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Clear Water Doesn’t Always Mean Clean

In Kpanayili, this woman collects rainwater the right way! “She doesn’t joke with the clean water” – Peter

Two weeks ago while doing household visits with Wahab in Kpanayili, we entered the compound of a family that had a full safe storage container of clean looking water. We were delighted. “De viele, de viele” or “good, good”, Wahab and I said to Fati, the woman who showed us where her family keeps their drinking water. She smiled, shy but proud of what she had shown us. Upon further questioning, we found out; however, that while the rainwater this woman had collected in her safe storage container looked very clean, it was most likely contaminated and not suitable for drinking. Fati told us that she had used a clay pot to collect this rainwater from the tin roof above her husband’s bedroom, waiting five minutes for the rain to clear off the roof before collecting. She then told us that she had used her Guinea Worm filter, a mesh cloth that was distributed to her household by the Carter foundation to eradicate Guinea Worm (for more info on Guinea Worm click here or here), to filter water as she transferred it from her clay pot into her safe storage container. This clay pot had no lid and most likely stored dugout water (contaminated surface water) in it during the dry season, meaning that if tested in the lab, this water would come back positive for e-coli. Guinea Worm filters do not actually filter the water, they were used back in the day to make sure that these worms would not make it into the garrawas and buckets used for collecting water for household use. This mesh piece of cloth would remove some sediment at best, leaving all bacteria (the good and the bad) to multiply and stew.

It’s groundnut season in Zanzugu! Amin and I were given bags and bags full of groundnuts during household visits. We finally learned to say thank you but no thank you.

Wahab and I explained all of this to Fati, telling her that while her water looked clear, it was actually not clean for reasons X, Y and Z. “Awoomea”, Fati said or “I hear”. But would she actually get the message and follow through by properly collecting rainwater directly from the tin roof using her safe storage container? Wahab and I could only hope. We would not be there with her when the next rain hit. We would not be able to watch to see if she would use her clay pot again to store rainwater for drinking. The decision to make a behavioral change would have to come from Fati.

Amin uses salt-water solution to explain rainwater contamination to Wahab at a weekly office education meeting.

This is a common problem in many of the CWS villages that have tin roofs and collect rainwater during the rainy season. While we inform all of our communities on how to properly harvest rainwater, some people do not see a difference in using their clay pot versus using their safe storage container. After all, the clear rainwater looks so much cleaner than turbid dugout water. But how can we get them to intrinsically understand why this clear looking water is actually not clean? At our last staff meeting, this is a question that Peter, Shak, Amin, Wahab and I all pondered. We realized that we were going to need props if we were going to do this right.

Peter entertains a household in Kagburashe with some proper rainwater collection education! Which one would you choose?
Wahab uses a positive Total Coliform test to explain to a girl in Gariezegu how rainwater can get contaminated when collected in pots that once held dugout water.

 

 

 

 

 

Since then, we have been using water samples of contaminated rainwater that have tested positive for Total Coliform (a sign of contamination, shows up bright yellow in a test tube) and water samples taken from the polytank that have tested negative for e-coli and Total Coliform (shows up clear in a test tube). The CWS field staff has been using these two test tubes as a tangible demonstration given during household visits to show the difference between the clean and clear, the good and the bad. In order to get the children of these villages on board, we have also been conducting taste tests of a salt-water solution versus treated polytank water to show how clear water can have invisible germs inside and that you cannot always see what is in your drinking water. Almost every kid that tries the two spits out the salt-water solution in disgust! Clear does not always mean clean… or tasty.

-Brianan

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!

2011 Winter Fellowship Program: The Impact

If you have been reading our “voices from the field” series, than you have gotten a small glimpse of the everyday work that our 2011 Winter Fellows completed during their time here in Ghana. You’ve seen how they built polytank stands, danced with the children in their villages, distributed safe storage containers, held village meetings, performed water quality testing in the lab, trained local women how to make water from their local sources safe to drink, and even sampled some traditional Ghanaian food!

The day-to-day work is fun, but sometimes slow; exciting, but often exhausting, and sometimes, its easy to get lost in all of the small details of the project. Looking back over the past 5 weeks, the bottom line is this: the 2011 Winter Fellows provided permanent sources of safe drinking water for over 4,200 people! That is pretty amazing!

 

Team 6: Karla, Sam, Annie and Hannah S.

 

Team 5: Shalyn, Pranav, Lina, and Sarah
Team 7: Eleanor, Rachel, Fabiola, and Sanita
Team 1 :Luke, Heather, Mira, and Catherine
Team 3: Jim, Lauren, Elsie and Kathryn
Team 4: Kevin, Marlene, Chris, and Allie
Team 2: Sarah, Cam, Nate, and Hannah H.

Of course none of the Fellows’ work could have been possible without your support! We’d like to thank all of the parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, churches, community groups, local businesses and everyone else who supported the 2011 Winter Fellows – without all of you, the fellowship teams could not have made such an amazing impact during their time in Ghana! THANK YOU!

Voices from the field: Team 5!

Tyte Tyte Tyte: The Adventures of Team 5 in Zanzugu

Our day in Zanzugu began with twenty dust-covered kids piling into the back of the jeep to help bring bags of cement and concrete blocks to the dugout for the Polytank stand. We got down and dirty with the kids and mixed cement with our hands, guided by our expert mason, translator, driver, food connoisseur, mechanic, and Ghana’s number one freestyle rapper, Shak. After a long day of work, we were glad to see the first step of our project come to life.

 

Shak, Pranav, Shalyn, Sarah, and Lina in the half-finished Polytank stand

The next day, we mixed gravel, sand, and cement to fill in the Polytank stand. Sarah got to try her hand at off-road trucking and successfully made it back in one piece, much to our relief. In true Ghanaian fashion, Lina and Pranav carried buckets full of dirt on their heads.

 

Pranav has fun plastering the stand with some of the boys

After we finished the final layer of plaster, we all wrote our names in the wet cement, officially making our mark in Ghana.

 

As the rest of the team admired their handiwork, Lina decided to take a nap (per usual)

While Pranav was off playing with the boys, the ladies got to spend some quality time with Fati and Hazara, the two women chosen to run the treatment center. We rolled alum balls together and swirled them in the blue drums full of dugout water. Aluminum sulfide is a coagulant that causes dirt particles in the turbid water to flock together and sink to the bottom. Finding the right balance of alum is important because too much can lead to sickness and not enough will leave the water turbid – it’s a learning process for all of us. Fati and Hazara scooped the clear water into the Polytank and added Aquatabs (chlorine in tablet form) to rid the water of E. Coli and other microbes. We then taught Fati and Hazara how to set aside the correct amount of money to purchase more Aquatabs and alum in order to maintain a self-sustaining business.

 

Sarah, Shak, and Lina roll alum balls with Fati and Hazara

The last and most hectic step before opening day was distributing the safe storage containers. Initially, we didn’t think distribution would be difficult, but with nearly fifty households in the village, it proved to be a daunting task. At first, we went household-to-household and talked to people individually, which worked well because we had two translators with us. The next day, while we were assembling the containers, villagers formed a crowd around us so we experimented with a new approach. We trained villagers in small groups at the center of the village, speeding up the process but adding an element of chaos. This new method put our management skills to the test, but once we got ourselves organized the rest of the training went smoothly.

 

Wahab translating Shalyn’s explanation of how to use the safe storage containers

Overall, we had few setbacks but recently two of our members fell victim to Fufu-itis. Even though Pranav and Sarah have experienced fever, stomach cramps, dehydration, and light-headedness, they just can’t stop running.

But no worries, they are in the safe hands of Dr. Kate and a strong regimen of Cipro.

-Team 5: Shalyn, Sarah, Lina and Pranav

Session 2: Days 3 and 4

The Session 2 fellows started off their third day in Tamale with a great presentation by Foster Soley from unicef, who spoke about the work his organization is doing both here in Ghana and around the world. Foster is a WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) officer at unicef, who we have been working with in our unicef-cws partner villages in Central Gonja. His presentation was interesting and relevant, and the fellows asked some great questions!

 

Unicef presentation

After lunch, the teams headed out on their first trip to the field to visits some CWS sites! Team 5 went to went to Zanzugu and Gilanzegu; Team 6 checked out Chani and Nymaliga, while Team 7 when to Yipela and Nyanguripe. The fellows had a great time seeing our water treatment centers in person for the first time, and (as the pictures below show) seemed to assimilate with the villagers quite well!

 

Fabiola, TJ, Eleanor and Rachel on the bridge by Yipela - we have been experiencing the Hamattan this past week (sand blows down from the Sahara causing a dusty haze)
Annie with her new friends in the village

 

Lina in the village
Sarah peeling some cassava
Most of the fellows enjoyed playing with the children in the village, Fabiola, however, had fun hanging out with a different kind of "kid"

The next day, the teams hit the the road bright and early so they could be at the villages in time to see people buying water. After an hour or so at the water treatment centers, they then performed random household visits where they could see how the water we provide is actually stored and used in the home. They took water samples at each house, which they brought back and tested in the lab to make sure the water wasn’t being re-contaminated.

 

Catherine (ses. 1) and Karla with some Fulani women at Kpallibisi's water treatment center
Catherine , Hannah and Nate (ses. 1) monitoring water sales in Kpallibisi
Pranav getting a taste of water from polytank at Gilanzegu
Sam and Barihama, our great taxi driver, after a long day in the field!
Eleanor and some new friends in Yipela!
Rachel taking a break from household visits to pound some FuFu
Pranav and Shak at the the Gilzengu water treatment center

After a long day in the field, the fellows and I were definitely ready for a good meal. Annie’s family friend invited all 17 of us (12 Session 2 fellows, 4 Session 1 fellows and me!) over to their house for dinner and dancing. The meal was delicious (and of course the dancing was a blast!) It was an amazing experience that none of us will forget!

 

Some of our big group at dinner
Dance party!

Days 5 through 11: Village Implementations!!

For the next week or so, the teams all went off to implement what they had spent the last week learning.  They met with their chiefs and elders, built and assembled their treatment centers, trained the village women to run the centers, and distributed safe storage containers to all the households in their communities. In the end, it turned out that Chani had 28 households in their village, Yipela had 171 households, Kpallabisi had about 170, and Zamzugu had 71.  At the end of a week’s time, the fellows had helped bring clean water to 440 households, or ~3,520 individuals! Since I couldn’t be in all the villages to report their progress, and the teams were working independently on their implementations, I thought it would be nice to have each team report on different aspects of their projects from the week.  The following blogs will be their words.  Enjoy! 🙂

-Mike