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Hot Off The Press: Clean Water Entrepreneurship Program in Ghana Earns Prestigious Support for Saha Global’s Co-Founder

Clean Water Entrepreneurship Program in Ghana Earns Prestigious                  Support for Saha Global’s Co-Founder

$100,000 Fellowship Grant Awarded to Boston Visionary Kate Cincotta

BOSTON, MASS. (Issued Fall 2016)  — Dagomba people in the African country of Ghana use the Dagbanli word saha to mean ‘opportunity.’

A major opportunity to use this word in the country’s rural areas the arrived with the launch of  Saha Global (www.sahaglobal.org) in 2008. Co-founded by Kate (Clopeck) Cincotta and fellow MIT graduate Vanessa Green, Saha Global’s frontline work is entirely in Ghana. A small Boston staff handles volunteer recruitment and fundraising.

Saha provides cheap, clean drinking water to people living in rural communities by training women how to take advantage of the resources available to them and donating the capital that they need to start a clean water business. To date, Saha has launched 93 water businesses in Ghana. 100% are still in operation.

The Vision: A Better Life for Children

In recognition of her work, the Mulago Foundation of San Francisco chose Cincotta to join its  prestigious Fall 2016 Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program where participants “focus on their ideas and a systematic way to apply them. Saha is receiving two $50,000 grants — a total of $100,000 over two years. Founded in 1993, Mulago carries on the work of pediatrician/philanthropist Rainer Arnhold, “to bring a better life for children in poverty… (to support) organizations that tackle a basic need of the very poor, have a scalable solution, and know how to deliver it.” That’s exactly us!” smiles Cincotta, pointing to the organization’s motto, ‘Solving problems with opportunities.’

The course brought Fellows and faculty together for an intensive week to work on design for maximum impact and scalability. Held in Bolinas, California, the course gave Fellows the rare opportunity to focus completely on their ideas and a systematic way to apply them.

What caught the attention of Mulago?  Cincotta says it’s Saha’s 100% success rate, simple approach, and commitment to long-term monitoring and evaluation. 

Creating A Permanent Source of Clean Water

Cincotta says, “Saha is the first water organization selected by Mulago for the Fellows program. We both believe that Saha cannot only serve the poorest of the poor, but we also have the potential to scale. The key is simplicity. Our water treatment centers use all locally available, affordable, low-tech products. It costs Saha less than $12 to provide a permanent source of clean water to one person. Other organizations average around $20 – 25 per person.”

Reflecting on the course, Cincitta says, “Mulago is different than any other funder we’ve had. They are a true partner in every sense of the word. They want to work with us to help us grow and achieve maximum impact, and understand that there will be challenges along the way.”

She adds, “We’re really proud of the impact we’ve had so far: Over 45,000 people in Ghana now have permanent access to safe drinking water.” But there are 800,000 in Northern Region Ghana who still lack access to clean water. Fueled by its partnership with Mulago, Saha’s goal is to rapidly scale in northern Ghana, doubling its impact by 2018, to reach over 400,000 people in the next 5 years.

Still Facing Tough Challenges

Saha Global certainly chose two of Ghana’s toughest challenges: (1) There’s a very high risk of food or waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever; and (2) The biggest single economic issue is the lack of consistent electricity. Things are improving, though average life expectancy is just 66 years, per capita income is $4,300, and the 2015 inflation rate was 17%.

Green and Cincotta understood that the water needs in Ghana were not due to a lack of technical solutions. “We knew the challenge lay in the implementation of those solutions in the field. We developed a durable implementation model, community-scale, low-tech, social enterprise approach that formed the foundation of Saha Global’s model.” They raised funds to pilot the idea from the Public Service Center at MIT, then headed back to Ghana in 2008 to found Saha Global.

In another project, Saha is helping local entrepreneurs use solar energy to light lanterns so children can study at night, and to charge cell phones – also for a small profit.

Twice each year, Saha Global recruits and trains scores of college students in social entrepreneurship. Volunteers spend three weeks in Ghanaian villages helping to set up micro-businesses. In each village, the community designates two women to learn how to chlorinate water and sell it to fellow villagers for a small profit.

College students interested in being Field Reps in Ghana can learn more at the Saha Global website. Saha Global also seeks individual donations, Corporate Partners and Field Rep Sponsors. For more info, email kate@sahaglobal.org or visit www.sahaglobal.org.  As a 501(c)(3) organization, donations are tax-exempt to the extent allowed by law. Donations may be made online or via check made out to Saha Global, and mailed to 26 West Broadway #302, Boston, MA 02127.

Meet Our Newest Corporate Partner: Phoenix Revolution

Saha Global is thrilled to announced our newest corporate partner: Phoenix Revolution!

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Phoenix Revolution’s mission is to overcome the most challenging problems that face our world today, through engineering economic and environmental solutions. Their Ocean Pure Water System (OPWS) uses modern and proven water desalination processes in an innovative way to reduce power consumption and upfront costs, while maximizing water production. Using desalination and purification techniques based on reverse osmosis (RO), the OPWS does not innovate on the removal of dissolved solids, but on the ability to supply water to the system.

“What was once a multi year, multi billion dollar operation, can now be done in weeks with startup costs starting well under the $100,000 price mark.” Says Casey Glynn, Phoenix Revolution’s Founder and CEO. “Our system is easy, adaptable to being deployed under the sea or on land depending on your specific needs, and can get you started creating fresh, clean, potable drinking water right away. The OPWS is the beginning of ensuring that all people on this planet have quick and easy access to water.”

Saha was first introduced to Casey, last year through Next Step Living. We were immediately impressed with his passion for worldwide water access and his innovative technology. Casey and his team attend the Saha Benefit in the fall, were excited by our plans to expand to Nicaragua and immediately wanted to know how they help.

“[Saha and Phoenix] share the same belief. We are trying to solve the same problems and we feel that together we can make a large difference,” says Casey. “Companies coming together and working together is the only way we can all move forward on this most critical of problems”

Over the next year, Phoenix will be donating funds to help support our expansion and eventually will be contributing their water treatment products for us to test in-country during our Nicaragua pilots. Stay tuned for more exciting updates!

Is your company interested in expanding your impact by supporting Saha’s work? Contact Kate, kate@sahaglobal.org, to learn more!

CWS Announces Water Business Openings Live on the Radio in Tamale, Ghana

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Peter, Brianan and Sam at the 89.3 Fiila FM radio station after their interview with Samiell

Today was an exciting day for Community Water Solutions: four new water treatment centers opened for business and the CWS staff were interviewed live on 89.3 Fiila FM Tamale.

It all started yesterday when CWS Director of Operations, Sam, went to the Tamale radio station Fiila FM to buy the fellows tickets to a concert they were promoting for this weekend. What started off as jokes and pleasantries with the radio broadcaster Samiell, soon turned in to a serious discussion about bringing a few members of the CWS Ghana staff in for a radio interview. Samiell informed Sam that Fiila FM aired a program that morning about the water crisis in the Northern Region of Ghana and that they would be interested in having CWS live on his show the following day.

Fiila FM

My phone rang soon after-  it was Sam,  “CWS is going to be on the radio tomorrow morning! Call Peter!”

“Wait what, how did you pull this off?” was my immediate reaction. But knowing Sam, she was serious. Peter, the CWS Project Manager for Ghana,  had been talking about getting CWS on the radio in Tamale for months now; he was going to be stoked.

In the Northern Region of Ghana, everyone listens to the radio. There are broadcasts in Dagbani and English, meaning that you do not need to be literate or need to know English in order to listen. In a recent survey from 2011 run by the Government of Ghana, UNICEF, USAID and Ghana Health Services found here: they reported that in the Northern Region 41.2% of women between the ages of 15-49 years and 62.1% of men between the ages of 15-59 years had listened to the radio in the last week of being interviewed, making it the most popular form of mass media in the Northern Region.

Sam, Peter and I got to the Fiila FM radio station at 8 am this morning. “You’ll be on in 30 minutes”, the receptionist told us. At 8:38 am we made our way in to the recording studio. Samiell, the Fiila FM broadcaster, greeted us as the host of the program. I smiled upon hearing his smooth talking, radio announcer voice as he said,  “Nice to have you Community Water Solutions”, putting extra emphasis on the end making it sound like “Soluuutions”.

Adjusting the mics
Peter and Brianan testing the mics. Testing 1-2 1-2.

We had prepped for the interview so that Peter would do the talking; Sam and I figured most people listening would be unable to understand our American accents. But Samiell wanted to hear from all of us. He asked us about CWS, what we do, where we get our funding, the districts in which we are working and about our most recently implemented communities. What a great day to be interviewed! Sam announced that as we were being broadcasted, there were four new water treatment centers opening in the communities of Dundo, Namdu, Guremancheyili and Chandanyili. Tomorrow will be the opening day for Kundanali/Yapalsi! Bringing the grand total of CWS communities up to 60!

Peter and I finished up the interview by making an announcement to all Fiila Fm listeners North of the Volta, which also applies to all of you blog readers out there: if you are living in a community without pumps, pipes, boreholes or filters drinking from a river, dam or open water source then contact CWS Project Manager Peter at (+233) 020- 639-8391.

Fiila FM pic

At the end, Samiell asked Peter to summarize the interview and final announcement in Dagbani for all the non-English speakers tuning in to the show.

Without further ado, here is the live broadcast recording. Enjoy!

Brianán


New Partnership: Next Step Giving!

Now that the Innova(sun) pilot is complete, we have gotten many questions about “what’s next” for the solar program. Well, we are excited that we are finally able to answer that question!

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 2.21.19 PMCWS is excited to announce our partnership with Next Step Living, a Boston-based company on a mission to make it easy, affordable and rewarding for homeowners to implement energy-saving solutions. NSL recently launched a new philanthropic initiative called Next Step Giving and has selected CWS as their first beneficiary. You can read the announcement here!

CWS will be using the funding from Next Step Giving will help us grow the solar program in Ghana. Over the spring we will be taking the lessons learned from the first pilot in Wambong to implement 2-3 more pilot solar businesses in CWS ‘ partner communities. Of course, we will be posting updates frequently on this blog, so stay tuned to learn more!

Thank you Next Step Giving for selecting CWS as your first partner! We are so excited to be working with another mission-driven company focused on doing good work in communities both here in Massachusetts and around the world!

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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A Small Small Intro to Ghanaian Government

Map Time!With the recent tragic passing of President John Atta Mills and the December elections approaching, the Ghanaian government has been making international news headlines. What you don’t hear as much about are the local government institutions that keep the country running. This blog post is about those officials, plauges (?*!? Keep reading…) and offices that help Community Water Solutions do its work in the Northern Region.

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NDC supporters turn out to welcome the new President. This is a sneak preview of the support for the National Parliamentary and Presidential elections coming up in December!

Wait, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself already. Northern Region is a region, like an American state or a Canadian province, in (you guessed it!) the north of Ghana. Actually, its not Ghana’s nortmost region; that distinction is held jointly by Upper East and Upper West Regions, but more about them on a later day. Tamale is the largest city in Northern Region. It’s where our fellows sleep, where our office is located, and where we purchase many of our business supplies. Northern Region is further divided into districts, which are governed by elected District Assemblies. The signboards that fellows see around town, “Iddrisu Haruna, Lawyer, for Tamale North Constituency”, are campaign tools for the December District Assembly elections. Each district also has a building that houses the offices for public works. Environmental Health is the department that I am most interested in, as water comes into play here.  Most districts have a Water and Sanitation Team that deal with their constituency’s difficulties in these areas.

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This plague marks the Municipal Assembly in Bawku, Upper East. On top of the challenges faced by district officials, public service can also be a hazardous occupation!

If each district has a team devoted to dealing with its local water problems, where and why does CWS come into play? The answer is complicated. Part of the answer has to do with boreholes. Many governments, NGOs and private citizens the world over think that boreholes are the silver bullet to the water crisis. It certainly is the standard approach to water access in communities here. Boreholes and other groundwater access can be a great solution – they can cut down on time hauling water and they don’t have most of the contamination problems that traditional surface water sources have. However, boreholes can be problematic in many places. In large areas of Northern Region, for example, groundwater is extremely difficult to access, and borehole success rates are as low as 20%[1]. Boreholes and pumps are neither cheap nor intuitive to fix and currently a huge proportion across sub-Saharan Africa are in disrepair. Lastly, they are comparatively expensive to drill. Which introduces the next challenge faced by the District Assemblies: funding. The majority of district funding for water projects does not come from Ghanaian tax dollars. It comes from national or regional donations from multinational organizations and NGOS like UNICEF or the EU. This means that yearly funding is tied to donor priorities, which can be tricky. For example, since Ghana is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals for water, district budgets for water projects are getting axed. It also means that one-time expense projects, like boreholes, where you can cut a ribbon, snap pictures, check a box and drive home are more likely to get funded than longer-term needs (like monitoring). Between borehole mania and funding difficulties, it has been challenging for districts to come up with alternative solutions local water problems, but that’s where we come in!

The boxes are labeled “National Archives.” Wonder which folder is the borehole report I was looking for?

Of course, different district bureaucracies function at different levels of efficiencies. Some districts or teams are able to stay on top of their game even in the face of these challenges. Some, uh, aren’t. CWS is a lean, mean water-treating machine, and we are able to pick up the slack when local institutions just don’t have the capacity to meet all their constituency’s basic needs.

Challenges aside, without the help of district officials, CWS’ would not have been able to expand as quickly or effectively as we have.  In turn, we are able to compliment local government efforts with our unique and flexible approach to the water problem here. It’s a partnership we hope to continue well into our future!

For more information about the upcoming elections, check out Ghana Decides, a really cool local NGO that is using all sorts of social media to keep Ghanaians updated about the election!

-Kathryn

Make Kony Famous 2012

Unless you live under a rock, you have most likely seen the Kony 2012  campaign by Invisible Children that has hit all of the social media outlets by storm this week. We at CWS are in awe of this amazing call to arms by such an incredible organization that has already done such great work to shed light on the horrific crimes that Joseph Kony has/is committing in Central Africa. If you haven’t already seen it, watch this video immediately and help Make Kony famous, so that we can arrest him in 2012!

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/37119711 w=400&h=225]

KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.