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The People Behind the Numbers: A Look into the Partnership Villages of CWS

When looking at statistics or numbers in development, it’s so easy to forget that there are people behind those numbers. And the villages in which CWS has implemented are no different. They are inevitably made up of people.  They have their own personalities, stories, families, livelihoods, conflicts, drama, laughter, hopes and dreams…. The same goes for the women (and man – shout out to the infamous Alhassan, the man who runs the water treatment center in Jerigu) of the CWS water enterprises. They have their own ways of doing business, staying organized, dealing with set backs and choosing how they spend their profits. These water treatment centers are businesses after all. So there’s no reason to think that they’d operate any differently than let’s say a food stand in the market or even a small business back in Boston. Business is business no matter where you are or what you’re selling in the world: acquire capital, acquire goods, sell goods, make a profit and buy more capital…Most importantly modify the business based on your situation and work habits to make it the most efficient it can be.

Blog Post 6 Pic 1The CWS business method is pretty straightforward and uniform throughout the villages in which we implement in and around the Tamale Metropolis. To give you a very brief overview for those of you that are not overly familiar with our approach: CWS finds a village that drinks fecally contaminated surface water (aka dugout water), fellows fundraise and come to Ghana to provide the hardware and to implement the water treatment center in the village, fellows train two women to treat the water with low-cost chemicals and to sell the water back to the community at an affordable price. Then, the CWS field staff monitor and supply the women with aquatabs for five years post-implementation. Every CWS partnership community is given the capital to start their water business, which includes a polytank, polytank stand, at least 3 blue drums, alum, aquatabs and finally every household in these villages is given a safe storage container to store the water that they buy. So if implementation is the same throughout, then what, might you ask, could really make every CWS enterprise unique? The answer is quite simply the people.

Blog Post 6 Pic 2This past week, in the village of Jagberin, Aisha closed the water treatment because the lock to the polytank broke. She was leaving treated water stored in the polytank overnight and would wake up to find that water was missing! The water level was significantly lower than she had left it the night before. After some investigation, she discovered that farmers from Jagberin had realized the polytank was unlocked and came early in the morning to fill their garrawas with stolen water. Aisha decided to close her business until she could buy a new lock because she did not want to risk losing money. Wahab and I went to Jagberin this Tuesday to do household visits and realized what was going on. This is a sticky situation because while these water treatment centers are businesses, their main function is provide people with clean water. After talking to Aisha, she agreed to fill the polytank with one blue drum at a time until she bought a new lock. She is going to make announcements for when she is going to sell with the hopes of selling all of the water at once so that none is left in the polytank for people to steal. As of today, she has a new lock!

BLog Post 6 Pic 5Kadula is a village that got off to a rocky start. At first there was one woman, Abiba, who was running the water treatment center; however, business did not go well. Apparently there was widespread belief in the community that this woman was a witch. So no one would buy water from her. CWS intervened and held a meeting with the elders to elect new women to run the water business. Kadula is one of the bigger CWS communities with over 100 households. The elders of Kadula decided to elect 15 women (5 women from the 3 “neighborhoods” of Kadula) to work in a rotation of filling the blue drums. They elected Azaratu as the leader of these women, to oversee and run the business. Azaratu collects the money, buys aquatabs and makes all major decisions for the water treatment center.

Blog Post 6 Pic 7In Kpalung, the polytank stand was initially built next to the dugout, which a very far walk from the village center. There were many complaints that the center was too far. Also, during the rainy season, the dugout becomes obsolete because everyone harvests rainwater to avoid the long trek to fetch water. Solution? After much discussion with Azaratu and the elders, they decided to move their water treatment center to town. During the dry season, Azaratu pays a donkey businessman to cart water from the dugout to the water treatment center and in the rainy season, she harvests rainwater with the blue drums to treat. While this seemed to be working, there were a few complications. The donkey businessman was charging Azaratu 60 pesawas, the equivalent of two aquatabs or the equivalent of selling 6 20 L buckets of water, to fill every blue drum. She was no longer making a substantial return to her investment. CWS field staff decided to hold a village meeting between Azaratu, the chairman and the donkey businessman to agree upon a fair price. For now, the donkey businessman is no longer charging Azaratu for his services and in exchange gets to fill his safe storage container for free at the water treatment center!

Blog Post 6 Pic 4The last story that took place in Kpalung was one of the first village meetings that I oversaw as Ghana Country Director of CWS. I realized early on that the problems I would encounter with the CWS water businesses were not as black and white as I thought they would be when I was a fellow. People will always be people and sometimes life gets in the way but that just makes it all the more interesting for us in Tamale.

-Brianan

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This week in pictures

On Monday and Tuesday I shadowed Shak and TJ as they monitored Yipela, Zanzugu Yipela, Zanzugu and Wambong. All four villages were doing great! It was so awesome to see the water treatment centers running smoothly!
First we stopped by Yipela and chatted with Saramatu
Saramatu bought some aquatabs since she was running low.
TJ did an awesome job taking notes on the CWS monitoring sheets.
Then we stopped by Wambong to see Chang-Chang. As you can see, the water treatment center was packed! It was so great to see all of those blue buckets on just a random Monday!
Chang-Chang says "Hi!" to all of the 2010 Summer Fellows
In Zanzugu, Azara had TJ and Shak move the water treatment center to the center of town for the rainy season because they have a couple of hand-dug wells that fill with water during the rains. This is one of the dug-wells. The water is still very turbid and fecally contaminated, so it still needs to be treated, but its easier for the village to fetch from the water treatment center when its close to the center of town. So far the new system is working well!
On Tuesday, we went back to Zanzugu Yipela and did a few household visits. Here are TJ and Shak taking a sample and speaking with a woman from the community about her water.
Woman on her way home from fetching water at the CWS water business in Zanzugu Yipela
On Wednesday, I headed down the Salaga Rd to check up on Chani, Jarigu and Cheko with Peter and Wahab. Here are Peter and Wahab talking with Alhassan's wife (who has recently started helping her husband run the water business), in Jargiu.
On Thursday, we spent the morning in Cheko training a new translator (more on that to come later!) and then spent the afternoon lugging 1,000 safe storage containers from Melcom to our office! 2011 Summer Fellows, we are now ready for you!

Day 2: New Year’s Eve!

The second day of the fellowship began with a brief classroom review of the CWS approach to water treatment followed by a more hands on lesson.  The fellows practiced rolling alum balls and using it on samples of dugout water.  After seeing for themselves the magical filtering ability of alum, the fellows split up into their teams and practiced simulations of random household monitoring with their translators.

Luke practicing using alum with dugout water
The fellows learned many new skills. 🙂
Kathryn practices a household monitoring visit with her translator. Lauren played the part of the village woman and then they switched roles.

 

Luke practiced the household visit with Jim playing the villager. Wahab translated.
Luke checks inside the container and inquires about the level of water and the last time the villager (Jim) filled the container at the treatment center.
Hannah practices while Nate (who just arrived this morning!) plays the villager and TJ translates.
"Do you mind if I take a look inside your container?"
"Aha! This is not water from the treatment center!" -Every fellow practiced any type of situation the may encounter in their visits and how to deal with each.
Kevin enjoying a New Year's Eve treat for lunch, guinea fowl with ground nut soup and rice balls. A delicious traditional Ghanaian dish.

The fellows then made their first trip out into the field to visit existing CWS villages!!  Teams 1 and 4 went to Jarigu, Team 2 Cheko, and Team 3 Nyamaliga.  The fellows got to see the treatment centers first hand and further visualize the end goal of their projects.  They also got to practice their Dagbani with the villagers!

Jim, Elsie and Kathryn visiting their first dugout in Nyamaliga with some new friends.
Lauren and Kathryn see their first treatment center and make even more new friends! 🙂
Lauren adopted a baby goat in Jerigu.
Kevin, Allie, Luke and Jim getting acquainted with Jerigu. Jim made one child so incredibly happy simply by giving him his hat. He and the fellows were touched that it took so little to make someone so happy.
RICE!!!
New Year's Eve Dinner! The menu: Chicken & Rice! 🙂
Jim and the fellows celebrate New Year's Eve by learning some new Ghanaian dance moves!
Happy New Year!!! 🙂

 

 

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!)

Back to Work

Meeting with Alhassan, Soufoo and Sanatu to discuss the monthly payment plan in Nyamaliga

Today was my first official day back in the field.  I spent the morning checking up on Nyamaliga and Jarigu and was so excited to see everyone again!

Nyamaliga had recently decided to switch from a daily to a monthly payment system at their water treatment center. This was the village elders’ idea and it seems to be working well. I was excited that leaders in the community took the initiative to devise this payment plan and put it in action! Each family pays 50 peswas (~50 cents) each month and then can collect water from the treatment center as much as they like. Big families seem to be collecting everyday or every other day while smaller families are going about twice a week. The first month using this payment method ends on Monday. I am planning to meet with Sanatu and Hawa (the women who run this center) to review the revenue and make sure that 50 peswas is enough to cover the cost of treatment while still leaving some left over for their wages. Based on the sales that Peter has observed so far, we expect the 50 peswas to be fine.

While I was gone, the Nyamaliga men got together and built a shade for the treatment center. It looks great and keeps the water in the polytank nice and cool! It was exciting to see that the village came together and worked on something for the water treatment center. Like their new payment method, it shows that Nyamaliga really feels ownership over the water business-which is one of our main goals!

The Nyamaliga water business. Check out the new shade!

After visiting Nyamaliga, I spent some time with Alhassan at the Jarigu water business.  He is doing great, but for the past two weeks, water sales have slowed down a bit. This was a little confusing because Jarigu has had consistent sales ever since we opened the water business last October. Tomorrow, Peter and I are going to visit some households in the community to see if we can get to the bottom of the drop in sales and may suggest the monthly payment method for Jarigu as well.  I’ll keep you posted on what we find!

Last Day in Ghana!

Today is my last official day in Ghana!  I can’t believe how quickly these two months went by.  I have spent the last week preparing Peter for my departure.  We put together new monitoring forms for him, and then had a practice run- where he went to the villages without me and filled out his monitoring forms which we then reviewed.  He did a great job and I am confident that he will be able to handle anything that may come up while I am gone.  Right now, the plan is for me to be in the States for the holidays where I will work on fundraising with the rest of the CWS team.  If the fundraising goes well, then I will hopefully be back in Ghana in late winter/early spring.  We’ll be sure to keep everyone posted! If you are interested in supporting our work please visit www.communitywatersolutions.org to learn more about donating to our cause!

Monitoring at Jarigu and Nyamaliga

Jarigu

Since opening day at Jarigu on October 17th, 98% of the households in the village have visited the water treatment center at least once, while 74% have come a second time and almost 50% have come three times.  These are some of the best uptake and sustained use results that we have seen in any CWS village!

 

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Alhassan selling water at the Jarigu Water Treatment Center

Nyamaliga

The rain has finally stopped in Northern Region Ghana and the path to the water treatment center at Nyamaliga is FINALLY dry enough to open the center.  Sanatu (the woman who runs the center in Nyamaliga) officially re-opened for business last week and has been very busy.  Right now she is opening the center about 5 times a week and plans to be open everyday once the dry season officially gets underway.  Currently,about 5 to 20 people are buying water each day and we expect this to increase as we move into the dry season. Here are some pictures from the re-opening at Nyamaliga:

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Sanatu treating dugout water with alum
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Getting some clean, healthy water at the Nyamaliga water treatment center!
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The new sign at Nyamaliga
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Happy customers on their way home with healthy drinking water

 

 

A Busy Week!

Peter and I have been very busy getting things set up in Jarigu this week. Here are some pictures from the past 7 days!

Monday and Tuesday: Building the polytank stand

One of the first steps in setting up a CWS water treatment center is building the polytank stand. We try to work with a local mason to build the stand, but since none of the men in Jarigu were experienced masons, Soufoo, our good friend from Nyamaliga, came to help!

Loading up the taxi with bricks, cement, and sand to bring to Jarigu
Loading up the taxi with bricks, cement, and sand to bring to Jarigu

Soufoo working away
Soufoo working away
Almost done with the first row
Almost done with the first row
Halfway done and finished for the day.  It may not look like much, but it took a lot of work! Thank you Soufoo!
Halfway done and finished for the day. It may not look like much, but it took a lot of work! Thank you Soufoo!
Filing the middle of the stand with gravel
Filling the middle of the stand with gravel
Last step! Covering the outside of the stand and building the stairs
Last step! Covering the outside of the stand and building the stairs
All finished!
All finished!

Wednesday: Delivering the polytank and the blue tubs

Since Kasaligu now has access to municipal water, we decided to move their water treatment center to Jarigu. This is something that we discussed in detail with the Kasaligu chairman and with Fati, the woman who works at the center. They were both happy to move their polytank to a new village that needed the treatment center (we will still be working with Kasaligu on safe water storage to prevent the re-contamination of the piped water in their homes, and Fati will be selling small Aquatabs that people can use to chlorinate their own water). Originally, Peter and I planned to rent a truck to move the polytank, but at the last minute Peter convinced me that we could use a taxi, which would be cheaper. A few hours and two runs-in with the police later, the polytank and the three blue tubs that make up the water treatment center arrived safely in Jarigu.

Loading a blue tub into the trunk outside of Fati's house
Loading a blue tub into the trunk outside of Fati's house
Having a little trouble fitting the polytank through the door at Fati's house...
Having a little trouble fitting the polytank through the door at Fati's house...
Loading the polytank onto the roof of the taxi - apparently the Tamale police didn't think that this was a funny as I did!
Loading the polytank onto the roof of the taxi - apparently the Tamale police didn't think that this was a funny as I did!
Ready to go!
Ready to go!
Some of the men from Jarigu who helped set up the water treatment center
Some of the men from Jarigu who helped set up the water treatment center
Filling the blue tubs with dugout water
Filling the blue tubs with dugout water
The "before" shot.  Dugout water in the blue tub ready to be treated!
The "before" shot. Dugout water in the blue tub ready to be treated!

Thursday: Distributing Safe Storage Containers and Water Treatment Training

On Wednesday, Peter and I visited each household in Jarigu to distribute the CWS safe storage containers. Although it takes a long time to pass out the containers to each family individually, its a great way to make sure everyone in the village understands the project and the connection between water and health, and learns the importance of safe water storage. It was a LONG but fun and rewarding day!

Peter explaining the different components of the CWS safe storage container
Peter explaining the different components of the CWS safe storage container
Attaching the tap to the safe storage container.
Attaching the tap to the safe storage container.
Checking out the safe storage container
Checking out the safe storage container

On Thursday we also started water treatment training. Usually, we will work with members of the community to select two women to be in charge of the water treatment center, who we then train to treat the dugout water. The village then decides what time of the day and how often they would like the center to be open. We like working with women because they are usually the ones in charge of all water-related household activities (collecting water, cooking, washing, etc) In Jarigu, however, we are doing things differently. This village already had a local man, Alhassan, “guarding” the dugout. He sits by the dugout all day long to make sure that no one walks too far into the water (this helps to prevent Guinea Worm contamination). Since Alhassan was already sitting right next to the water treatment center, the village thought that he should be the one in charge of it and we agreed. Since Alhassan will be at the dugout all day, everyday, the water treatment center can be open all of the time. While this makes it a little bit harder for us to monitor (instead of coming to the village for a few hours on the days the center is open, we will have to be there all day if we want to observe the center’s sales), it is much more convenient for our customers in Jarigu! Here are some pictures from our first night of water treatment training with Alhassan – he is a quick learner and very fun to work with!

Step 1: Particle removal.  We you alum- a locally available coagulant/flocculant for this step of the water treatment process
Step 1: Particle removal. We use alum- a locally available coagulant/flocculant for this step of the water treatment process.
We usually add alum to the water in the everning, and by the next morning, the particles in the water settle to the bottom and the water is clear.
We usually add alum to the water in the evening, and by the next morning, the particles in the water have settled to the bottom and the water is clear.

Friday: Water treatment training day 2

On Friday morning we returned to Jarigu for the second day of water treatment training with Alhassan. We transferred the water from the blue tubs (now “clear”) into the polytank and treated it with Aquatabs, a chlorine product that disinfects the water. Its now ready for opening day!

Step 2: transferring the water to the polytank
Step 2: transferring the water to the polytank
Once the polytank is full, we disinfect the water using chlorine.
Once the polytank is full, we disinfect the water using chlorine.

Saturday: Opening Day!

Opening day in Jarigu was a big success! 34 families came to buy water from Alhassan and a good time was had by all! Thank you again to Susan and Greg Gintoff at Volunteer Shredding, LLC for sponsoring this water treatment center!

Alhassan selling water on opening day at Jarigu
Alhassan selling water on opening day at Jarigu
Me with a happy customer is Jarigu
Me with a happy customer is Jarigu
Opening day at Jarigu
Opening day at Jarigu
Me, Alhassan and Peter at the water treatment center in Jarigu.  Thank you Volunteer Shredding, LLC!
Me, Alhassan and Peter at the water treatment center in Jarigu. Thank you Volunteer Shredding, LLC!
The CWS water treatment center at Jarigu.  Sponsored by Greg and Susan Gintoff at Volunteer Shredding, LLC
The CWS water treatment center at Jarigu. Sponsored by Greg and Susan Gintoff at Volunteer Shredding, LLC
Children hanging out at the CWS water treatment center on opening day.
Children hanging out at the CWS water treatment center on opening day.

Welcome to the CWS Family Jarigu!

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After two weeks of visiting many rural villages in Northern Region Ghana, we have selected Jarigu to be the next site for a CWS water treatment business. Not only does Jarigu meet all of the CWS village criteria (the only source of water is a dugout, the dugout does not dry-out in the dry season, the village is the right size, and there are no current water treatment projects), but it is also about 10 minutes away from Nyamaliga, which will make monitoring the two villages much easier Peter (our project manager). I met with the village elders today to explain the project and they were very eager to work with us and seemed to really understand the idea of a water treatment business. Over the next two weeks Peter and I will be working with members of Jarigu to build the water treatment center, distribute safe storage containers to every family, and select and train two women to work at the center. We are really excited to start implementing in this village and look forward to updating everyone on our progress. Thank you to Volunteer Shredding, LLC, Greg and Susan Gintoff for sponsoring this CWS water treatment business! Your donation is providing a permanent source of clean water for ~750 people!

Jerigu
Jarigu
The Jerigu Dugout- a shallow, stagnant, mad-made pond.  This is their only source of water.
The Jarigu Dugout- a shallow, stagnant, mad-made pond. This is their only source of water.
Close up of the Jerigu dugout.  People frequently ask us what water the people villages were drinking before we got there, well, this is it.
Close up of the Jarigu dugout. People frequently ask us what water the people villages were drinking before we got there, well, this is it.
Getting a water sample from the dugout- the water tested postive for E.coli. which indicates fecal contamination.
Getting a water sample from the dugout- the water tested positive for E.coli. which indicates fecal contamination.
Children in Jerigu
Children in Jarigu