Yesterday started off with alum training. In the fellows site visits to Kurugu Vohoyili and Kpalung the Fellows collected dugout water. They used this water to practive performing water quality tests the lab, and to practice the alum treatment. The alum is the first step in the water treatment process. It works to remove the turbidity from the water—the particle all flock together and fall to the bottom, leaving clear water on top and the sludge on the bottom. Having only seen a video of the women doing it themselves, it was important for the everyone to get comfortable with using alum.
After training, the fellows were off with their translators to get some more Dugbani lessons. They went over the different word pronunciations and then did some mock households-visits to get comfortable with the dialogue.
Later in the afternoon we all headed to the office for a presentation on monitoring given by our Ghana Country Director, Brianan. She went over what we look for in monitoring, how we troubleshoot any issues and really what she does on a day to day basis. Brianan did a great just and the fellows got a good senses as to what monitoring entails.
The fellows were off early this morning to put their knowledge to the test! They headed off to Manguli and Gbung to do household monitoring. They were all pumped to get back in the field! Tomorrow they will be approaching their new villages– a very exciting day which will be celebrated with a dinner at Swaad!
At the beginning of October, CWS field staff, Shak and Amin, brought their knowledge about water and sanitation to a primary school in the village of Kpalung. Their presentation was similar in content to the presentation that Wahab and Peter gave in September to a school in Gidanturu. You can read about their experience here. These water and sanitation presentations are part of a larger education initiative that CWS has been introducing to some of its partnership communities. While CWS is continuing to monitor these communities as it normally does, the field staff has added education to its monitoring regimen. The objective is to educate the students on basic health and sanitation with the hopes that they will put what they learn into practice and influence their families to do the same. It’s also fun for us to get in front of the classroom and to hear the opinions of the younger folks in the villages. I hope you enjoy the pics!
The first day of orientation consisted of a crash course of information about Ghana, the global water crisis, waterbourne disease, different water technologies, and finally the nitty gritty details of how we do it! It was a great day with lots of great discussions.
Presentations were broken up by a midday Scavenger Hunt– a great way to get our fellows out there and comfortable in the hustle and bustle of the Tamale Market. Both teams came back with only three missing items (Obama paraphernalia and a Diet Coke posed to be the hardest to find) but because Wahab’s team made it back first they took the crown!
After some orientation the fellows were off with Sam, Shak and Wahab to get a look into the village lifestyle while also getting to see the water treatment centers working within a community. First stop was Kurugu Vohoyili! Kurugu Vohoyili is one of the smaller villages that we work in, with about 30 households, but the personality of this village is huge! The men, women and kids welcomed the new fellows with smiles and were so excited to hear that they would be implementing into a new village. Fusiena, one of the women that helps run the water center was especially excited and wanted to take a picture with each individual fellow!
Next stop Kaplung! Kaplung is a great example of how the project is one that can be tailored to what’s going to work best in the community. The women who run the center wanted their center in the middle of the village, as opposed to being next to the dugout. As we can explain why most villages put it near their dugout, in the end it is always the communities decision. With the help of donkey carts to transport the water, having the center in the village has turned out to work just fine for Kaplung!
At this point in the day the sun was coming down hard and we were all starting to run low on fuel, it was time to head back into town to grab some grub! After lunch, it was off to the lab for training on water quality testing.
In September, CWS field staffers decided to bring their knowledge about water, sanitation and waterborne disease to the classroom. The CWS field staff team, which includes Peter, Shak, Wahab, Amin and me, Brianan, (you can read our bios here) met every week in August to prep. During household visits, we usually only talk to the older members of the families, especially the women who are in charge of collecting drinking water. So we were all excited to talk to students in some of our partnership communities. Peter and Wahab presented in a primary school classroom in the village of Gidanturu. Shak and Amin are planning to present at the primary school in Kpalung.
For our presentation in Gidanturu, we went the week before to schedule a day that would work for Yussef and Fuseini, the head teachers at the school. Seeing what life was like in the classroom was an experience in itself. “School in the village is different from school in Tamale”, says Peter. And I could tell what he meant the second I stepped foot inside the classroom. When we arrived early on Monday morning, the children, who ranged from 3 years old to 10 years old, were scattered about and playing inside and outside the school. Fuseini had just arrived from Salaga (it was about 10:30 am by this point) and was still in his travel clothes. He told us that he comes to teach in Gidanturu during the week but lives in Salaga on the weekends. So the students were occupying themselves in anticipation of his arrival.
Fuseini walked us into the classroom and gave us some chalk to write on the board. He gathered the children who were outside and brought them in to sit at their desks. Despite his tardiness, he had exceptional command over his students. I wrote “Community Water Solutions: Healthy Habits” on the chalk board and Peter and Wahab started the presentation, while I sat on the sidelines and let them steal the show. Peter and Wahab kicked off the class with a demonstration on clean water vs. clear water. They used 3 water bottles: 1 filled with treated polytank water, 1 filled with a salt-water solution and 1 filed with dugout water. Then they invited students to select and taste which ones they thought were clean and which ones they thought were contaminated.
The students immediately decided that the dugout water was contaminated, which was obvious to the naked eye because the water was dark brown (nobody tasted this sample). They brought up several students to distinguish between the salt-water solution and the polytank water (they were both clear solutions in water bottles so it was impossible to tell the difference just by looking).
The salty water surprised the students. Peter and Wahab then talked about water contamination, the spread of waterborne diseases, rainwater collection and proper drinking water storage.
The newly empowered instructors concluded the lesson with a “healthy habits tag game” outside. Two students volunteered to be “it” and took on the roles of the waterborne diseases, Diarrhea and Cholera. Five students volunteered to be 5 different healthy habits such as: washing your hands with soap and water and drinking safe water collected from the polytank. These “healthy habits” each got 3 lives, whereas the rest of the students were not given any lives. If you were tagged aka contracted Cholera or Diarrhea, you were to sit by the tree that was designated as the hospital. After five minutes, the students who practiced healthy habits were the only ones not in the hospital since they were living healthier lifestyles and were less likely to contract these waterborne diseases. The game was complete mayhem but the students liked it and understood its message, which was what we were going for.
After our presentation, Fuseini dismissed the children for lunch. Their day of school had so far consisted of sitting and listening to our presentation for an hour. While I was discouraged by the inefficiencies of the village school system, Wahab, Peter and I felt like our presentation had made an impression on the students. You could tell by their participation and enthusiasm that some of these children were stimulated and interested by what we were telling them. There will be no way for us to know if they actually wash their hands with soap and water before eating and after going to the bathroom. We don’t have the monitoring capacity to be observing their habits 24/7. Maybe they will put what we taught them about healthy habits into practice, maybe they won’t. But at least they learned something new that school day.
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.
The 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.
This 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!
Kadula 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.
In 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!
The 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.
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.
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!
Team 7-also known as the Fufu Fighters- has been busy beginning the implementation process of their water center; however, we had an interesting start to our process.
We began our implementation process in one village, but ended up switching to a different village to actually implement in. Unlike the other teams, we had two chief meeting experiences that were completely different from each other. The first one was in our first village and it was very informal with just the chief and the chairman. The second one was in our new village and it was very traditional with the chief, chairman, elders, and any men who happened to wander into the chief’s meeting hut at the time of our meeting. By witnessing these two meetings in two different villages, we got to see how different some governmental systems are within any village in Ghana.
Our first village actually had a rain water collection tank set up by another NGO and the chief mentioned in our meeting that it was very difficult to find someone to run that operation in the village. He told us his people were stubborn and that they wouldn’t want to put in the work at our center to have clean water when they already had a rainwater collection tank. When we asked about the use of the rain tank, the chairman told us they only use it during the rainy season, which leaves them with the dugout water during the dry season. This meant that a CWS water center would still be very helpful in this village.
We left the first day, intending to come back the next day to get a decision from the chief. When we came back the next day, there happened to be a funeral going on, so we were unable to talk to the chief; however, we did talk to the chairman and he told us that the chief was not very supportive of our system simply because he didn’t think his people would take to it well. The chairman was telling us the opposite in his opinion. He said he talked to some people in the village and they were all onboard…which meant we had a slight problem. It seemed the village really wanted us to be there, but the chief didn’t. Also, the chief was refusing to let us talk to his people, so we had only communicated with himself and the chairman at this point.
Our experience in this village was SO different from what all the other teams were going through. They had enthusiastic chiefs and community meetings…so it seemed our process wasn’t going as planned, which worried me. When we reported our concerns back to Kate, she assured us that it would be possible to implement in a village with a difficult chief, but we’d need to work really hard and overcome many roadblocks along the way.
After a team meeting and a thorough evaluation of the situation, we decided that our water center would probably be more successful, at least at this time, in a different village. We figured since rainy season is just beginning, it would be hard to compete with the rainwater tank anyway. It seemed to make more sense to implement this village in the dry season when they are running out of rainwater. So, CWS is going to keep this village on their list of villages to visit later when: 1. It’s dry season and 2. The chief’s more supportive. Hannah went back to that village and told the chairman our decision, as well as encouraged him to try to get the chief onboard for when CWS does come back.
So, after this slight set back, the Fufu Fighters worked hard to make up for lost time. We ended up having a great chief meeting at our new village-with a chief who is very, very enthusiastic about the project-as well as a meeting with the community about the center. In fact, the chief said something that basically embodies everything CWS stands for. He said, “Clean water is life. And every person deserves life. Since you are bringing clean water, you are also bringing life to this village.”
We’ve been working hard, and getting dirty, for the past two days building our polytank stand. Our new village is really excited for the center and we feel very welcomed by everyone. I think I can speak for everyone on my team when I say that we had an unusual beginning, but ended up catching up and making a great decision in terms of switching villages. The community support as well as the chief’s support is very important in order to make a CWS water center successful. We feel as if we have the greatest support in this new village-hopefully, in time, the other chief will be influenced to support a center for his people as well.