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Researchers from Roskilde University develop better wastewater solutions in Ghana

Over the next three years, three researchers from Roskilde University will investigate how to ensure sustainable wastewater systems in Ghana. The Danida-supported project will investigate how the various private and public actors can collaborate to achieve the best possible solutions.
SWASH spildevandsprojekt i Ghana

Paul Stacey, Jacob Rasmussen (both associate professors) and Nina Torm (postdoc) from the Department of Social Sciences and Business at Roskilde University have received funding from Danida for a three-year project intended to improve wastewater systems in Ghana.

As part of the SWASH project (Sustainable Wastewater Systems for Ghana), the researchers will carry out fieldwork in the rapidly growing coastal city of Tema to investigate how the stakeholders in the wastewater sector collaborate together. The focus is particularly on the informal and non-linear processes when private and public bodies have to work together to develop a complex field.

"The overall objective is to ensure residents have access to sustainable wastewater systems in Tema. The lessons we learn there can then be applied in other cities in Ghana," explains Paul Stacey.

The SWASH project was formally launched in October with a workshop at the University and Ghana, Legon, where the Danish researchers presented the project together with their Ghanaian counterparts. The team is currently mapping relevant stakeholders to guide the initial phase of qualitative data collection.

"The SWASH researchers all have different and interdisciplinary tasks, but will work closely together throughout the project – from data collection to analysis and publication. Specifically for RUC, Paul and Jacob will focus mainly on the politics, governance, and social dimensions of wastewater, and Nina will focus mainly on challenges and opportunities related to creating different kinds of partnerships both within Ghana and between Ghana and Denmark," says Paul Stacey.

Everyone must be consulted before solutions become viable

According to the researchers, it is crucial to examine how the informal and non-linear processes between public and private actors influence the development of wastewater solutions. The SWASH project aims to turn the one-size-fits-all mentality on its head and focus instead on the importance of informal processes and frameworks to better adapt to actual socio-political realities.

"Policy is often ambitious but unrealistic as it fails to consider the changing power relations between specific actors. Central and decentralized authorities and the local users must all be on the same page in order to achieve sustainable solutions. That this is often not the case means that development planning, reforms, laws, regulations, and policy are renegotiated, ignored, informalized, or politicized to suit other logics and rationales," says Paul Stacey.

The SWASH project

SWASH (Sustainable Wastewater Systems for Ghana)
  • The project runs from October 2022 to September 2025.
  • SWASH is funded by Danida with a grant of DKK 5 million.
  • The researchers from Roskilde University are collaborating with researchers from the University of Ghana and the University of Miami, as well as partners at the Tema Metropolitan Assembly, Ghana Water Company Ltd. and Aarhus Municipality