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The Seasons They are a-Changin’

CWS Tamale staff wishing this nice truck was ours! Sadly it's just the landlord's...

CWS Tamale staff wishing this nice truck was ours! Sadly it’s just the landlord’s…

First week back in Tamale and Hamatan is in full swing! Hamatan is when a dry-dust wind blows in from the Sahara. This happens from late November until mid-March all over West Africa. This Saharan wind engulfs the city of Tamale every year with a thick orange cloud of dust, leaving us with chilly nights and burning hot days.

Shak tastes the borehole water in Buhijaa

Shak tastes the borehole water in Buhijaa

What does this mean for CWS? Well for the staff it means that we finish our days with an orange dust facemask and dirty feet. For CWS project manager, Peter, it means he comes back from the field with a carrot colored beard. For our 47 communities, the Hamatan wind does not affect water sales per se but the seasonal changing of weather has a big impact on where people get their water.

During Hamatan, it gets drier and drier in and around Tamale. This means that water sources like manmade wells; boreholes and dugouts start to dry up. In many of CWS’ villages, the community water sources change, which creates challenges for the entrepreneurs who run the water businesses. This has several implications. Some women have to close their centers for a few weeks as they transition to treating water from a different source, some have to pay donkeys or motor kings to bring them water to treat and some move their water treatment centers multiple times… All the women are unique in their approach to dealing with seasonal transitions and CWS ensures that they are coming up with a plan that’s right for them.

Fati and Amina aka “Samlenna” or TZ seller are the women who operate the water business in the village of Gbung. When it rains, the women move their center from the dugout to the market in the middle of town and treat collected rainwater. In the Hamatan season,  the people who live in Gbung get their water from a few different places. They get it from a nearby stream and from a closer but smaller dugout that dries up for half the year. No one is collecting household water at the dugout where the polytank initially was built. So for the time being, Fati and Samlenna are paying a motor king to bring them water. The women are working on adjusting the price of water to reflect the increase in water treatment costs. The center is still running despite these seasonal challenges!

Children hanging in Libi

Children hanging in Libi

In nearby Libi, Cheriba and Ramatu closed their center for a month for a number of reasons. In December, the path to their stream where the polytank stand was initially constructed was still muddy and overgrown. Cheriba told CWS field staff that her fellow community members were getting water from a number of sources. Some people got it from manmade wells, some got it from smaller dugouts and some had stored rainwater. She said that if she opened for business nobody would come. She wanted to wait until people started going back to the stream to collect household water.  Ramatu and Cheriba will be opening for business this week!

The well in Tacpuli

The well in Tacpuli

Tacpuli was the lowest performing CWS village in October 2012. Lasinche, the woman who runs the water business in Tacpuli was having a hard time getting people to come to buy water post-rainy season. Many people had rainwater stored in their houses and did not want to make the muddy trek to the dugout to buy clean water. Lasinche tackled the problem on her own and moved the water treatment center to a well that was closer and more accessible for the community. Lasinche kept the center at the well for all of December and for the beginning of January. She moved the center back to the dugout and sales are going well for her!

Memouna and Damu - The women entrepreneurs of the newly implemented Tindan (not to be confused with the Tindan implemented in October)

Memouna and Damu – The women entrepreneurs of the newly implemented Tindan (not to be confused with the Tindan implemented in October)

Weather patterns, climate change and seasonal challenges all play a major role in determining where people get their drinking water and the amount of water that is available year round to treat. In Tacpuli, Gbung and Libi, three villages that are very close in proximity to one another, these factors all affect them in different ways.  After working in these communities for a few months, I’ve noticed that the best solutions are formed organically from the entrepreneurs or the community members themselves. As Shak, the CWS assistant project manager always says, “We are not the ones getting our drinking water from the village.” He makes a good point. While CWS works its hardest to make sure all 47 water businesses are running effectively, we will never be able to control the weather and we are not the ones drinking the water. The women and the people who live in these communities need to be the decision-makers for seasonal problems that arise throughout the year. And this goes for all development projects, not just water.

-Brianán

 

Rain, Rain Won’t You Stay?

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.

The flooded road to Buhijaa. Amin contemplating– to cross or not to cross? After talking to the boys on the road, we opted for the latter when they told us that a moto had just stopped working after being submerged in mud and water. Until next time Buhijaa!

This woman in Gbandu keeps tally marks on the wall behind her safe storage container to track how many times she has gone to buy water since opening day!

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?

Sana, the lady who runs the water treatment center in Yapalsi, gives Amin fresh milk to bring home.

Corn harvesting has just begun in Gbung!

A donkey businessman in Kpalung— this boy carries water from the dugout for Azaratu to treat at the water treatment center that is now in town. In June, this businessman was charging 60 pesawas to fill one 200 L drum of water, an obscene amount considering what Azaratu rakes in! After holding a village meeting, this donkey man is now filling free of charge in exchange for his family to use the center for free.

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.

Wahab posing with Fuseina, the lady that runs the water treatment center in Kurugu Vohoyili, and some of the women making Shea butter!

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.

-Brianan

Peter fixing a leaky bucket in Gbung

Back to Tamale and it feels so good!

After two weeks of training and saying farewell to some pretty awesome fellows, I have officially started as Ghana Country Director. It feels so good to be back with CWS! With the 6 newly implemented villages, CWS now has 38 villages in its monitoring rotation. Once the fellows leave, CWS continues to monitor its villages. This includes checking in with the wonderful ladies that run the water treatment centers, as well as doing household visits and taking water samples. Post-implementation, each new village is monitored once a week for the first 6 months and then less and less as the villages become self-sustainable.

It is the start of the rainy season here in the Northern Region of Ghana, which means that many of the villages (that have tin roofs) are transitioning into using rainwater collection techniques to harvest water with their safe storage containers. This is because some villages (like Gbung and Zanzugu Yipela) do not use their dugouts during the rainy season. While sales at the water treatment centers have been low in many of these communities that harvest rainwater, they will pick right back up when the dry season comes underway. As for now, the CWS staff in Ghana is just trying to stay dry with all the rain!

-Brianan

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Shak cheesin’ with some kiddos in Wambong & Wahab keeping dry during a storm!Image
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Happy 4th of July! — a boy in the village of Cheko shows off his American and clean water pride!
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The children in Nyamaliga can’t get enough camera action!
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Rainy season, means rice harvesting! A family in Tacpuli poses with their full bucket of clean water.

A Week of Monitoring

I have officially been in Tamale for a week now, and what a week it has been! After spending a few days getting the office all ready for the Summer Fellows, I headed out to the field to help Shak, Peter, Wahab and Amin monitor some of the newer villages that I had never been to before (crazy!)  It was so much fun to be back in the field and to see how awesome the water businesses are doing in these new communities! Over the past four days I visited Yapalsi, Laligu, Kpalung, Kagburashe, Libi, Gbung (an oldie but goodie), Sakpalua, Buja, Kadula, Kpaniyilli, Kurugu Vohoyilli, and Kpachiyilli!

 

Everyone in Laligu was asking about the 2012 Winter Fellows!

 

Shak monitoring water sales in Yapalsi

 

Amin conducting household visits in Kplung

 

Peter and I hanging with some of our favorite kiddos in Gbung

Rainy season clouds…

 

Peter and Wahab checking out the water level in Kagburashe’s polytank

 

Me and Wahab with the ninos in Gbung

-Kate

 

 

 

 

From the Field – Fellowship Reflections

Its hard to believe that its been two whole weeks without the fellows here! Shak, Peter, Wahab, TJ and I really miss their help and insight and entertainment. Luckily all groups did a wonderful job implementing, so monitoring the new seven has been a breeze.

We’ve also spent a lot of time back in the older villages, which we didn’t get to see much of during the fellowship period. In Zanzugu-Yipela, we constructed a rainwater catchment center that will help the village with its first rainy season (pictures to follow as soon as camera malfunctions are dealt with), and everybody is really excited about the new addition! Gbong’s rain catchment center is also up and running – just in time for the big storms that blow through now. We have also been having community meetings in many of the older villages, to talk about everything from rainwater collection to group problem solving, and it has been great to get to know familiar faces from the villages a little bit better.

In my first couple weeks on the job, I’ve really been struck by the profound impact the fellows in particular have on their adopted villages. Kids in newer villages are still doing the handshakes and back-flips the Summer 2011 Fellows taught them, and the people I meet doing household visits in older ones still can remember the excitement of opening day and tell me the importance of a special drinking water cup. Many of the older fellowship villages have asked about fellows by name and have hilarious stories to tell us about implementation. As a fellowship alumnus myself, its good to know that the tremendous energy fellows and locals alike put into passing out buckets and transcending language barriers and problem-solving in traditional committees has been channeled into something that seems to be lasting.

– Kathryn

Countdown!

The countdown until the start of the 2011 Summer Fellowship Program is officially in single digits! The Fellowship Leaders arrive in Tamale on Sunday and the Fellows are just a few days behind them. We can’t wait!

This week I finished up my visits to all of the CWS villages,tagging along with Shak and Peter as they  checked-up on Nyamaliga, Chongashe and Gbong.

CWS' second-ever water treatment center in the village of Nyamaliga! We opened this water business in January of 2009 and its been one of our most successful businesses!

This is Gbong dugout. All of these green leaves were blown/carried by a stream into the dugout after a big rain storm a few weeks ago. It looks very very strange! Thanks to the support of iContact (Gbong's village sponsor) the community no longer has to drink from this water source!

TJ and Shak checking up on the water treatment center in Chongashe. Everything was running smoothly but the community misses Sanita, Fabiola, Eleanor and Rachel!

The Chongashe dugout. Its gotten much lower and more turbid since the Winter Fellows were here in January.

This week I also met with Unicef and a representative from the Central Gonja District Assembly who updated me on our Unicef-CWS villages, Kampong, Alipe, Mile 40, Gilanzegu, and Nyanguripe. One of Unicef’s goals in partnering with us and the Central Gonja District was to “build the capacity of the local government”. One way that we have tried to do this was to pass on the monitoring of these water businesses to the District Assembly. Handing over this responsibility to the government has been challenging for CWS because we are very invested in our communities and like to know that the water businesses are succeeding. We have learned a lot over the past three years about how to successfully monitor our businesses and are used to being the ones in control! Despite these challenges, we recognize the importance of engaging the local government and are glad that Unicef has been able to facilitate this partnership. The District reported that for the most part, these 5 villages are doing well. The few problems that they are experiencing are all things that CWS has dealt with before and we hope to help the District solve them over the next few months. A big thanks to Gerry and Judy O’Connell, the Medfield Fit Girls, The Nolan’s, The Reids, and CWS Facebook Causes Team for sponsoring these  villages – I’ll hopefully have some new pictures from them shortly!

“Chlorine Kills Germs and Makes Water Clean”

As I mentioned in a previous post, we have started preparing our water treatment businesses for the rainy season which starts in mid-June. In most of our villages, there are no major operational changes in the rainy season. But, in a few of them, the dugouts flood during the heavy rains making it hard for people to reach the water business to fetch drinking water. In the flooded villages, we are planning to move our water treatment centers to the center of the town (away from the flooded dugouts) and harvest rainwater as a way to fill the polytank. In order to make sure that this rainwater is safe to drink, and to avoid re-contamination in the home, the women at the water treatment centers will still be treating the water with chlorine. This can be a little confusing to people in the village because many of them assume that the rainwater is clean because: 1.) it comes from the sky and/or 2.) its clear.

While rainwater is MUCH better to drink than the dugout water, there are many ways that it can become contaminated in the village. So, last week, we decided to have our first “water education” meeting in the village of Gbong to explain how rainwater gets contaminated and what chlorine does to help. The meeting was really fun and we think it was pretty successful. Here are some pictures from the day:

Women in Gbong gathered for the meeting

Explaining how "little tiny germs" can get in rainwater if you aren't careful

Playing a little game to show how "clear water is not always clean water." One of these bottles has salt water in it and the woman has to guess which one (and then taste test).

Peter's awesome drawing of "chlorine fighting germs" in a polytank

checking out an aquatab

Free Water for the Schools


Being greeted by some students at the Gbong school

Recently, CWS decided to provide free safe storage containers and free water to the schools in our villages.  Safe drinking water is so important, and we wanted to be sure that the children had access to clean water throughout the day. We also hope that by teaching the kids at the school about the importance of safe water and safe storage, that they will pass on the lessons to their parents and siblings at home. Here are some pictures from our water lessons in the Gbong school yesterday:

Shak explaining the safe storage container to students in Gbong

students in Gbong

New signboard at Gbong. Thank you iContact!

I took these next pictures in the lab last weekend and just had to share them with everyone. First, we have a water sample from the Gbong dugout:

Before: water from the Gbong Dugout

And here is a sample of water from someone in Gbong’s  safe storage container:

After - sample from one of the safe storage containers at Gbong

After: Water from a safe storage container in Gbong

Quite a difference huh? Remember, the “after” water originally came from the dugout – 24 hours later + alum and chlorine and it safe to drink. Pretty awesome!

And on a completely un-related note, I just finished the book Born to Run By Christopher McDougall, which combined both of my favorite pastimes in Ghana: reading and running. I was inspired to snap a few pics during one of evening runs:

After reading Born to Run I was tempted to try running barefoot! But then I chickened out and laced up these bad boys:

Tamale may not be as hilly as the Cooper Canyons in Mexico, but I still think the Tarahumara would be impressed by the Terrain:

(I love how the blurry iPhone photo makes it seem like I was running super fast!)

World Water Day!

Yesterday was World Water Day, and we made sure to celebrate this special day with our entire CWS Family here in Ghana!

We started our celebration bright and early by opening our fifth water business in Gbong! It was so much fun to open a CWS water business ON World Water Day, even though most of the people in Gbong did not understand what we were talking about when Shak and I kept cheering for WWD! We had an amazing turnout, with 94% of the village showing up to buy water. Fati and Amina, the CWS ladies in Gbong did a great job selling and treating the water! Here are some pics from the morning:

Shak recording which households came to buy water

Selling water on World Water Day at Gbong

Safe storage container filled with safe drinking water!

The one hiccup was a few dozen leaky taps – but Shak and I were able to fix them all by the end of the morning.  Thank you iContact for sponsoring the water business at Gbong!

Later that afternoon, we had a party for the entire CWS family here at the office. Shak and I cooked (well, I chopped veggies while Shak cooked!) while Peter went to pick up everyone. Everyone except Fati from Kasaligu was able to make it to the party. The ladies were a little shy at first, but once they got to know each other, they started to share stories and offer each other advice. It was such a great experience. For example, the ladies in Cheko mentioned that some people in their village don’t like the smell of chlorine in the water. Alhassan, from Jarigu, explained to them that the chlorine was the most important step in the water treatment center, and that in a few weeks, people won’t even notice the smell. He went on to explain his experience in Jarigu, and how the chlorine smell is the smell of “clean water” so of course it is going to smell different than the “dirty water” from the dugout. This entire conversation happened while I was in the kitchen helping Shak, and when I came back, Soufoo (who can speak a little english) told me about it. I was thrilled! We missed you Mike, Chuck, Vanessa and Peter A!

World Water Day Celebration!

Of course we had to serve water from a CWS Safe Storage Container!

Everyone was dressed to the nines! (sorry that the picture is blurry!)

Setting up Shop in Gbong

While Peter has been hard at work in Cheko, Shak and I have been working to set up a water business in Gbong. Gbong is a large village (about 800 people) located about 40 minutes south of Tamale on the Salaga road.

boys "doing laundry" at the Gbong dugout

As I mentioned in a previous post, our meeting with the Gbong elders a few weeks ago was one of the most formal village meetings that I have had in a while, and that formal trend has definitely continued.  For example, in most of our other villages, we will meet with the chief of the village a few times at the beginning of the implementation process, but once he gives us his blessing to work in the village we are pretty much given free range. We can come and go as we please and concentrate on getting our work done. In Gbong, however, we have to greet the chief every time we come to the village and say goodbye to him each time we leave. While this may not seem like a big deal, the time spent traveling to the chief’s palace (which is in the opposite direction of the dugout), then greeting/saying goodbye, definitely adds up. Many times we will also have to stop and greet another elder (who sits by the side of the road all day long). The formal-nature of this village also slows down their decision-making process quite a bit, which in turn slows down our implementation process. We had our initial meeting with the Gbong elders the same days as the Cheko elders, but we probably won’t open the water business in Gbong until Monday,over a week after the business in Cheko opened!

Even though all the greeting and good-bying adds time to our day, I do enjoy getting to know the chief of Gbong. He can speak english very well, which is really fun for me! The village has been very receptive to our team and seems really excited about their water treatment center. We are planning to open the center tomorrow, on World Water Day, and I’ll make sure to capture it all on film. Later that day, we are planning a party at the CWS office for the women working at all 5 of our water treatment businesses. It will be the first time that they all meet  each and we can’t wait! What a great way to celebrate World Water Day!

Here are some pictures from the past two weeks at Gbong:

Putting our truck to good use- building the polytank stand in Gbong!

Fati and Amina cleaning out the blue tubs and then filling them with dugout water

First day of water treatment training with Fati and Amina: Amina treating the dugout water with alum.

Day 2 of water treament training: Fati and Amina scooping the water (now clear from the alum) into the polytank where it will be disenfected using chlorine

Distributing safe storage containers. Peter came to help out me and Shak since Gbong is so big (almost 90 families!)

The water treatment center at Gbong is sponsored by iContact. Thank you iContact for helping us to provide a safe drinking water for over 800 people! Your contribution has really changed the lives of the people in Gbong!