Making a difference: ABANTU Jacob

BY: Rose Mensah-Kutin

There is no more flooding on the path from the main Junction at Baatsona on the Spintex Road to the office premises of  ABANTU for Development. An engineering feat accomplished by Mr Jacob Hodo, the organisation's security officer for the past 12 years, has turned an otherwise yearly environmental hazard and disaster risk into a safe passage way.

Mr Hodo has many skills from which the organisation continually taps into besides his main role and responsibility as security officer; he has special dancing steps for those fun occasions when a mini-party is organised in celebration of a staff’s birthday; his love of flowers is evident from the little space he has adopted as the office garden.

On the professional side, his proverbial commitment to the organisation has earned him the name “ABANTU Jacob” among those who have known him through their own association with the organisation.  

He is friendly and jovial yet serious, extremely tough and alert as any security officer should be. Jacob is also a carpenter who sometimes does minor repairs for the organisation.

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For some six years, every rainy season leads to flooding on the path to the office. Staff become anxious while organisational partners who used to regularly visit the office started restricting themselves to telephone calls and email messages. Indeed, the story had gone round in civil society circles that there was a ‘River ABANTU' which could only be crossed with a canoe! 

There had been individual and collective efforts to solve the flooding situation. Staff came up with the idea of arranging cement blocks on one side of the flooding. This became a pathway on which one could walk on from one end to the other. 

However, on many occasions, persons walking on the blocks missed their step and slipped into the flooding waters. 

Such encounters were not hilarious because some victims actually have the scars of bruises sustained on some occasions to testify about the horrors experienced on the flooded pathway in those years.  

In addition to the block pathway, others came up with the idea of acquiring wellington boots for crossing the flooded path.  The situation soon worsened, making it impossible to use the block pathway or the wellington boots.

Incidentally, other institutions shared the flooded space with us but we could not work together to solve the problem. Rather, each of the institutions found a way to fill their portion of the flooding area. Since we are located at the end portion of the space, it meant that we were always the worst affected. 

We now decided to seek for help outside. Our partners were frightened by the scale of the flooding and decided it was going to be too expensive to tackle. We now turned to a number of institutions. Each of them attempted to help. 

One institution assessed the situation but the solution was going to prove too complicated and expensive. Another institution tried draining; it was obvious that the ‘river' was far deeper than their equipment could handle.  

We also decided to follow the example of others by filling up our portion of the path. This exercise turned out to be extremely useful and cost-effective. 

What remained a problem was that because all the spaces were filled up, the flooding waters always struggled to find space to fill up; the obvious choice was the gutters and compound of the organisation. 

After each heavy downpour, it took about three days for the flooded gutters and compound to dry up. This meant our best friends became the mosquitoes and crawling insects!   

We never gave up. About three years ago, one plumber came up with a plan which seemed interesting but costly so we abandoned the idea.   

This year, we looked at the plan again and wondered if we should not call the plumber for a discussion. Around the same time, “ABANTU Jacob” came up with a plan. He explained the concept, shared it and received approval to execute it. The cost involved was a third of what had been submitted three years ago!!

"ABANTU Jacob did it!!!

Today when it rains, it is just a beautiful sight ….. the water runs underneath a dugout which hides below a wooden structure that looks more like a  chop box than a reservoir! 

The 'river' is no more!!  Thanks to ‘ABANTU Jacob’ the security officer, the dancer, carpenter, landscape artist and now the hydrologist and engineer.

You are the best, Jacob!!