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.
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.
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.
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“. 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.
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.