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Meet Our Entrepreneurs: Mariama from Kadula

Kadula- MariamaMariama was born in Yogh, where she later got married. She and her husband moved and have since settled in Kadula. She has given birth to five kids, two girls three boys– including a set of twins. She cooks and sells food aside working as a water entrepreneur. She also farms rice and groundnuts.

The water treatment center in Kadula was implemented back in June of 2011 by Summer Field Reps Nadiah, Christina, Matt and Karina and, five years later, still provides the community of about 960 people a source of clean drinking water. Mariama says, “I was happy when the elders of the community chose me among the women to run the water business. Since the water treatment center was implemented we have seen improvements in our health and the kids no longer complain of stomach aches. I am grateful to Saha Global.”

Metal Polytank Stand Highs and Lows

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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.

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          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.

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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.

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The water business owners in Kpanayili from left to right: Zilifau, Affilua, Fati and Anatu.

ImageThe 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.

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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.

-Brianán

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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Ramadan: Fasting All Day Means Every Drop of Clean Water Counts

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.

CWS field staff, Amin, Wahab, Shak, pose with the chief of Kadula and Azaratu, the lady who runs the water treatment center, after a long morning of household visits to promote rainwater harvesting in Kadula.

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.”

Rainwater harvesting in Baramini’s compound in Gidanturu
Peter chats with Kukuna, the lady that runs the water treatment center in Cheko, as she makes the “local maggi”

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.

A Family in Yapalsi keeps 4 clean cups on their safe storage container, ready for drinking clean water!
Amina pours water for a customer at the second opening day in the village of Galinzegu. 25 households came to fill their buckets!

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!

-Brianan

A woman secures her safe storage container to her bike after filling at the second opening day in Galinzegu!

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

 

 

 

 

Updates From the Field: A First Time for Everything

We have settled into a nice routine here in Tamale. We visit a handful of houses and check up on the treatment center in each village once every week or two. Even in the new villages our faces are familiar by now! And speaking of faces: I am trying my best to get pictures from each village so that those of you at home who remember your community can see how everyone is doing.

Rashid and his container, Iddrisuyili, Kpalguni
Peter and posse, Iddrisuyili, Kpalguni

The tricky thing about routines, though, is how easily they are broken! This was also definitely a week of firsts as well.

In Kadula, a runaway tractor (incredible mental image) got away from its owner after being ‘bathed’ in the dugout. It ran downhill and (naturally) hit Kadula’s treatment center. Luckily only the stand suffered any damage.

Tractor troubles, Kadula

The silver lining to this unfortunate incident is how well the community is doing literal damage control. When I arrived on Tuesday to speak with the chief and elders, they already had a plan for repairs and some new rules for vehicles around the dugout. I will keep you updated on their progress!

First of the groundnut (peanut) harvest at Tamalnaayili, Kadula
Sanatu and her baby, Tamalnaayili, Kadula

In Jagberin, Ayesha and Fulera decided that it was time to clean the polytank, so when we visited on Thursday we talked them through the process. In this split community each village ‘side’ takes a turn filling the blue drums, but this time they both pitched in to get everything cleaned quickly. We were pleasantly surprised to find the center up and running the next day.

Sayeeda and her Auntie, who had spoken to Ayesha about cleaning Jagberin

– Kathryn

Voices from the Field: Team Sixey!

Hello from Team Six, better known as Team Kasi or Team Sixey. We have been working for the past couple weeks in Kudula, a fairly large village of just over 100 households and two schools, about a half hour away from Tamale. So far we’ve had a pretty smooth ride, except for a few days where the villagers were at the market or the farm. This caused us to have to push back our opening day to Friday June 10th as opposed to the original Thursday celebration. However, since we were already ahead of schedule it wasn’t a problem. Our team faces the challenge of reaching out to every household in our particularly large village, but luckily we have Lukeman, our wonderful translator, and our fantastic taxi driver Hamza who also happens to speak English to help us along the way. When we opened yesterday, we only saw about 30-40 buckets being filled out of our 100+ that we had distributed, so we went to the village today for our first day of monitoring and household visits ready to do some sleuthing to find out why only some of the village came out.

We were very pleasantly surprised today to see that all the households that we visited had filled up their water containers! It turns out that most of them came in the evening after we had left. Kudula is officially a success! The houses that we visited were all very pleased with the water taste and very grateful for the work that we had done in Kudula. We will be back tomorrow to fix a few leaky taps and do some more random household checks. In each household we took water samples to bring back to the office to test for coliforms.

Nadiah and Christina testing the samples at the CWS lab

Sana and Abibata are our two women who run the station. They’ve been doing a fantastic job and seem to really be catching on quickly to everything we’ve told them. We have full faith in them and their abilities to continue the station after we leave!

A group shot of Team Sixey in front of the polytank stand. From left, Hamza, Nadiah, Sana, Abibata, Matt, Lukeman, Karina, and Christina.

It’s amazing how quickly the polystand goes up! Just a few days ago it looked like this:

Matt, Hamza, and Lukeman take a break from working on the polytank stand before it was finished.

During our down time in the village we’ve really gotten to know the kids and their individual personalities. They have endless energy and are so fun to be with. We will miss them so much when we go!

Christina hangs out with some of her buddies outside the chief’s palace
Karina with lots of the Kudula kids chilling on the taxi

We even got to try our hand at the local method of carrying water-on top of your head!

Nadiah learns from the pros

We look forward to seeing more results of all of our hard work when we continue to do more household visits and monitoring in the next few days.