Abiba was born in Gbandu. Her father was once the chief of Gbandu, making Abiba a princess! She got married in Gbandu and has been living there all her life. She has given birth to 7 children, two boys and five girls; two of which passed away when they were young. Alongside running the water business, Abiba farms groundnuts and millet.
She has been running the water treatment business with Mariama since it was implemented in June of 2012. “I remember the morning the Field Reps came to visit Gbandu for the first time,” Abiba recollects, “they informed us of an opportunity that would provide the entire community clean drinking water. I was so happy that the village elders chose me to be one of the entrepreneurs.”
Gbandu now has piped water but Abiba says, despite that, she still make sales! “Depending on the season the taps can be off for weeks.” As this can happen frequently throughout the year, Mariama and Abiba continue to treat water to ensure the community has a source of clean drinking water. “Whenever there is clean water at the center, we make a community announcement to let everyone know.”
The metal polytank stand CWS entrepreneurs are now using in a number of communities. The stand allows for the water treatment centers to be moved to different water sources.
Back in June, I wrote a blog post about metal polytank stands and how CWS was going to test them in communities that use multiple water sources. You can read that post here.
Since then, CWS has distributed metal polytank stands to 10 different communities: Gbandu, Jarayili, Kabache/Kasawuripe, Kindeng, Kpalbusi, Kpalbusi, Libi, Tacpuli, Tindan II and Tunga. These are villages that CWS targeted because of the challenges the entrepreneurs were facing in keeping their water businesses open year round. Most of the CWS water businesses are set up next to dugouts where community members already go to get their water. Center implementation next to the dugout is ideal because when women fetch water for household use, they can buy clean drinking water from the centers without disrupting their daily routines.
Women fetch water from a typical dugout in Kadula.
But what happens when people go somewhere closer to fetch water? Well the entrepreneurs who sell water (usually) lose business. The community members living in these CWS villages are practical people with busy schedules. If the village women can save time by fetching water somewhere closer to home, they are going to make the switch and avoid the extra trek to buy clean water.
The CWS field staff observed this in a number of communities. In the transition from the dry season to the rainy season and vice versa, the level of the water sources can drastically fluctuate. In the Northern Region villages, the rains determine how much water is available. New dugouts form for short periods of time, a river can become more accessible or even hand dug wells are used to collect rainwater. With the low-tech nature of the CWS model, the women can move the location of their water businesses as long as there is water to treat.
Children pose by a hand dug well in Kabache/Kasawuripe, where the entrepreneurs decided to move their center to treat water.
With the help of a welder, CWS created the metal polytank stand and modified the CWS model to the changing of seasons and water levels. Some of the water businesses easily adapted to the metal polytank stands. For example, in Kpanayili, Affilua, Anatu, Fati and Zilifau used their metal polytank stand to move the center to a closer dugout that only has water in the rainy season. Their sales drastically increased when they switched water sources. In Tacpuli, Lasinche moved the water business from the dugout to a smaller dugout closer to the community. Kpanayili and Tacpuli have been operating with the new stands just as the CWS field staff envisioned. And the entrepreneurs have reaped the benefits.
The water business owners in Kpanayili from left to right: Zilifau, Affilua, Fati and Anatu.
The smaller dugout in Tacpuli.
The entrepreneurs have lower sales during the rainy season because community members have the option to collect free, clean rainwater instead of buying water from the centers. In Libi and Kpalbusi, the rains delayed their transition to using the metal polytank stands. In Libi, the water business entrepreneur, Cheriba, banked on her community collecting rainwater in July and August because she was busy on her farm. As a result, the water business was left empty at the river where nobody goes to get water this time of year. The CWS field staff is working with her to bring the center to a closer source, so people will have the option to buy clean water when the rains stop. In Kpalbusi, Huseifa, Zilifau and Maria moved their water business from the dugout to the center of town to treat rainwater. The problem was they were not receiving enough rain to treat. Their center was empty all of July. As of the beginning of August, the entrepreneurs have moved the business to a nearby stream where they will be able to keep the center up and running until the dry season.
An example of how water levels can change in the Northern Region. Here is a road flooded by a stream in Tamale after a heavy rain.
With the drastic change in water levels throughout the year, the CWS entrepreneurs have to alter the way they do business. This could mean treating rainwater, dealing with the change in sales from the dry season peaks to the rainy season lows, or even moving location. In the past, CWS has found that it can take a year of dealing with these challenges for the entrepreneurs to become familiar with the way their individual businesses operate. The metal polytank stands are going to be added to this equation of business operations. The entrepreneurs are going to have to ask themselves: When should we move the centers? Where are people going to fetch water? What location will bring in the highest sales? Who can I find to help us move the centers? This will take some getting used to. But the metal polytank stands should help in keeping these businesses open year round, which is the end goal after all.
While it may be summer where you are, in Tamale, the rainy season is in full swing. There are two seasons in Ghana – the rainy season and the dry season. So the terms “winter, spring, summer, fall” don’t mean much here. The rainy season usually lasts from June until October and August is the month when the rainy season is in full force. This year Tamale is not getting the rainfall that it normally does in August. It has been raining here about once or twice a week at most in comparison to last year where it rained heavily almost every other day. Rain is crucial for several reasons. Most farmers plant their crops (yams, cassava, groundnuts, corn, rice) at the beginning of the rainy season and rely upon the rain so that their harvest will grow. Irrigation systems are not common among these rural, subsistent farmers. The rainy season is also a nice break from the brutally hot sun that Ghanaians endure for most of the year.
For CWS villages, the rain is very much in line with drinking water. All of the 38 CWS communities rely upon surface water (usually in the form of dugouts) in order for their water treatment centers to function. When it rains, their dugouts fill with water and when it does not rain, this increases their chances of their dugout drying up during the dry season. A dry dugout means no water to treat, which means a closed water treatment center. For example, in Kpachiyili, a village that was implemented in during the winter 2012 fellowship program, they have not been getting much rain. The water level of their dugout is much lower than it usually is this time of year. And their dugout is not the only one. Rain dance anyone?
Many of the CWS villages (but not all) also have households that have at least one tin roof that they use to harvest rainwater. So many of the villages will collect rainwater with their safe storage containers to drink and rainwater with their pots for cooking, cleaning and washing. At this time of year, the rainfall is usually so frequent that people can rely upon this system to harvest drinking water. However, now that it is not raining as often, their 20 L buckets of clean rainwater run out before the next rain comes. In several CWS partnership communities, such as Jerigu, Chani, Nyamaliga, Kpalung, Laligu, Libi, Kagburashe and Kpanayili, the CWS field staff has encountered households that transfer rainwater collected from their pots (that they also use to hold dugout water) into their safe storage containers. This is a big red flag –contamination alert!! And the water samples taken from these containers almost always come back positive for e-coli.
The CWS field staff has been upping the household visits, encouraging people to buy drinking water from the water treatment centers rather than wait for a rain that may or may not come. The households that do this are usually unaware that their water is contaminated. If the rainwater looks clear, then how can it be contaminated? To address this issue head on, CWS field staff, Peter, Shak, Wahab and Amin, have proposed starting short, simple educational presentations to hold in classrooms and in village meetings, to promote germ theory awareness in villages where this has become a problem. As of now, we are all praying for rain in Tamale, more updates to come.
After almost a month post-implementation, the new CWS villages (Gbandu, Gariezegu, Djelo, Kpenchila, Jabayili and Yakura) have all hit the ground running for the clean water which they all have access to now! For the first 6 months, the CWS field staff, which includes Peter, Shak, Wahab, Amin and myself will be visiting each of these villages at least once a week. These visits include monitoring the water treatment centers, meeting with the two women that run the centers and performing 6-10 household visits to check that everyone in the village is indeed getting access to the water that is now available. So far the reports have come back and all of these new villages have really embraced the CWS approach. The two women that run the centers have taken ownership of their businesses, adapting the necessary changes needed to make it work for their communities.
The rainy season is a busy time for the majority of these villages because everyone is farming! The rain also creates some unique challenges for some of the villages because of flooding and rainwater harvesting. In Gbandu, Mariama and Abiba decided to have opening days at their centers on Mondays and Thursdays to make life easier for themselves and for their village. In Gariezegu, Selamatu and Adamu discussed moving their center into town during the rainy season because the walk to their dugout floods, making the water treatment center inaccessible. They are currently awaiting confirmation from the chairman of their village to build a new stand.
Fati and Mimatu, the fine ladies that run the center in Jabayili, informed us that their small, neighboring village, Korboniyili, uses the same dugout as them. There are only 10 households in Korboniyili. We are currently working with the women on distributing safe storage containers to the people of this village, so that they too can have the opportunity to buy clean water. In Yakura, Ayi and Awabu have been busy busy farming! They have been so busy that we often don’t catch them unless we get to Yakura early enough. Even during these busy times, they still manage to operate the water treatment center. In fact, they say that sales have not really dropped since it started raining.
Water sales are high in Kpenchila. Adamu otherwise known as “Jahamah”(a nickname given to her because she has had 2 sets of twins) and Zuira told us that since it has not been consistently raining, most people would rather come to buy water than risk waiting for a storm that they cannot be sure will come. Zelia and Fuseina of Djelo have been demanding for more safe storage containers to sell. Many of the households have been buying a second safe storage container so that their families can have 20 L more water stored in their compounds. Their polytank tap was leaking but is now fixed! So far these 6 new CWS villages are looking good– more updates to come soon!
On Monday, our team had our opening day on which we unveiled our newly-built water treatment center to the Village of Gbandu. In the week leading up to opening day our team worked with some of the villagers to build a permanent stand that was accessible to the people of the Village. We had trained two women, Mariama and Abiba, to treat and clean dugout water to make safe drinking water for all the villagers. On Sunday, we had distributed safe-storage containers to every household (the blue buckets you see in so many pictures) and talked to them about the center’s opening the next day.
Our opening day got off to a slow start. Due to another group’s taxi driver being arrested that morning our driver, Husla, and our translator/ project manager, Peter, were running an hour and a half late. Perhaps because we were rushing, perhaps because Husla just wanted dinner, we ran over a Guinea Fowl on the road to our village. In the name of mercy (which Kelsey still contests), Husla and Peter grabbed Mark’s knife, jumped out of the car, and ran back to kill the Guinea Fowl. By the time Peter and Hulsa got back to the car, both Moriah and Kelsey were screaming at the top of their lungs—Kelsey about the immorality of roadkill, Moriah because she has a deathly fear of birds and did not want a dead one sitting on her lap. The rest of the ride our team debated about the rights of animals vs. children when it comes to being hit by a car.
The animal deaths that day did not end there— our team decided it was a good idea to bring a goat as a gift to the village and commemorate the opening of our water treatment center. In Ghana, though there are hundreds of goats running around, the slaughtering and eating of goats are very rare. Villages will do it only once or twice a year. Watching the villagers prepare the meal was a unique experience. Everyone on our team was affected by the sad noises the goat was making as he was tethered to a tree. He sort of sounded like a waling child to be honest. When they went to kill the animal Mark insists the goat sounded like he was screaming for help. We could choose to think of the experience as horrifying, but for those of us who are not vegetarians we found it was important to see exactly where our meals come from. Also the event was such a treat for the villagers, it is almost hard to feel bad for the death of the goat.
The Ghanaians have some incredibly interesting techniques that make the most of the meat they are preparing. We looked over once and it seemed as though a villager was sucking the blood out of the goat’s leg, but he was actually blowing the goat up through an artery. By doing this, the meat of the goat would separate from the skin and could properly be prepared. When they finished cooking the meat they separated it into three portions, one very small portion was for our team, one was for the men, and one was for the women. The men had a feeding frenzy where the man holding the bowl was jumped on and the meat scattered everywhere. The women were more diplomatic in their distribution- Mariama and Abiba were in charge of handing out portions. Mark and Moriah took small pieces and gave the big ones to our translator and drivers.
All in all the day was a huge success. Children seemed to pop up out of nowhere and clung to the closest Salaminga (white person) and we danced and laughed all morning. The women were thrilled, the kids were entertained and the men…well the men were stoic. There was some live music, we listened to drums (Mark tried but he couldn’t seem to find the beat) and everyone was dancing. We ended up filling 24 buckets of water one for every household in the village! Seeing the women walking back to the village with their baby blue CWS buckets on their heads is an image none of us will forget.
Soon after, everyone seemed to get the memo saying it was Market time and the crowd cleared out. We cleaned up a bit, bid farewell to our women and headed home. We ended up stopping at Swad for a celebratory meal. Nothing says congratulations on opening a water treatment center like some authentic Chicken Curry! We went with another team and it was great to just sit back and bask in the pride we all shared for our villages.
Following every team’s opening we rented a bus and drove four hours south to some waterfalls. It was really fun to finally be able to sit back, relax, and actually try to soak up some sun. The scenery was gorgeous! Yesterday we worked hard to monitor the households in our village, and found that many households understood the concept of keeping their buckets and cups clean. There are others that we have found still need a little work. We had a problem today with our stand, Mariama and Abiba had filled the Polytank without the water completing it’s twenty-four hour Alum process. The result was turbid water in the Polytank. Discovering this was frustrating, but it is exactly why we have a week here after opening day to look after our village. Now we will be able to tell households that need work certain things they can do to keep up cleanliness, and we can insure that the women know exactly what they are doing when they treat the water.
Over all Team Six has been having a wonderful experience together and cannot wait to get back to Gbandu tomorrow!!