Today marks the 14th day of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, going without food or water for 30 days. The only people who do not fast are nursing or pregnant mothers, children under the age of 18, the elderly and the sick. While Ghana is a predominantly Christian country, the Northern Region has a large Muslim presence. The majority of CWS villages are also Muslim and therefore fast during the month of Ramadan.
In the last 2 weeks, CWS field staff members have encountered many safe storage containers full to the brim with clean water. This is something that we love to see because it usually means that the household has just recently filled from the water treatment center. However, this month we have found that it does not always mean just that. When CWS conducts household visits in our implemented villages, we always ask a member of each household: “When was the last time you filled your safe storage container with clean water?” –translated in Dagbani – “Ka bon dali kayi tougi?”. The average response that we get is that someone in the household filled 2-3 days ago. Lately, we have had people tell us that they filled their safe storage containers over a week ago! Now how is it that a household of 8-10 people can go over a week without drinking 20 L of water? Well because of Ramadan people are drinking much less water. Also, since it is the rainy season, it has not been as hot in Tamale. I’ve asked a few fasting Ghanaians if it is hard to fast during Ramadan. The responses have been the same, “With this weather? Oh no, it’s easy to fast when the clouds are in the sky.”
Since most people are fasting, they are drinking less water during the day. This means that when people are drinking water before sunrise or after sunset, they have to make every drop count! In our household visits, CWS staff members have been emphasizing the importance of drinking clean water once the fast is broken. Even though most parents are fasting, it’s essential that the children still have access to the safe storage containers throughout the day.
One household that Wahab and I spoke to in Kpalguni explained to us that they had just run out of water that morning because the family had gathered together to drink water to ensure strength for a day of fasting. The community members of Jagberin have agreed to help Fulera and Aisha, the ladies that run the center, fill their blue drums with water from the dugout during Ramadan. Since many of the women who run the CWS water businesses are fasting, they are weaker than usual during this month. In Yapalsi, Amin and I came across one household that has four clean cups sitting on top of their safe storage container, so that eager family members can break their fast with clean water at sunset. It seems that Ramadan is bringing people together to share clean water in many of the CWS villages this month!
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!
We were super excited to start building the water treatment center today after there was so much excitement in the village of Jabayilli yesterday at the prospect of clean water. As we were driving in, a woman pointed at a water bottle full of clean clear water in Cameron’s lap and asked if she could have it for her baby. We knew that was a good sign!
As the villagers gathered around us and Matt began telling everyone what we were there for, their response was incredibly welcoming and receptive. After we passed around the results from the water samples we took from their dugout (pictured below), rumbling erupted among the crowd as they finally understood the reason they have been feeling so sick for so long.
Purchasing the necessary materials to build the water treatment center was quite an adventure; upon seeing a foreigner, the price mysteriously rose.
As the local stone mason helped us build the base of the water center, the elders managed and directed us from their comfortable seats on the hill, throwing in comments here and there on the strength of the women (apparently we would make excellent stone masons). As you can see from the photo below, Heidi was especially excited to be working with cement again after writing a 30-page lab report on the art of concrete.
Heidi with a trowel full of cement.
We are all looking forward to tomorrow morning when we will return to our village to complete construction of the polytank stand.