Two leadership programs down and two weeks of monitoring under the belt – wow, life in Tamale is different when there aren’t 60 salamingas running around town. As I settle into this new lifestyle, I am starting to reflect on the differences of being a Field Rep and working as a staff member in Ghana.
As a field rep, my mind was set on the end goal of beginning a water treatment business in Sagbarigu. There were definitely problems along the way, but we were able to find quick and easy solutions to each problem we faced. We left in June 2014 confident that the skill sets we gave the women entrepreneurs were enough to keep the business running.
Now I am back two years later as a full-time staff member. Yes, Sagbarigu’s water treatment business is still running well. But, I have already learned in my short time here that there are many gray areas to the success of these businesses. It’s not just about the incredible team that implemented these businesses. It’s also about the incredible staff members that work hard to monitor in these communities. Every day, we visit 3 communities to check on the center, sales, successes and challenges of the water and solar businesses. I am learning quickly that each business has its unique challenges that I could not have imagined as a field rep. As I sit in the solar center of Chandanyili with Wahab and the 4 women entrepreneurs talking about money management, I can see a concrete difference in the way I solved problems as a field rep and the way I solve problems now.
Instead of wondering, what can be done right now to solve this problem, I ask myself: What is better for the sustainability of this project? Should we use the easy solution to get the center back up and running now? Or talk with the women, encourage them to hold a community meeting, and let us know their final decision on sales? Do we lead these business owners towards the answer we want to hear or do we let them find solutions to their problems that best fit their community? Will their answer end up being the same as ours?
I may not know the answers to all of these questions now, as they are sure to be different with each unique situation, but I have learned so much already from Eric, Wahab, Amin, Peter and Shak. Eda and I continue to be thankful for their patience, willingness to answer any [silly] question, and the constant laughter (usually relating to our most recent marriage proposals). We’re excited to see what this year has in store for us!
Gidanturu, Yepalsi, Naha, Moya, Kpalguni II, Yepala, Sakpalua, Namdu II, Warvi, Galinkpegu, Kpachiyili, Tunga, Tohinaayili, Bamvim, Balomposo, and Chani all had high sales at their water businesses during April. Polytank taps were fixed in Kasulyili, Changyili and Kideng, so the centers are now up and running!
Eighty-two percent of households had clean water in their safe storage containers this month, which we’re quite proud of given how dry this time of year is.
Chandanyili had high sales at their solar business, and with some saving the entrepreneurs will be set to buy new batteries once the old ones wear.
The biggest challenge in April is dry dugouts. Many communities have to travel further to get water during this month, so encouraging the entrepreneurs to keep the water centers going is important!
Kasuyili’s water center closed this month, but Wahab sat with the chief and elders and discussed the problems. It was agreed that changing the women running the center would help get the business working again. Wahab will be checking on them in the following weeks.
Yesterday was opening day for CWS’s new water treatment center in Chandanyili. Several Fulani women (a nomadic group from Mali and Nigeria) were the first to arrive at the center near the dugout. The two entrepreneurs, Abiba and Zaharawu, were excited to begin filling safe storage containers and began right away. At first, only ten or so households arrived, but before we knew it, a large crowd formed near the Polytank, all ready to fill their buckets with safe, clean drinking water. Bimala helped several women clean their safe storage containers with soap and clean water from the Polytank before filling up, while Rachael and Anna helped record the number of customers at the center, and Jenna and Wahab distributed the last few safe storage containers on the list. Since some of the Fulani women don’t speak Dagbani, Jenna and Wahab worked to triple- and quadruple-translate the proper way to use each safe storage container.
Excitement amongst the women grew as the first few safe storage containers were filled with clear, clean water. Several women filled their lids with clean water and passed it around to get a taste. Abiba and Zaharawu quickly got into a rhythm – one would fill safe storage containers while another collected money and helped others lift the buckets to carry on their heads. After three hours of successful clean water distribution, the Polytank was empty and we counted our sales. We filled 64 (of 67) safe storage containers! We can’t wait to check in on each household and see how they like the water next week!