I’ve really enjoyed being able to take and post so many pictures of Ghana looking beautiful. It is a beautiful place. So it’s a shame about places like this. This is close to where I live and work during the week.

A rubbish dump, with children and cows amongst the waste.

Crap. A whole pile of crap. With a cow topping. Children defecate here, then the cows come along once in a while and eat. And there are chickens, goats and dogs. It’s a smörgåsbord of smeg. It’s opposite a school. When the children don’t have usable latrines, they head to the top of the tip and do their business there.

Just out of the picture to the right is a skip. It’s always full. Recently it seems that the local authority haven’t even bothered to empty the skip. Once in a while someone sets fire to the lot, but the top just gets burnt off, the pile remains, and soon enough people start adding to it with more rubbish. We’ve seen sanitation inspectors looking at the place; it remains to be seen what the local authority will do about it.

I’m told that not so long ago there were no plastic bags in Ghana – plastic bags are even now called paper bags because paper bags are what were used for so long. Now, though, plastic bags are used as containers for drinking water and food as well as shopping. Practically all of that rubbish is plastic bags – not breaking down, but getting crushed into the road and eaten by cattle.

A major component of any sanitation action plan we discuss with rural communities usually involves dealing with their rubbish – rubbish gets dumped in villages behind houses and latrines. And where there’s a small pile of rubbish, eventually there will be a massive pile – because people take the sight of rubbish as giving them permission to add more of their own, not deal with what’s there. And where the rubbish piles up, animals and people defecate, puddles form and mosquitoes breed. So we discuss moving dumps further away from the village, fencing areas off, forcing people to use the correct site and not allow the dump to creep ever closer to the community. If pits are dug for refuse and covered with topsoil when full, that land may even be reclaimed for farming. But if communities don’t respond, local authority inspectors can impose fines.

When sanitation action plans work and the rubbish stays where it should, the appearance of a village can be transformed, and people take pride in the appearance of the place they live. It may seem absurd if you haven’t seen it that people sweep the earth surrounding their homes, but they do. I’m constantly apologising for messing up people’s earth.