Adequate human resources (HR) capacity in the water and sanitation sector plays a pivotal role in improving and sustaining access to potable water and improved sanitation. This study highlights the HR capacity and gaps in Ghana's water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. It is based on data collected from five public sector organisations, six non-governmental organisations (NGOs), 14 private sector institutions and 12 training institutions. The results indicate that the proportion of technical HR was high (75%) in water service delivery, while technical personnel in the sanitation sub-sector was low (2%), leading to low sanitation coverage and ineffective sanitation service delivery. The female proportion ranged from 16 to 44% (average of 22%). There was a shortage of technical personnel in the public WASH sector due to unattractive working conditions, attrition and lack of qualified graduates to fill vacant positions. Average annual graduates' supply from non-technical programmes to the WASH sector is five times more than that from technical programmes. There was a lack of commitment to implement policies on developing adequate HR capacity in the WASH sector due to weak institutional arrangement. There is the need to develop policies on HR career progression and capacity building programmes as well as gender-sensitive recruitment policies for the WASH sector.

Introduction

Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the year 2000, the international community has committed itself to reducing poverty, improving health, and ensuring environmental sustainability, inter alia (World Bank Group, 2013). The global community has therefore devoted significant resources and energy to achieve the fundamental targets set out by the MDGs by 2015 (United Nations Development Group, 2013). Although significant progress has been made, gaps still remain and greater efforts are required to achieve the necessary results with regard to global poverty and hunger, and child and maternal mortality, inter alia (United Nations, 2012). This has set the stage for the development of the United Nations (UN) Post-2015 Global Development Agenda, which commenced 3 years prior to the MDG deadline of 2015 (Okeke & Nwali, 2013). Poverty reduction in particular is a key priority among the MDGs, as indicated by its foremost position among them, and also features greatly in the proposals for the UN Post-2015 Global Development Agenda (Loewe, 2012; Benson, 2013; Higgins, 2013; United Nations, 2013). Available literature (Nicol, 1999; United Nations Development Programme/Stockholm Environment Institute (UNDP/SEI), 2006) indicates that access to potable water and basic sanitation is intricately linked, in one way or another, to all efforts aimed at reducing poverty. As a result, improving access to potable water and safe sanitation requires urgent attention if efforts to reduce poverty are to succeed.

Recent statistics from the World Health Organization/United Nations Children's Fund (WHO/UNICEF, 2012) indicated that over 780 million people still lack access to potable water and 2.5 billion (109) people lack improved sanitation. The current situation in Africa is even more disturbing. More than 40% of the people without access to safe drinking water in the world are in Africa, while sanitation coverage is just about 30% of the total population (MDG Report, 2013). Worse still, there are indications of possible reversals in drinking water coverage in the continent as expressed by the MDG Report (2012). Particularly, sub-Saharan Africa is reported to have the lowest drinking water coverage of 61% and sanitation coverage of 30% relative to other sub-regions (WHO/UNICEF, 2012).

In Ghana, much progress has been made in achieving the MDG targets on drinking water, while sanitation coverage still remains very low. Even though the drinking water coverage of 82% in 2008 exceeded the national MDG target of 77%, the current sanitation coverage of 14% lags far behind the national MDG target of 54% (Addai et al., 2009; WHO/UNICEF, 2010, 2012). The sanitation coverage has increased by only 7% over the last two decades (WHO/UNICEF, 2012). At this pace, WaterAid (2010) asserts that it will take over a century for Ghana to achieve its MDG sanitation target. A study in five African countries by the Department for International Development/International Water Association (DFID/IWA, 2011) shows the need to assess the human resources (HR) capacity requirements for meeting the water and sanitation MDG.

While the cost of achieving the MDG target on potable water and basic sanitation is known, there is a dearth of information regarding the HR capacity requirements to achieve the set targets. According to The Ghana Compact (2010), it is estimated that a total of GH¢2.4 billion (US$ 1.6 billion (109)) is required to meet the MDG targets for water and sanitation in Ghana. Apart from the financial requirements, Cavill & Saywell (2009) argue that there is an urgent need for the right number of people with the requisite skills to provide these essential services. It is therefore imperative to assess the constraints to achieving the requisite improvements in water and sanitation services in terms of staff strength, distribution by work type, qualifications and practical experience in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. This will play a pivotal role in developing suitable programmes aimed at enhancing the capacity of the existing and future workforce needed to achieve and sustain improved water and sanitation services as required by Target 7c of MDG 7 and the proposed Post-2015 Development Agenda.

To address the HR shortage and skills' gaps to meet the MDG water and sanitation targets, a number of studies have been conducted in Africa (DFID/IWA, 2013c). This paper presents a study undertaken in Ghana to assess the existing HR capacity and skills' gaps and shortage; to assess the training and career development needs of HR in the WASH sector; and to examine the strategies for HR attraction and retention in the sector. It is intended to provide a point of departure for determining the HR capacity needs for improving and sustaining WASH services. This would contribute immensely to the development of appropriate capacity building programmes and the necessary policies for HR capacity building in the WASH sector.

Institutional framework for Ghana's WASH sector

Ghana's WASH sector has a well-organised institutional framework that indicates how the sector institutions are related to one another from policy formulation and implementation to service delivery. This framework (Figure 1) categorises the sector institutions into three levels, namely: policy and planning at government ministries level; facilitation and regulation at the decentralised agencies and departments level; and local service delivery at the local government and community levels. There are a number of development partners who provide both financial and technical support for the sector. Institutions under policy and planning are responsible for policy formulation, resource allocation and monitoring and evaluation, while those under facilitation and regulation are mandated to ensure that the provision of WASH services by the institutions under local service delivery is in line with the national policies and standards. The institutions under all these categories, except local service delivery, are mainly public sector institutions. Privately owned companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are more involved in local service delivery, particularly in rural and urban sanitation as well as rural water supply. A number of training and research institutions are also involved in research and capacity building in the sector. Formulation of policy to guide the operations of institutions in the water sub-sector is the responsibility of the Water Directorate, under the Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing (MWRWH). Regulation and management of the sustainable utilisation of water resources are the responsibility of the Water Resources Commission (WRC). Urban water supply services in Ghana are the sole responsibility of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), a public utility company that is regulated by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission, in terms of setting water tariffs for consumers. GWCL has the legal mandate to provide potable water in urban centres and does so through operation of about 86 water supply systems in all 10 regions of Ghana.

Fig 1.

Institutional context for Ghana's WASH sector1.

Fig 1.

Institutional context for Ghana's WASH sector1.

The Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) is the key institution legally mandated to facilitate the provision of safe drinking water and related sanitation services to rural communities and small towns in Ghana. Rural communities obtain water mainly through hand-dug wells and boreholes fitted with hand pumps, while small towns do so through piped systems using mechanised boreholes or surface water abstraction. A number of these systems are managed either by the communities or by private companies. The MWRWH coordinates the activities of the WRC, CWSA and GWCL.

Formulation and revision of the National Environmental Sanitation policy are the responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST), while service delivery and implementation of polices are executed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Local Government Service (LGS) and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs). The MMDAs have Environmental Health and Sanitation Departments/Units responsible for enforcement of environmental legislation, and public education on sanitation, inter alia. In areas where wastewater treatment plants and landfill sites are available, MMDAs are in charge of operation of the wastewater treatment plants but the collection of faecal sludge and solid waste is mostly undertaken by private companies.

Methodology

Based on the institutional framework for the WASH sector, key institutions were purposively selected across all the sub-sectors. These comprised five public sector organisations, six NGOs, 14 private sector institutions and 12 training institutions (Table 1). Data on the public sector organisations represent the total number of personnel nationwide but that of the private sector and NGOs represents their respective coverage areas. Table 1 shows the sampled organisations, which have been categorised into public sector organisations, private organisations, and NGOs.

Table 1.

Sampled organisations involved in WASH for the study.

Category Organisations/agencies Total number sampled 
Public sector Water Directorate (MWRWH) All staff data 
CWSA All staff data 
GWCL All staff data 
Environmental Health and Sanitation (MMDAs) All staff from 216 MMDAs 
WRC All staff data 
NGOs International NGOs 
Ghanaian NGOs 
Private sector Consulting firms 
Contractors 
Water service operators 
Sanitation service operators 
Category Organisations/agencies Total number sampled 
Public sector Water Directorate (MWRWH) All staff data 
CWSA All staff data 
GWCL All staff data 
Environmental Health and Sanitation (MMDAs) All staff from 216 MMDAs 
WRC All staff data 
NGOs International NGOs 
Ghanaian NGOs 
Private sector Consulting firms 
Contractors 
Water service operators 
Sanitation service operators 

The HR data from the public institutions sampled cover all staff across the country. However, samples of private organisations and the NGOs were selected from the Northern, Ashanti and Greater Accra Regions of Ghana where a significant proportion is known to operate (Figure 2). Additionally, graduate supply records from training institutions were collected and analysed.

Fig. 2.

Location map of most study organisations.

Fig. 2.

Location map of most study organisations.

Primary data regarding HR capacity in the various institutions were collected through administration of structured questionnaires, which captured information on staff strength, gender distribution, job categories, attraction and retention strategies, and existing shortage and skills' gaps. Moreover, key informant interviews, stakeholder workshops and focus group discussions on HR issues in the sector were conducted to obtain further information on the subject matter. Depending on the various job designations of employees in the sector, the personnel were grouped into four main categories according to DFID/IWA (2013c). These four categories are defined as follows:

  • Technical personnel refers to persons professionally engaged in technical jobs specifically related to the provision of water and sanitation facilities or infrastructure (e.g. civil/environmental engineers).

  • Other technical personnel refers to persons professionally engaged in technical jobs that are required in the planning, design and operation of water and sanitation facilities or infrastructure, but are not WASH sector-specific (e.g. hydro-geologists, mechanical/electrical engineers, environmental scientists, chemists, physicists, etc.).

  • Administration and finance personnel refers to persons professionally engaged in the day-to-day administration and management of funds (e.g. coordinating directors, budget and finance officers, planning officers, HR, etc.). This category also includes persons who procure goods and services.

  • Social development personnel refers to persons qualified or professionally engaged in hygiene promotion or other relevant water, sanitation and health professions in the social sciences (e.g. health promotion specialists, sociologists, community development workers, etc.).

The study was, however, not without constraints. The lack of a readily available database on HR capacity issues in the various organisations presented an arduous task for representatives of some organisations who consented to provide information. For some, this was their first time for compiling such information. The study, however, employed some techniques, such as triangulation of the data provided, to reduce the effects of these constraints.

Results and discussion

The results obtained from the study are presented and discussed under this section. It presents findings on the characteristics of the existing HR in the WASH sector vis-à-vis the distribution of personnel per job categories, gender distribution and the allocation of personnel among the public, NGO and private sub-sectors. Additionally, it discusses HR supply from various training institutions for the WASH sector; the contribution of funded projects to capacity building in the sector; the existing shortage and skills' gaps in the sector; and finally it reviews existing policies on HR and the implications of this study on HR capacity development.

Existing HR and gender distribution in the WASH sector

Table 2 shows the gender-disaggregated data for study organisations that provided such information. The public WASH sector institutions have a very low female proportion (ranging between 16 and 44%). The urban water supply utility had the lowest female proportion (16%) while the WRC had the highest female proportion (44%). The situation is not entirely different from the private sector and the NGOs, which had an average female proportion of 20%. It was observed that females in the sector were mostly in the administration and finance, and social development job categories. This is in consonance with findings by Agyare-Kwabi (2013) who found a relatively high proportion of females (49%) at the Environmental Health and Sanitation Departments as health inspectors, as compared to the Municipal and District Environmental Health Inspectorate (7%) where decisions are mostly taken.

Table 2.

Gender-disaggregated data for the study organisations.

Type of organisation Organisation Total employees Female proportion (%) 
Public sector Water Directorate 17 
CWSA 216 21 
GWCL 2,911 16 
WRC 32 44 
NGOs Local NGO 1 12 17 
Local NGO 2 44 
Local NGO 3 15 13 
International NGO 23 30 
Private sector Consulting Firm1 13 15 
Consulting Firm 2 11 
Consulting Firm 3 15 13 
Type of organisation Organisation Total employees Female proportion (%) 
Public sector Water Directorate 17 
CWSA 216 21 
GWCL 2,911 16 
WRC 32 44 
NGOs Local NGO 1 12 17 
Local NGO 2 44 
Local NGO 3 15 13 
International NGO 23 30 
Private sector Consulting Firm1 13 15 
Consulting Firm 2 11 
Consulting Firm 3 15 13 

The low female proportion in the WASH sector is attributed to the low female participation in technical courses related to water and sanitation. This is perhaps due to negative sociocultural factors that discourage females from pursuing such courses. Generally, female participation in science and engineering-related courses is lower at the pre-tertiary and tertiary levels across the country. Gender-disaggregated data per this study indicated that while the female ratio in the social development programmes, and in the administration and finance programmes ranged between 32 and 91%, that of the technical programmes was between 0 and 20%. Mirroring this finding, Gunawardana et al. (2013) also reported between 13 and 36% female participation in 34 capacity development courses supported by Cap-Net, an international network for capacity development in sustainable water management. Realising the need to ensure gender parity, gender mainstreaming in water and sanitation service delivery has gained much thrust in national and international discussions, debates and forums on water, sanitation and hygiene. The significance of ensuring more participation of women in decision-making processes in the WASH sector has been extensively documented (UN-HABITAT, 2006; Water and Sanitation Program, 2010; Sadhu & Chakravarty, 2012). However, the findings of this study indicate that Ghana's WASH sector is largely male-dominated, even though several national instruments and policies exist to address this issue.

Tables 3 and 4 show the distribution of the existing HR by job categories in the study organisations. In the urban water supply sub-sector (GWCL), a significant proportion of the personnel are technical personnel (44.8%) and other technical personnel (35.1%) due to its scope of operations. Currently, the company is in charge of operation and maintenance of 86 urban water supply systems in Ghana that serve about 11 million people. Personnel distribution with regard to job categories for the WRC is comparable with that of the GWCL. The former also has a greater proportion of their personnel in the technical category (75%) responsible for developing water resource management strategies. However, the same cannot be said about CWSA, which has a greater proportion of personnel in the administration and finance category due to the project management role of the organisation. A relatively lower proportion of its personnel are in the technical and other technical categories providing technical assistance in the construction of WASH facilities. This is attributed to the fact that the agency hires technical personnel temporarily for certain projects to augment the personnel available whenever the need arises. CWSA also has 10.2% of its personnel engaged in hygiene promotion in various rural communities across the country.

Table 3.

Existing personnel per job category for public WASH sector organisations.

WASH sector Institution Staff strength
 
Technical personnel n (%) Other technical personnel n (%) Administration and finance personnel n (%) Social development personnel n (%) Total 
Public sector Water Directorate 5 (83.3)   1 (16.7) 
  CWSA 19 (8.8) 11 (5.1) 164 (75.9) 22 (10.2) 216 
GWCL 1,304 (44.8) 1,022 (35.1) 566 (19.4) 19 (0.7) 2,911 
WRC 24 (75.0) 2 (6.3) 6 (18.8) – 32 
Environmental Health and Sanitation Units in all MMDAs 6 (0.2) 53 (1.7) – 3,063 (98.1) 3,122 
WASH sector Institution Staff strength
 
Technical personnel n (%) Other technical personnel n (%) Administration and finance personnel n (%) Social development personnel n (%) Total 
Public sector Water Directorate 5 (83.3)   1 (16.7) 
  CWSA 19 (8.8) 11 (5.1) 164 (75.9) 22 (10.2) 216 
GWCL 1,304 (44.8) 1,022 (35.1) 566 (19.4) 19 (0.7) 2,911 
WRC 24 (75.0) 2 (6.3) 6 (18.8) – 32 
Environmental Health and Sanitation Units in all MMDAs 6 (0.2) 53 (1.7) – 3,063 (98.1) 3,122 

Source: Field data collected by authors.

Table 4.

Existing personnel per job category for private sector and NGOs.

WASH sector Institution Staff strength
 
Technical personnel n (%) Other technical personnel n (%) Administration and finance personnel n (%) Social development personnel n (%) Total 
Private Sector Contractor 1 43 (59.7) 22 (30.6) 4 (5.6) 3 (4.2) 72 
Contractor 2 2 (14.3) 8 (57.1) 4 (28.6) – 14 
Private Water Operator 5 (55.6) 1 (11.1) 3 (33.3) – 
Consulting Firm 1 2 (15.4) – – 11 (84.6) 13 
Consulting Firm 2 5 (55.6) 2 (22.2) 2 (22.2)  
Consulting Firm 3   3 (23.1) 10 (76.9) 13 
NGOs Local NGO 1 2 (16.7)  4 (33.3) 6 (50.0) 12 
Local NGO 2   3 (25.0) 9 (75.0) 12 
Local NGO 3 1 (6.7)  3 (20.0) 11 (73.3) 15 
International NGO 1 11 (57.9) 2 (10.5) 2 (10.5) 4 (21.1) 19 
International NGO 2   18 (78.3) 5 (21.7) 23 
International NGO 3 2 (20.0)  8 (80.0)  10 
WASH sector Institution Staff strength
 
Technical personnel n (%) Other technical personnel n (%) Administration and finance personnel n (%) Social development personnel n (%) Total 
Private Sector Contractor 1 43 (59.7) 22 (30.6) 4 (5.6) 3 (4.2) 72 
Contractor 2 2 (14.3) 8 (57.1) 4 (28.6) – 14 
Private Water Operator 5 (55.6) 1 (11.1) 3 (33.3) – 
Consulting Firm 1 2 (15.4) – – 11 (84.6) 13 
Consulting Firm 2 5 (55.6) 2 (22.2) 2 (22.2)  
Consulting Firm 3   3 (23.1) 10 (76.9) 13 
NGOs Local NGO 1 2 (16.7)  4 (33.3) 6 (50.0) 12 
Local NGO 2   3 (25.0) 9 (75.0) 12 
Local NGO 3 1 (6.7)  3 (20.0) 11 (73.3) 15 
International NGO 1 11 (57.9) 2 (10.5) 2 (10.5) 4 (21.1) 19 
International NGO 2   18 (78.3) 5 (21.7) 23 
International NGO 3 2 (20.0)  8 (80.0)  10 

Source: Results from field data collected by authors.

The proportion of technical personnel involved in sanitation design, operation, maintenance and management in the MMDAs is low (2%). This could partly account for the low sanitation coverage and poor sanitation service delivery in the country. The Environmental Health and Sanitation Units in the MMDAs are more involved in health education, health promotion and abatement of nuisance. Consequently, a considerably high proportion (98.1%) of their personnel are found in the social development job category.

For the private sector, a good proportion of employees in consulting firms and private water operators, who basically deal with construction of water and sanitation facilities, and operation and maintenance, respectively, are technical personnel. Altogether, technical and other technical personnel make up more than half of the total personnel in these two private sector institutions. But this is not the case in the consulting firms and NGOs, which have a significant proportion of their employees in the administration and finance and in the social development job categories. The distribution of employees in the consulting firms and NGO institutions demonstrates that those involved in community mobilisation have a low proportion of technical personnel, while those involved in design, operation, maintenance and management of water and sanitation facilities have a high proportion of technical personnel.

Estimates based on an average of 16 employees per NGO for a total of 60 NGOs nationwide and 22 employees per private sector organisation for a total of 44 private sector organisations nationwide (Tables 3 and 4) suggest that more than 8,000 skilled personnel are employed in the WASH sector. The estimates of total NGOs and private sector organisations were adopted from statistics provided by the Water and Sanitation Monitoring Platform (2010). Generally, the distribution of the workforce in the WASH sector indicates that more than half of the workforce (77%) is found in the public sector. Comparative analysis of the study results with similar studies conducted in two other sub-Saharan countries (Mali and Burkina Faso) and two Asian countries (Bangladesh and Timor Leste) is presented in Table 5. The analysis indicates wide variations in the total estimated workforce in all study areas. For sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the estimated WASH-related workforce in Burkina Faso is more than twice that of Ghana, while the latter's is more than three times that of Mali. Average female proportions in the Asian countries are generally lower than those recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, in contrast to SSA, which has a predominant proportion of WASH sector employees engaged in the public sector, the Asian countries generally have a larger proportion of their WASH sector employees in the private sector. These results underscore the differences in the distribution of water and sanitation HR from country to country, even within the same sub-region and from one sub-region to the other.

Table 5.

Comparison of study results with other studies.

  Estimated workforce Female proportion, range and Distribution of workforce by sub-sector (%) 
Study location in WASH average (%) Public sector Private sector NGOs 
This study (Ghana) 8,215 16–44 (22) 77 12 11 
Burkina Fasoa 19,751 34–36 (35) 81 11 
Malib 2,600 18–28 (21) 31 59 10 
Bangladeshc 41,000 0–66 (14) 36 47 17 
Timor Lested 643 2–18 (8) 36 35 29 
  Estimated workforce Female proportion, range and Distribution of workforce by sub-sector (%) 
Study location in WASH average (%) Public sector Private sector NGOs 
This study (Ghana) 8,215 16–44 (22) 77 12 11 
Burkina Fasoa 19,751 34–36 (35) 81 11 
Malib 2,600 18–28 (21) 31 59 10 
Bangladeshc 41,000 0–66 (14) 36 47 17 
Timor Lested 643 2–18 (8) 36 35 29 

aAdapted from DFID/IWA (2013b).

bAdapted from DFID/IWA (2013d).

cAdapted from DFID/IWA (2013a).

dAdapted from DFID/IWA (2013e).

Sections 3.2 and 3.3 present the supply of HR from training institutions to the WASH sector, and how the sector job market competes with other sectors.

HR training and supply from training institutions

Table 6 shows the graduate supply in all WASH-related programmes offered in training institutions in Ghana. Nine public universities, 10 public polytechnics and about 45 private tertiary institutions provide training opportunities for potential employees and current employees in the WASH sector. Among these institutions, the public institutions mainly offer technical programmes. For the purpose of this study, the programmes offered by these institutions are categorised according to the four job categories aforementioned.

  • Technical programmes comprise civil engineering, water supply and sanitation, water resources engineering and management, among others.

  • Other technical programmes include mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, biochemistry, environmental science, planning, etc.

  • Administration and finance programmes consist of marketing, business administration, financial management, commerce, etc.

  • Social development programmes comprise social science, community health and development, environmental health and sanitation, geography and rural development, etc.

Table 6.

Graduate supply trend in selected WASH-related programmes.

Personnel category Number of training institutions Number of programmesa Average annual graduate output N (%) 
Technical 220 (7.3) 
Other technical 11 774 (25.9) 
Administration and finance 798 (26.7) 
Social development 13 1,200 (40.1) 
Total 23 33 2,992 (100) 
Personnel category Number of training institutions Number of programmesa Average annual graduate output N (%) 
Technical 220 (7.3) 
Other technical 11 774 (25.9) 
Administration and finance 798 (26.7) 
Social development 13 1,200 (40.1) 
Total 23 33 2,992 (100) 

Source: Results from field data collected by authors.

aProgrammes common to two or more institutions are considered as one and the outputs summed up. Some training institutions offer more than one related programme.

The data presented in this study cover a 5-year period (2008–2012).

The average annual output of higher education graduates for the technical programmes is relatively lower than that for the social development, and the administration and finance programmes (Table 6). This is mainly because the majority of the tertiary institutions across the country offer social development, and administration and finance programmes, which are highly patronised, possibly due to high demand on the labour market. Moreover, the technical programmes are highly competitive but have low labour market demand, which partly accounts for the low enrolment. Essentially, the graduates from the technical programmes are expected to be employed by the CWSA, GWCL and MMDAs as engineers, chemists, technicians, among others. However, with the low graduate output, this is more likely to bring about a shortage of technical personnel in the WASH sector due to the competitive salaries and working conditions in other sectors. In contrast to the findings of this study, Kimwaga et al. (2013) reported that HR supply from training institutions for the water and sanitation sub-sectors in Tanzania is dominated by water and sanitation engineers (technical personnel). This is attributed to educational policy guidelines that direct higher education institutions to train graduates in engineering disciplines (Kimwaga et al., 2013).

A higher-education programme in Water Resources and Environmental Sanitation started in 1998 with the support of the Netherlands government at the Department of Civil Engineering to provide the much-needed research base and capacity building of sector professionals, technicians and policy-makers in the WASH sector. It has successfully established two master-degree programmes: Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation, and Water Resources Engineering and Management. By 2010, these two programmes had trained over 130 professionals.

The training offered at the National Vocational Training Institutes related to water and sanitation, including pipe-fitting, pump repairs, masonry, and carpentry, among others, can equally be acquired through informal training from other artisans who are self-employed. Vocational training certificates are required only in the public sector institutions, which constitute an insignificant proportion of the labour market. For instance, artisans with vocational training are engaged in the urban water supply sub-sector as pipe-fitters for a new household water connection by GWCL, while all the pipe works in households prior to the final connection by GWCL are usually undertaken by private pipe-fitters without certificates. More so, in-house latrine installations in rural and urban areas across the country are generally carried out by informal artisans without formal vocational training certificates. Consequently, with or without vocational training, artisans can still find jobs in the WASH sector, and since the employment opportunities that exist are mostly self-employment opportunities, little attention is focused on vocational training.

To address this issue, formal training and licensing schemes for artisans that incorporate regular training programmes and issuing of renewable licenses should be considered. This would ensure that artisans acquire up-to-date information on current best practices and are formally recognised and monitored within the sector.

WASH sector capacity building projects

In addition to the formal training offered by the academic institutions, a number of externally funded water and sanitation projects have contributed to building the capacity of personnel in the sector through short-term courses, on-the-job training, and coaching, inter alia. The capacity building involves training in project design, construction, operation and maintenance, and comprises mainly short courses with little support for research and postgraduate studies. A selected number of externally funded projects with their specific capacity building aspects are shown in Table 7. Under the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) Community Water and Sanitation Projects, technical employees were trained as part of the capacity building effort for the sector. These employees currently own water and sanitation consulting firms.

Table 7.

WASH sector capacity building projects.

Project name Capacity building aspects 
DANIDA Community Water and Sanitation Projects Offered training to staff of water projects and Water Directorate under the Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing 
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Cost Project Supported postgraduate students in Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation at the Department of Civil Engineering, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) 
The Sustainable Water Management Improves Tomorrow's Cities Health (SWITCH) Trained sector practitioners in planning for Integrated Urban Water Management 
Urban Environmental Sanitation Project (UESP) Training of staff in selected metropolitan Assemblies 
Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW) community water project Trained environmental health officers at the district level in community mobilisation 
The Water Resources and Environmental Sanitation Project (WRESP) Offered postgraduate training to WASH sector professionals in water and environmental sanitation 
Project name Capacity building aspects 
DANIDA Community Water and Sanitation Projects Offered training to staff of water projects and Water Directorate under the Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing 
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Cost Project Supported postgraduate students in Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation at the Department of Civil Engineering, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) 
The Sustainable Water Management Improves Tomorrow's Cities Health (SWITCH) Trained sector practitioners in planning for Integrated Urban Water Management 
Urban Environmental Sanitation Project (UESP) Training of staff in selected metropolitan Assemblies 
Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW) community water project Trained environmental health officers at the district level in community mobilisation 
The Water Resources and Environmental Sanitation Project (WRESP) Offered postgraduate training to WASH sector professionals in water and environmental sanitation 

These externally funded projects train personnel in aspects needed only for project implementation without considering the long-term needs of the beneficiary organisations or the capacity needs of the WASH sector as a whole. Consequently, personnel are trained in a disjointed manner in the sector and within a limited period of time through short courses. Since the projects are over a definite period of time, only short-term capacity needs and challenges are addressed. This characteristic feature is a major drawback in externally funded WASH projects. Essentially, it would be beneficial to the WASH sector as a whole if capacity building projects that form part of WASH projects dovetail into a national WASH capacity building programme that seeks to address the capacity needs of the WASH sector holistically and for the long term. This would ensure that resources are constantly pulled together to train personnel in a harmonised manner considering both the short- and long-term needs of the sector.

Policies to guide capacity development in the sector are thus critical in this regard to ensure that capacity development in the sector is carried out in line with the holistic capacity needs of the WASH sector. The success story of the integrated urban management master's course in Ethiopia, which is founded on strong political support and response to societal needs, as reported by van Dijk et al. (2013), could serve as an inspiration to establish a capacity building programme for Ghana's WASH sector.

HR shortage and skills' gaps

Table 8 shows the shortages in terms of the number of personnel required to fill vacancies. The results showed that CWSA, as at December 2011, had 29 vacant positions, while GWCL had 224 vacant positions in 2012. Moreover, the MMDAs require the services of an additional 40 sanitary engineers, 81 environmental health officers and 706 environmental health assistants. These shortages were the vacant positions to be filled. The determination of the actual number of personnel required to meet the service coverage requirement of the MDG is the next step, which requires further research into the human index or proportion required to serve every 10,000 of the population.

Table 8.

Level of shortage and skills' gaps 2011–2012.

Organisation Shortage Indications of skills' gaps/qualifications 
CWSA (Rural water) 29 Most of the personnel at post have the required qualifications for their job 
GWCL (Urban water supply sub-sector) 224 Most of the personnel at post have the required qualifications for their job, engineering skills' gaps exist 
WRC (Water resources management) 19 All positions have been filled and personnel have the required qualifications to perform their tasks 
MMDAs (Sanitation) 827 MMDAs lack capacity for sanitation service delivery. Engineering skills' gaps exist. There is the need for upgrading of qualifications, especially in the engineering category 
Organisation Shortage Indications of skills' gaps/qualifications 
CWSA (Rural water) 29 Most of the personnel at post have the required qualifications for their job 
GWCL (Urban water supply sub-sector) 224 Most of the personnel at post have the required qualifications for their job, engineering skills' gaps exist 
WRC (Water resources management) 19 All positions have been filled and personnel have the required qualifications to perform their tasks 
MMDAs (Sanitation) 827 MMDAs lack capacity for sanitation service delivery. Engineering skills' gaps exist. There is the need for upgrading of qualifications, especially in the engineering category 

Source: Results from field data collected by authors.

The results from key informant interviews showed that among other factors, the challenges of meeting the HR requirements in the WASH sector are staff attrition, government restriction on employee recruitment, unattractive working conditions in the sector and lack of suitably qualified candidates. There are, however, no indications of shortage or vacant positions in the private sector and the NGOs. Generally, in the WASH sector, strategies to attract and retain employees in the public sector include job security, guaranteed salary, well-defined career progression plan, career advancement opportunities, and opportunities for on-the-job training. However, public sector employees are more likely to be poached than those from the private sector due to the relatively higher remuneration and comparatively better working conditions in the private sector and international NGOs.

There was no shortage for the administration and finance and for the social development categories. There were indications of shortages in the technical category, especially sanitary engineers, since there is no specific training in sanitary engineering. The civil engineers, who could take up jobs as sanitary engineers, find the MMDAs unattractive and end up in other sectors.

The analysis also shows that HR shortages in the sanitation sub-sector were greater than in the water sub-sector. There were shortages of mechanical and electrical engineers in urban water supply, and replacing them was difficult due to the unattractive salary and conditions of service. There was also a shortage of water distribution engineers (civil engineers) due to poor staff succession planning and recruitment to replace ageing engineers. The recruitment rate to replace ageing or retired employees was not synchronous with the rate at which employees retired, resulting in shortages. The study observed that certain positions were vacant and yet replacement was difficult. For instance, mechanical and electrical engineers prefer other sectors to the urban water supply sub-sector due to, among other factors, the unattractive salary and other conditions of service, and civil engineering graduates prefer other positions with competitive working conditions, as compared to sanitary engineering positions in the public sector.

The newly employed staff lack skills for the design, operation and maintenance of sanitation and water supply systems because the graduates with the required skills were not available. In an attempt to address this issue, the GWCL has a training school where newly recruited personnel, junior and senior high school graduates, are trained in the areas of pipe-fitting, water production and treatment. This has contributed to providing a consistent supply of junior-level personnel for the urban water supply sub-sector.

In terms of sanitation, there are three Schools of Hygiene under the Ministry of Health that offer training in general environmental health and sanitation as part of their curriculum. Graduates from these schools are eventually employed as Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) under the MLGRD in the various MMDAs across the country. These EHOs are mainly responsible for hygiene promotion and abatement of nuisance, and thus service delivery and design of sanitation systems do not form a key aspect of their training and hence their daily work. There is, therefore, a huge skills' gap in the design and operation of sanitation systems (wastewater treatment plants). This requires urgent attention to provide personnel with the requisite skills for the design, operation and maintenance of these systems.

Policies on HR capacity development

Improving access to water and sanitation has featured greatly in national policies and plans over the past decades. This is epitomised by its inclusion in a number of national policies developed over the years, viz. Ghana Vision 2020: The First Step (1996–2000), the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS I) (2003–2005), the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II) (2006–2009), and currently the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) (2010–2013). Since 1995, the formulation of national development strategies in Ghana, as well as monitoring, evaluation and coordination of development policies, has been the responsibility of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC). The commission advises the President of the Republic of Ghana on comprehensive development policies and strategies, and ensures that the development policies of all government agencies conform to the national development agenda. For the water and sanitation sector, the Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing (MWRWH) and the MLGRD develop policies regarding water and sanitation respectively. Developments in the sector are thus guided by the National Water Policy (NWP), developed in 2007, and by the Environmental Sanitation Policy (ESP), developed in 1999 and revised in 2010. Both policies recognise HR development as crucial to the effective delivery of water and sanitation services. However, ensuring training and retention of an adequate number of sector professionals is a huge challenge to the sector as identified by the sector policies. The difficulty in attracting and retaining certain professionals was confirmed by the organisational survey conducted through this study.

The NWP, among its objectives, seeks to develop and strengthen HR institutional and operational capacities. It seeks to achieve this objective through a number of actions, which include supporting the development of skills related to the various water management functions at all levels; supporting the review and update of operational guidelines on capacity building to ensure adequate capacities at all levels; and enhancing engagement of private sector and tertiary institutions in the training of relevant water sub-sector practitioners. The policy, however, failed to provide a comprehensive road map for the implementation of the HR capacity building components.

Institutional strengthening and HR capacity development are deemed the foremost priorities for achieving sustainable services as per the revised ESP. It recognises the lack of adequate professional manpower as a huge constraint to the sector's performance. However, unlike the ESP developed in 1999, the revised ESP is reticent on the institution responsible for HR capacity development in the sector. While the former identified the Human Settlements and Environment Division (HSED) under the MLGRD as the unit responsible for planning and assisting HR development for the sector, the latter asserts that ‘in most cases human resources capacity will have to be developed within the institutions to enable them to meet their responsibilities effectively’. Furthermore, in contrast to the NWP, the ESP is accompanied by the National Environmental Sanitation Strategy and Action Plan (NESSAP) and the Strategic Environmental Sanitation Investment Plan (SESIP) to define the implementation strategies and costs of interventions respectively (Government of Ghana, 2011). The strategies for HR capacity development, as outlined in the NESSAP, include revision of scheme of service for personnel; upgrading of Schools of Hygiene to tertiary institutions for training in environmental sanitation and hygiene; and appointment of qualified professional staff. Although the sanitation sub-sector has clearly outlined HR development plans with its associated costs, the sector greatly suffers from a disproportionately low investment as corroborated by the literature (Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC), 2005; The Ghana Compact, 2010). This is due to low priority and the weak institutional arrangement for training of sanitation professionals, exemplified by the situation whereby EHOs are trained by the Ministry of Health, but are employed by the MLGRD.

Despite the absence of a broad national HR development policy and action plan for the water and sanitation sector, all sub-sector institutions have their respective scheme of service that spells out the requirements for career progression within a particular grade (junior, senior, top management), study leave, and approved short- and long-term courses, among others. This, however, does not exhaustively address the capacity development issues that confront the sector due to its limited scope and it has partly contributed to the current predicament of the sector with regard to HR shortages. For example, the personnel in the junior grades (with diploma certificates) find it difficult to get upgraded to senior grades after they have undergone self-funded training to acquire their first degree, which is a requirement for senior grades. This is because the organisations have no policy to implement such upgrading from junior to senior level, even when the junior personnel have undergone self-funded training to acquire their first degree, due to the fact that the wage bill will increase. There is also no policy on succession planning to replace the ageing specialised technical personnel, and workers in junior grades who aspire to be among the senior grades.

There is the need to undertake an institution-specific capacity needs assessment to determine the existing capacity (numbers, qualifications and skills) and the required capacity. The curricula of all existing training institutions producing employees for the WASH sector would need to be reviewed to address the needs of the sector in a demand-driven manner. New tailor-made programmes could be run to train existing personnel in various fields related to the WASH sector. These tailor-made programmes should be demand-driven and not supply-driven. Intervention programmes often have capacity building components aimed at closing the capacity gaps. Such programme-specific attempts end up promoting a supply-driven approach whereby beneficiaries never use the knowledge gained for various reasons when they return to their workplaces. Some employees also participate in the training not because they actually need it but because the training is supplied and there are some financial benefits attached to it.

Policy on gender mainstreaming in Ghana's WASH sector

According to the MDG Report (2013), empowering women is critical in achieving other MDGs and also promotes human development. Particularly in the water and sanitation sub-sectors, the centrality of increased participation of women in decision-making cannot be overemphasised. This is against the background that women always have to bear the brunt of poor water supply and sanitation services (UN-HABITAT, 2006). Realising the need for the promotion of gender parity and women empowerment, the Government of Ghana has shown considerable commitment towards achieving this goal. Gender issues are therefore highlighted in major national development policies and legislation formulated from the 1990s up to the present date, which include the National Gender and Children Policy (2004). In the water and sanitation sector, gender issues are also featured in the NWP, the ESP and the NESSAP.

However, there are still questions about how these policy commitments to promoting gender equality and empowering women can be effectively put into practice. Although both the NWP and the ESP recognise gender mainstreaming as very crucial to the sector, they do not comprehensively outline strategies for addressing such issues but only aver that it is the mandate of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to do so. Meanwhile, the health sector has a dedicated sector policy to address the issue of gender parity and women empowerment in the sector, known as the Health Sector Gender Policy, which was developed in 2009. It is therefore inexcusable for the water and sanitation sector not to have a policy for gender mainstreaming. Despite the fact that the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is legally mandated to formulate gender-specific and child-specific development policies, the issue of gender mainstreaming must be deemed as an all-encompassing responsibility.

There is an urgent need to develop a gender mainstreaming policy and action plan specifically for the water and sanitation sector to address the foregoing issues of gender imbalances. This should promote increased participation of women in decision-making in the sector, commencing with an initial target of about 30% representation of women at all levels and gradually working to achieve a 50% representation, especially in water and sanitation where women and children are mostly affected. Furthermore, female participation in water and sanitation-related courses and eventual employment in the sector should be promoted through the establishment of admission quotas for female students; through financial aid and mentoring programmes for females in science and engineering-related programmes both at the pre-tertiary and tertiary levels; and through development of gender-sensitive employee recruitment policies.

Conclusions

The study points out that Ghana's WASH sector has a good proportion of its technical personnel (75%) employed in the public water supply sub-sector. Specifically, the public urban water utility has the highest proportion of technical expertise in the sector due to the nature of their work: the operation and maintenance of conventional water treatment systems and water distribution. The sanitation sub-sector is, in contrast, dominated by social development personnel with only 2% technical personnel. Similarly, the majority of the employees in the private sector and NGOs are technical and social development personnel. Due to the complexity of water systems and the population served by the urban water utility (GWCL), the urban water supply sub-sector has a disproportionately large number of technical personnel as compared to the rural and small towns' water sub-sector. There is a huge disparity between male and female proportions in the WASH sector, in that females constitute less than a quarter (22%) of the total employees in the sector, based on sampled organisations. There is a relatively low average annual graduate output for technical programmes involving water and sanitation (220) as compared to the social development programmes (1,200). The challenges of meeting the HR requirements in the WASH sector are staff attrition, government restriction on employee recruitment, unattractive working conditions in the sector and lack of suitably qualified candidates. In order to prevent shortages of technical personnel in the future, training of technical personnel for the WASH sector should be a high priority for the sector, particularly the sanitation sub-sector. A strong collaboration between the training institutions and employers is critical in order to provide the requisite manpower for the sector.

Most certainly, if there is any period when a national HR development policy for the WASH sector is needed, it is now, when the government and donor partners have synergistically made a commitment towards increasing investment in the sector through the Ghana Compact. Rather than promoting fragmented HR development projects, there is a need to carry out a comprehensive training needs assessment in the sector in the short term and responsively develop a capacity building action and investment plan that will form the blueprint for systemic long-term staff development in the WASH sector. This should be done in close consultation with development partners in order that their interventions could be tailored to suit the country's short- and long-term needs.

There is a need to develop a gender mainstreaming policy and action plan for the water and sanitation sub-sector, as in the health sector, to address this issue. This should promote female participation in water and sanitation-related courses and eventually employment in the sector through the establishment of admission quotas for female students; through financial aid for females in science-related courses both at the pre-tertiary and tertiary levels; through mentoring programmes for females; and through development of gender-sensitive employee recruitment policies. The results from the study are based on sampled organisations in the WASH sector and therefore cannot be generalised for the whole country.

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the International Water Association (IWA) for their technical support and to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for funding this study. We are also indebted to a host of key informants in Ghana's water and sanitation sector who have made immense contributions to this study.

1

MOFEP – Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning; WMD – Waste Management Department; DWST – District Water and Sanitation Team.

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