Dedicated to a cause

  • Many villages in Ghana have very poor infrastructure. Help is needed from local governments and non-governmental organizations to come up with innovative cost- effective solutions
    Many villages in Ghana have very poor infrastructure. Help is needed from local governments and non-governmental organizations to come up with innovative cost- effective solutions
  • Lynda (3rd from right) with the team
    Lynda (3rd from right) with the team

che colleague in Basel sets up NGO to work on sanitation solution project in Ghana.

Over 13 years with Roche, Lynda Barton has worked in different roles across five different departments ranging from New Medicines Strategy, Research Communications, Informatics, and Portfolio Management and is currently with the Group Risk Advisory team in Basel. But in many ways her life is defined as much by the work she does at Roche as she does outside of it. Along with experts in Europe and Africa, she has set up Sanitation Solutions, a not-for-profit organization that aims to improve sanitation in the developing world and plans to initiate a pilot project in Ghana very soon.

Her connection with Ghana and the motivation behind setting up Sanitation Solutions goes back to 2011 when Lynda went there during an eight-month leave without pay from Roche to work there as a volunteer on a healthcare access project. “When I arrived in Ghana in March 2011, I was appalled by the smell from open sewers everywhere in Accra and people defecating anywhere they could because of a lack of access to public toilets and the unaffordability of household toilets,” she says.

So in June 2012, Sanitation Solutions was registered in Ghana with the involvement of eight volunteers, including experts such as Prof. Jörn Germer from Hohenheim University in Stuttgart, Germany, and other sanitation experts from grassroots programs such as the Millennium Villages Project in Ghana. “The NGO hopes to work with communities in rural Ghana to help them design and implement a business model for sustainable sanitation. In some communities, this will involve building household waterless compost toilets and a processing facility to use compost from the households and agricultural waste and to convert it to fertilizer for use in cocoa and palm oil plantations,” Lynda explains.

Working on the pilot site

A pilot site has been selected at a place called Aboaboso near Kumasi and fund raising efforts are now underway to get the project off the ground. There are challenges that Sanitation Solutions needs to face in its implementation, though.

And money is not the only factor! “We need to demonstrate the benefit of improved sanitation on health. We need to convince local governments to further support the initiative through opportunity cost benefits back to the communities.”

With this as a backdrop, a “Meeting of the Minds” was held in Ghana last year, with Lynda’s colleagues, local government officials as well as ­local businesses. “There are many organizations trying to address sanitation issues, but very few are ever successful, and we wanted to bring together experts from the area to understand why. We are also trying to work with Live and Learn, an NGO that has successfully implemented this business model in the Asia–Pacific region,” Lynda mentions.

As a next step, her NGO is looking for 50,000 euros to cover the implementation of the pilote site. This amount will only cover the community costs to build the household and public compost toilets and a process facility.

The Sanitation Solutions team plans to run a campaign soon to "crowdfund" needed donations via the internet.

Lynda works 80 percent in order to have more time to dedicate to Sanitation Solutions. “There will never be enough time to do everything. I hope that someday through a partnership with a large company we will be able to hire local full-time staff to work as consultants and spread this approach across the developing world.”

Facts and Figures

  • Capital: Accra
  • Population: approximately 25.5 million
  • Life expectancy: men 64 years; women 66 years
  • Currency: cedi
  • Area: 238,533 sq. km, second largest producer of cocoa in the world Africa’s biggest gold miner after South Africa
  • Other major exports: timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminum, diamonds, manganese
  • Major languages: English, Akan and Ewe

Tags: Philanthropy, Society