase to include 120 districts effective 2018.
Targanga (Mango Plantation).
The team was warmly received by the Garu Tempane District Assembly Staff and the traditional leaders of the Targanga Community. In an opening speech, the National Coordinator of GSOP introduced the site to the World Bank delegation and remarked that the project normally engage the beneficiaries during the agricultural off-season, which directly cuts down out-migration to the south in search of menial jobs. Giving specifics on the sub-project, Mrs Adwoa Boakye, the Bolgatanga Regional Coordinator of the Project, indicated that the plantation covered 7.5 Ha and the sub-project has been active for 3 years. The Regional Coordinator mentioned further that GH₵ 362,000 has been spent so far on the project, with 73 percent constituting direct wages to 596 beneficiaries.
On a beneficiary testimony, The Chief of Targanga, Akudeg Adem, applauded the efforts of the Bank and GSOP for improving their lives and instilling in them the principles of community ownership of projects. The Chief recounted that incomes earned from the project has been used to register the national health insurance scheme and care for their wards educational welfare. Mr. Adem, responding to a question from the Bank’s Country Director on how proceeds are sold and shared, indicated that two rounds of harvest have been made so far and sold mostly to individual traders. The Chief indicated further that the non-shared returns are deposited in a community bank account and part used to hire labour in clearing the plantation. The World Bank Country Director thanked the community for receiving them and encouraged them to put up their best to yield maximum benefits from the Project. The delegation drove through and observed the Kugri-Vambara/Songo feeder road to Zesiri.
Zesiri (Small Earth Dam & Dugout)
The delegation was greeted at Zesiri with “work and songs” from the female beneficiaries. After a couple of site walks, the Bank’s Country Director met with some of the beneficiaries and the GSOP team. Mr. Kerali asked of the sustenance plan for LIPW sub-projects. In response, the Bolgatanga Regional Coordinator of GSOP said that the Project is also running a complementary income generating scheme, the Japan Social Development Fund to ensure that beneficiaries of the Project exit poverty on a permanent and sustainable basis. The only challenge the Regional Coordinator added was that, it covered only 8 districts in Upper East Region out of the 60 districts. On the small earth dam sub-projects, Mrs Boakye mentioned that plans were underway to involve the Fisheries Department to incorporate fish farming with the dugouts, to provide a sustainable livelihood option.
Upon request of the Bank’s Director, two beneficiaries narrated the impacts of the Project on their lives. Atiswia Apauzia and Amalisim Awaan both indicated that the Project has really had a positive impact on their families’ lives. They have been able to take care of their childrens’ school needs and have bought some animals to rear as alternative livelihoods. On their sustainability plans after the project, both assured the team that they have been saving, which they intend to use for petty trading upon project completion. On challenges faced so far, they narrated that they experience delayed payments sometimes. They however applauded the initiative of the Bank and wished more of such projects to be brought to their doorsteps. Another beneficiary, Ayarik Mary (a widow) testimonised that prior to the coming of GSOP, she travelled to Napkanduri during the harvesting season to work by-day to feed her family. She testified that GSOP has given her leverage and has made her close to her family, since she needs not travel far to fend for her family.
Giving a historical account of the small earth dam sub-project in a media interview, Mrs Adwoa Boakye narrated that the dugout was originally just a hand scoop, which did not even adequately serve the community’s animal water needs. The BRCO Coordinator mentioned further that animals used to travel long distances in search of water, with some never returning. This made the community appeal to the Garu Tempane District Assembly thirteen years ago to construct a dam for the community, which GSOP is fulfilling. Mrs Adjoa also dismissed misconceptions that a labour intensive approach was used due to lack of funds, adding that the project aims at creating employment for the poor and vulnerable at the same time providing infrastructure to enhance local economic activities. On the issue of whether the climate change sub-projects were only mango plantations, the Coordinator mentioned that the project also considers woodlot (especially acacia), however the mango plantations were often preferred due to their food security benefits. Mrs Adjoa concluded that the Project has been adequately designed to suit the needs of the beneficiaries, with all sub-project sites having an on-site nursery and a first-aid care system. Other innovations mentioned included an efficient and transparent social accountability system, electronic payment system (E-zwich) and an effective case management system.
Zesiri is also one of the LEAP beneficiary communities and the Bank’s delegation had the opportunity to interact with the National LEAP Manager, Mr. Dzigbordi Kofi Agbekpornu and the beneficiaries. In a summary, Mr. Dzigbordi explained that LEAP was implemented in all the 216 Districts of Ghana covering 12,000 households, with a two monthly disbursement of between $16 - $17 paid to each household depending on its size. On the impacts, the Manager mentioned they were positive, making references to studies undertaken by ISSER, University of Ghana, Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD) and documentaries made by Joy Fm, Accra. Continuing, Mr. Dzigbordi indicated that Zesiri had 25 LEAP beneficiaries, who happened to be LIPW beneficiaries as well. One major feat of the Programme as indicated by the Manager was that all LEAP beneficiaries in the 6006 Comminutes nationwide have been registered onto the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for free. On beneficiary targeting, the Manager explained that geographical targeting was first used to narrow down to the intended communities with statistical data from Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) and the District Assemblies. At the community level, a proxy means test was then used to target the individual households. On beneficiary testimony, a female beneficiary shared that she was jobless and found live uncomfortable prior to the introduction of GSOP in Zesiri. She testified that LEAP has really improved her life, because she is now able to provide school materials for her children, provide decent food and even ply petty trade to take care of her other needs.
The World Bank Country Director thanked all for their audience and entreated the women to take opportunity of the Programme to give their children periodic vaccinations and a good education.
Denugu (JSDF Beneficiary Community)
Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) is a complementary intervention ensuring that the beneficiaries of the Project exit poverty on the permanent and sustainable basis. The Bank’s delegation had the opportunity to observe soap and shear butter production in one of the communities in Garu Tempane District (One of the 8 piloting districts), thus Denugu.
At a mini-durbar opened with a beautiful traditional dance, the Bank’s Director thanked all for meeting the team and indicated that the aim of the visit was to ascertain the impacts of the Project on the beneficiaries, challenges and way forward in improving the Project. Atipuaka Awini, a beneficiary indicated that prior to GSOP operations in their community, they worked on galamsey sites to mine for gold which was very risky. Mrs Awini confessed that with the advent GSOP operations, they are able to work happily, save some money and take adequate care of their children’s school needs. On the challenges, Mrs Awini mentioned that they depend on the same grinding mills that process home foods and most at times it took long hours of waiting before their shea nuts are processed, appealing to authorities to construct a separate grinding mill for shea nut processing.
Mr. Albert Akuka Alalzuuga, the District Chief Executive (DCE) of Garu Tempane District in his address, welcomed the Bank and GSOP delegation to the district and applauded them for the good works carried out in the district over the years. The DCE testified the numerous impacts of the project in changing the lives of people in the project communities and remarked that if Government of Ghana and The Bank were to channel resources in these kinds of interventions, poverty would have been eradicated. Recounting on some of the benefits, the DCE mentioned that beneficiaries are able to enroll onto the National Health Insurance Scheme, take care of their children’s educational needs, save and invest in trade and live healthy and happy out of the earnings from the Project. On behalf of the beneficiaries, the DCE thanked the delegation and wished them a safe journey back to Accra.