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Meet Our Entrepreneurs: Fati from Tohinayili

Tohinaahiyili - FatiFati is one of the water business entrepreneurs in Tohinayili. This business was implemented here in January of 2013 by past Field Reps Caroline , Iyi & Amanda, a Master’s in Public Health student studying at George Washington University.

Fati was born and raised up in Tohinayili. She met her husband there and has lived there her entire life. She gave birth to four kids: a boy and two girls, one is deceased. Alongside running the water business, Fati collects shea nuts, which she uses to make shea butter and then sells.

“I am very happy to make sales and am thankful for this opportunity,” stated Fati. “Our kids used to complain of stomach pains and many people used to have runny stomachs. But now that we have clean water, all those complaints have stopped.”

Meet Our Field Reps: Iyi Okunlola

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Hello.  My name is Iyioluwa Okunlola, or Iyi (pronounced ‘E-Yee’) for short.  “Iyioluwa“ in Yoruba, a West African dialect and ethnic group, translates to “the honor of the Lord of the Universe”, and I try to live up to such a unique name that is frequently mispronounced, and thought to be of Hawaiian descent.  I am a 22-year-old North Jersey native who graduated from St. Lawrence University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation Biology in May 2014.

Three factors really drew me to the Saha Global Field Rep opportunity.  Firstly I am of Nigerian descent, and I really have a passion for West African culture, and its well being.  One year prior to partaking in the Saha Global Leadership Program, during a holiday break from college I had the opportunity to travel back to Nigeria with family, which was a very humbling yet a irrevocable and memorable experience for me.  Finally, prior to working with Saha Global I thought I wanted to be a Physical Therapist, but after these life-changing experiences and my general passion for ecology and the natural world, I decided to pursue a degree in Conservation Biology with the intent of learning and focusing a career devoted to international development and mitigating environmental issues, which are often cruxes to developing countries.

My biggest memory from Ghana and the Saha Global Leadership Program would definitely be the camaraderie I was able to build with the village, Tohinayilli, and the Saha Global translators and staff.  When I asked TJ, a Ghanaian translator for Saha Global, what he liked most about his country, he told me “Ghana is Freedom and Peace”.  That really resonated with me.  For this reason I would say the biggest takeaway from this program would be the opportunity to work with like-minded individuals from all over the world.

The Saha Global Leadership Program has helped me develop skills such as research, fieldwork, water quality analysis, community outreach, teamwork, and donation soliciting, which are important for professionalism and my desired career path.  I was able to spend the summer of 2013 up at St. Lawrence doing a research fellowship with a professor based upon research I collected from my experience with Saha Global.  As a result of my favorable time with Saha Global, I hope to combine a graduate degree with Peace Corps through a Master’s International program in the near future.   As for now, I am happy to announce that I will be a tutor as part of the Great Oaks Charter School Urban Tutor Fellowship in Newark, New Jersey for the 2014-2015 school year.  Take a chance to get out of your comfort zone with Saha Global, and I am sure you will have an experience you will remember quite fondly!

Season Changeover Stimulates Water Business Sales

Customers!
Happy customers on their way home from buying water from Amina and Massamata’s water business in Galinzegu!

The rains “are finished” as Ghanaians would say, which means CWS water treatment centers are back in business! In the rainy season, which lasts from June- October in the Northern Region of Ghana, CWS communities collect rainwater. Rainwater is plentifully and freely available in these months, so community members opt for free drinking water instead of paying the $.05 to fill their 20 L containers at the water treatment center.

200 L drums
Rainwater collected in 200 L yellow drums in the village of Gidanturi. While this water is safe for using for household chores, it is easily contaminated. People need to open the lid and dip a scooping bucket in to fetch the water. Contamination alert!

Now that the rains have stopped, the only available clean water source in CWS communities is for people to buy water from the centers. The only other water available for drinking would be stored rainwater in 200 L blue drums or clay pots (not safe for drinking), stored rainwater in cement rainwater catchment tanks (not safe for drinking), stored rainwater in hand dug wells (not safe for drinking) or dugout/stream water (definitely not safe for drinking).

While the answer seems obvious (they should go to the center!), it’s not that simple. The entrepreneurs have not been regularly treating water and the community members have not been regularly buying water. So this limbo period is always an adjustment for CWS communities. As CWS Assistant Project Manager Shak put it, ” It’s no longer raining. So this is just our biggest challenge for the next month, getting people used to buying water again. ”

Local well unsafe!
A “local well” in Kabache/Kasawuripe. This is the water the entrepreneurs have been treating in this community. It is not groundwater and is easily contaminated with human and animal waste… aka do not drink!

Behavior change isn’t easy. And that’s what CWS is focusing on in transitioning from the rainy to the dry season. Changing the entrepreneurs’ behavior so they incorporate water treatment and selling water into their daily routines and changing the consumers’ behavior, so they get used to coming to buy water.

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CWS Field staffer Wahab making household surveying look easy.

In most communities, this transition is seamless. For example, in Kpanayili where the entrepreneurs now use a metal polytank stand to move the center from the various water sources throughout the year, their water business is operating with high sales! Field staffer Wahab is in charge of the monitoring and evaluation for Kpanayili. He reported on November 20, 2013, “It was such a happy day, seeing Kpanayili’s center up and running after the rains.” Last year, community members took their sweet time transitioning back to using the center and this year, they haven’t missed a beat.

But in other communities, the transition has not been so seamless. For example, in Nyamaliga, the community relies solely on rainwater throughout the rainy season because their dugout path gets muddy and slippery. I along with the other staff can vouch for this as we’ve all taken a tumble trying to get to the dugout. Sana and Sofou who run the center refuse to treat water until the community members help them weed the path to the water treatment center, which means a few weeks of people not having access to clean drinking water. This baffles the CWS field staff because if the path is dry then the entrepreneurs should be able to access the dugout! CWS Project Manager Peter reported this week that the path was clear so there should be no delay in water treatment… as for that one we’ll have to report back next week.

Rainwater catchment tank
Rainwater catchment tank — CWS staff Amin and myself recently tested rainwater catchment tanks in Sakpalua, Djelo and Kpenchila. Almost every tank tested positive for total coliform and a few tested positive for e-coli. These tanks are hard to clean and the organizations that set them up do not return for testing or monitoring. We advise communities not to drink from them.

In Tohinaayili, the community decided to move their center to the town center during the rainy season to treat rainwater. This is Tohinaayili’s first transition from the rainy to the dry season, as CWS implemented here in the Winter of 2012-2013. While their polytank is not empty yet, the entrepreneurs have been lackadaisical to move it back to the dugout. The CWS field staff has seen this type of transition before and found that it takes a few seasons to get the hang of it.

Finally, the path to Gbateni was flooded all rainy season. The CWS staff had not been there since May! On November 20, 2013, CWS field staffers Amin and Peter were finally able to get there. They arrived at the center and it was empty, community members did not have clean water in their storage containers. The entrepreneurs were also not home so they could not figure out what was wrong. The staff will have to get back ASAP. Buhijaa and Chanaayili, villages that are also inaccessible to CWS staff during the rainy season, were up and running the entire season! Chanaayili even sent a message to Gidanturi mid rainy season requesting that CWS staff send aquatabs (chlorine tablets) with someone who was able to make it across the flooded road.

Amin to Gbateni
Amin trudges through the flooded path to Gbateni mid-rainy season.
metal pt stand
Shout out to the metal polytank stand which several communities are now using to move their water treatment centers from different water sources throughout the seasons

These seasonal transitions are a challenge for CWS every year. Each community adapts to the changing of seasons at a different pace. But the cool thing about CWS is that the field staff is with these entrepreneurs and communities throughout the process! The staff shows the entrepreneurs how to rally assemblymen, chiefs and queen mothers to get the communities back on track or even modifies the CWS technology (like the moveable metal polytank stands) so that these water businesses will be sustainable without staff help in the future!

-Brianán

Returning to Ghana

Last spring, CWS expanded our operations to the regions surrounding the city of Salaga, Ghana. This summer, we hosted our first Fellowship Program in Salaga. Two of the Fellows who came with us to Salaga, Caroline and Brigid, had already participated in the Fellowship Program and were returning to Ghana for a second time. Today’s blog post is written by Caroline, who we asked to write about the reasons why she wanted to join the Salaga Fellowship and share experience as a two-time CWS Fellow!

Returning to Ghana for the Salaga fellowship was an incredible experience. I have such distinct memories from both of my trips and it was amazing to return with the experience from my first fellowship. Having already been oriented to CWS’s approach, I was excited to use this knowledge in Salaga. I knew that I wanted to return to a country that I developed such a strong love for. My teammates and I had a great dynamic throughout my first fellowship, and Shak, our translator helped us to really get involved with Tohinayili, our community. On our last day, we all painted a mural on the school that said, “we promise to only drink clean water” and some of the children helped us by putting their handprints on the school wall. Painting the mural was one of my fondest memories and cemented my love for Ghana and interest in development work. I knew that I wanted to be part of the CWS team again and help them with their expansion to Salaga.

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In regards to packing I felt a lot more prepared, I knew to bring plenty of the necessities, such as peanut butter and cheezits. Most of my focus went into fundraising. It was a bit daunting at first; I needed to be creative and think of different strategies. Writing an article about CWS in my local newspaper worked well. I live in a small town and many people heard about my trip and wanted to learn more about my involvement CWS. I also found that people felt involved with the fundraising when I came home and shared all my wonderful stories and photos with them.  Having the experiences and pictures from the first fellowship made it easier to express to people what I was doing in Ghana and both new and old donors were excited and willing to help me reach my fundraising goal.

Salaga is a small town and spending two weeks there was an interesting change from Tamale. We had two bikes at the CWS house and I loved biking into market to buy groceries and fabric. Salaga’s small size made it easier to immerse myself in the community and connect with our neighbors. I went on a run after being out in the field and it suddenly down poured so I stopped and met a nice woman to talk with and wait for the rain to end under a large tree. The small community feel of Salaga is wonderful to experience and I enjoyed having time to explore.

Brigid, Eric & Caroline!
Brigid, Eric & Caroline!

My teammate and I implemented in Kabache-Kasawuripe, a community about an hour away from the CWS office. Our implementation process went quite well and I felt like I was able to build on my leadership skills within my team. Having already conducted a chief meeting and an opening day, I felt more confident in my abilities and this fueled a greater feeling of engagement with the community. I loved worked with Eric, our translator. He did a tremendous job helping us orchestrate all the various steps throughout the implementation process. Lamnatu, one of the women in charge of the business completely took over monitoring the water business and I enjoyed talking to her about the business and the ways we could support the system and maximize sales. Working and speaking with Lamnatu and my overall connection to Kabache-Kasawuripe is an incredibly fond memory. I thoroughly enjoyed my fellowship in Salaga and look forward to hopefully returning soon.

-Caroline Colllins

Sounds like your cup of tea? CWS is currently accepting applications for our winter fellowship program! Applications are due October 3rd. October 7th. Click here to learn more and apply!

Voices from the field: Team B (Caroline, Amanda and Iyi)

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Team B

We were so thrilled see such amazing community involvement!  Our village’s was named Toyinahili, about 1 hour outside of Tamale. There are approximately 100 households in the village and many adorable children.

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Azabel (red shirt) hands the mason a tool to make the cement.

The turnout to build the Polytank stand was predominantly male and everyone pitched in to help.  It was nice to see the whole community come together to help the implementation process.  Each person played an intrigal part of the stand: the son of the chief, Azabel and Shak (our translator) took control of the build and a mason came and did the cement work for free. Children goofed around and lounged the in shade – once spotting a crocodile in the lake and rushing over to see it. Our Polytank spot is wedged in between two trees by the dugout and is a beautiful spot for clean water.

DSC05981-1After the stand was finished we headed up to the center of the village and gathered the children around to brush their teeth. The day before, we had given each child a toothbrush and a toothpaste packet and taught them how to brush. For all of the children, it was their first encounter with a toothbrush. Amanda noticed when she first arrived that all the children had very white teeth but as age increased, tooth decay did as well. Watching them raise their hands proudly to declare who had brushed the night before was an amazing feeling for everyone on the team.

Happy Birthday Iyi
Happy Birthday Iyi

Today was also Iyi’s birthday 21st (January 6th)!  Shak decided to pour water on Iyi to help him celebrate.  A special celebration is planned for tonight!  Our translator Shak can do just about anything as he is a “jack of all trades”.  Whether it would be fixing his truck on the side of the road, or helping transport and build the parts of the water purification business, he always is calm collected, and nonchalant.  This is because Shak has worked with CWS for a few years now, and he is always prepared for whatever the day brings.  Our purification drums were held to the car solely by long strips of elastic, which was tied down securely by “do-it –all “ Shak.  The cement work took about 2 hours however since a good portion of the community was there, many hands made light work.   When the cement work was done everyone, Shak, Amanda, Caroline, and Iyi signed the cement so that the entire village would remember us for generations to come.  Tomorrow we will begin training the appointed women to run the business on how to make the balls of alum and their role in the water purification business.  Everything is running smoothly.  Tohyinayili’s opening day could be easily as early as Wednesday, January 9th, 2013!

–Caroline, Amanda, Shak, Iyi