Project Overview

Engineers Without Borders' work is capable of widespread impact in Ghana. We started off based in only a few of the nation's 107 regional districts; learning the out-in-the-field realities and building tools to address them.
We are now scaling up proven, effective approaches to infrastructure development from a small number of districts, to a national level. Specifically, we are institutionalizing evidence-based infrastructure planning at the district, regional and national levels. To ensure we have an enduring impact, EWB is building the capacity of district staff to manage and execute these evidence based decisions, teaching these skills to the Ghanains who are best able to implement them from their positions as managers and field experts.

November 12, 2010

Why Live in an African Village?

Why integrate? Why do development work living with a Ghanaian family in an African village, instead of staying in expatriate hotels and driving a nice new SUV? Such hotels are available and SUVs are the vehicle of choice for NGOs. What is the purpose of living in a location where malaria is rampant and sanitation is well, bad? One EWBer half-jokingly defined integration as getting malaria 20 times and shitting your pants once. (for the record, I have had malaria twice, and my pants are clean.)

For me, there are three good reasons to integrate into Ghanaian society.

1) I love the family I’m staying with, and I’m so glad we’re getting the chance to know each other. The births, deaths, weddings, and everyday family dinners and breakfasts that I am experiencing with them are an exchange of fellowship beyond the practical application of development work.

2) Actually living in Ghana (the same Ghana that Ghanaians live in) gives me a much more accurate and realistic picture of what work needs to be done now. The patient trust-building of shared experience changes the information I receive about what people’s actual motivations are, what they’re actual problems are, and what solutions might work. People answer questions differently when I show up on a bicycle, after just doing laundry with them or their family, than they would if I pulled up in a shiny SUV, fresh from an expatriate hotel.

3) By living in traditional, rural areas, and simultaneously building influence through capital city meetings with senior government officials to communicate those realities, we bridge information across two very separated realities, and are able to enhance Ghana’s leaders own capacity to create effective solutions themselves.

The first reason may be worthwhile justification in on its own. From a practical perspective, the knowledge gained under the second reason is purchased at a great cost to our efficiency. It is really worth it though, when we are able to communicate what we learn to influence large scale changes and improvements in the system.