Human Security Research Centre Ghana (HSRCGh)

Human Security in Local Communities: A perspective on poor roads – Upper West Region

Hamile, Upper West Region. 19 August 2021

Madam Mottet, in blue jeans attire, congratulating the youth leader at the site of the broken road. Photo credit: HSRCGh

Roads play a critical role in opening up the country for movement, activity and linking the country to its neighbours. When citizens cry for roads, they are simply advocating for a key human security need that empowers them, builds their resilience and survivability and helps them live in dignity. This implies that when roads are constructed, they would be built for purpose with the needs of the citizenry in mind. Where roads that are constructed and paid for with the scarce resources of the State get washed away the very next raining season after their construction, then the users, both domestic and international, become vulnerable and the objective of improving livelihoods remains unmet. Such appears to be the unfortunate case of a recently constructed tarred road in the Upper West Region of Ghana.  

On 19 August 2021, a team of researchers from the Human Security Research Centre, Ghana (HSRCGh) embarked on a field trip in the Upper West Region from Wa to Hamile. The heavy rains of the 17/18 August were reported to have destroyed the main bridge on the Wa-Nadowli road rendering the Wa-Kaleo-Nadowli-Hamile road impassable. This forced commuters to detour after Kaleo through Daffiema to Jirapa in order to link up again on the main Nadowli-Hamile road.  The rain had subsided by morning of the 19 August and the team departed from Wa at 0600 hrs, under a drizzle, to Hamile, hoping to reach the border town in time to conduct its assignment. An increase in travel time due to the diversion was expected.

The road was fairly good much of the first hour of travel until we got to the outskirts of Daffiema.  We were confronted with the sorry state of a bridge over what should be a tributary of River Felin.  As one observer put it, nature had exposed the construction as amounting to injustice against humanity. A deep gorge about three to four meters wide in the road confronted us. The road at that point had virtually been raised into an embankment over the stream, with a rather tiny culvert underneath it to carry the water. It was obvious that the embankment was facing its first raining season. The tiny culvert failed the test and could not carry the excessive volume of water through it. In spite of what looked like a lake on either side of the road, the water by its sheer force washed away a portion of the embankment creating the dangerously gaping gorge in the road.

It was evident that not much thought may have gone into constructing that portion of the road. Not only was the bituminous material a mere layer of about one centimeter in thickness, the base material was basically sand. No stone, gravel or rock material was used for the base of the road or to reinforce the abutment to what was supposed to be a bridge.  Both the persons who constructed the road and those who inspected and cleared it as completed, must have known that it would not stand one raining season. It was heartwarming though, to see the enthusiasm with which the youth of Daffiema mobilized and embraced the challenge to ensure that their village did not remain cut off from the Capital Wa and that they could provide an alternate route from Wa to Hamile.  Their team had been mobilized by the Paramount Chief of Daffiema (Naa John Dekuwmini Domale) and they had worked all night to make the road passable. They had piled up stones and gravel to create an isthmus across the waterway on one side of the gorge. They had done a really good job. No wonder, members of the travelling public using their improvised passageway, stopped to chat with them and congratulate them for their good work. Our convoy stopped and congratulated them too for their volunteerism and engineering acumen.  Madam Carol Mottet, head of a visiting Swiss Human Security delegation and member of our team, commended the youth on behalf of our team, for their initiative and resourcefulness. We moved on from the Daffiema bridge with the hope that we had seen the worst.

Sadly, another situation was however to confront us at the outskirts of Kalsarig, near Lawra. It was not flooding this time; the road had simply given way after the rain.  Apparently, the base material could not sustain the thin layer of bitumen material spread over the road as the vehicles plied it.  A number of vehicles simply sank into the road while others, particularly four-wheel drive vehicles, crossed with difficulty. Clearly not much thought may have gone into the construction of that portion of the international road that links Ghana to neighbouring Burkina Faso. Seven heavy duty cargo trucks loaded with goods and headed for Hamile had been bogged down at the location overnight and one had actually fallen on its side.  Other vehicles had to detour round the trucks stuck on the main road. It was disquieting to think that a contractor could construct a portion of our international road like that, considering the vehicular volume and weight that the road is to carry. The youth at this location were probably not as motivated as their peers in Daffiema or lacked their kind of engineering acumen. They looked on and complained bitterly about how recently the road was constructed and the fact that we, from Accra, should ensure that the contractor is brought to book. We encouraged them to mobilze more hands and help move the vehicles stuck in the road out of their predicament.  It would appear we had consensus on that although we could not wait to see that materialize.

As we managed to meander our way through that difficult part of the road and proceeded, one wondered how the local people in places like this could contribute to ensuring the integrity of the roads that pass through their villages and which they are obviously to benefit from. One also wondered what part the District Assembly plays in the implementation of road contracts within the Assembly’s area of responsibility. In all this, it was remarkable to observe that this part of the country has vast rock outcrops, hard laterite ground and stones literally strewn everywhere which the District Assembly could explore for road construction.  We are yet to ascertain exactly how many quarries there are currently in the region.

Looking back at it all, one could say that there is need to emphasize the inclusion and empowerment of local authorities, district assemblies and their people in contributing to projects that are meant for their benefit. 

Credit: Human Security Research Centre, Ghana.

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