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Operations Updates: New staff, new reporting, new ideas!

If you haven’t already noticed, there have been a lot of changes at Saha in recent months! I am so excited to update you on all of the improvements we’ve had. New staff, new reporting, new ideas!

The team has more than doubled since we last introduced new members. Here is a brief introduction of all our recent additions. Last February, we said a fond fairwell to Eda and Morganne who have served as Operations Coordinators for over a year here in Ghana. A month later, we said warm hello to the new Operations Coordinator Rhiana Meade who will be working with me (Heidi)! Rhiana was actually a field rep during our previous Winter GLP 2018. She helped open a center with TJ at Nyantag, little did she know that a few months later she would be returning to work full time with us helping implement even more villages.

Here is a brief introduction of Rhiana. She graduated from Reed College in Portland Oregon with a degree in Chemistry and went on to get her Masters at Tufts University in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Previously, she worked for a Field Operations Supervisor for a Cambrian Innovation, a provider of wastewater treatment services. She has been to Ghana even before her field rep days. Her parents lived and worked in Accra for a few years, during which she visited them, found herself a Ghanaian Auntie, and was able to tour around the country. She has works with passion and compassion and can make an amazing Blondie! It been great having her as my counterpart. She was was able to hold down the fort when I went on vacation 2 weeks into her arrival and orientation. We plunged her into the Saha life, and she has done well!

Next to introduce, is someone who took on a completely new role: Director of Operations. We welcomed Theo the same month Rhiana joined on. He was born and raised in Accra and went to Ashesi University to study Business Administration. Prior to Saha Theo worked with Delta and a Start-up called Laundry King – An on demand laundry service. Maybe we can get one of those here in Tamale? Theo is on the search for the best Wache in town, so any recommendations please send them his way. He will be taking over most of the administrative load from Rhiana and myself, so we can focus on optimizing the day to day management of our staff. It’s been helpful having an in-country representative to focus on community relationships and building up the organization for future growth. Since the role is still being formed, he’s been doing an amazing job rolling with whatever we need him to to. Currently, he is going out 3 days a week to get a true feel of how the business run and what Saha does. Since coming, he has been able to witness an implementation through it’s entirety, get incredibly lost scouting, and have difficult conversations with villages facing problems. Way to go Theo for taking on this role with bravery and openness!

Speaking of growth, did you notice, we hired on 5 new full time staff members? All the new staff were our Translators in our Winter 2018 GLP. Much like Rhiana, little did they know that they would become full time staff with us in a few months for the GLP. Now I can’t image the team without them. You can read more on their bios but here is a which overview of our newest members:

Abubakari Asita (aka Sita), she grew up in Tamale and started working with Saha back in 2014 implementing Balamposo. If she sounds familiar to you, you may have recognized her from Women’s week posts. She loves being an inspiration to little girls in the villages she visits.

 

 

 

 

 

Alhassan Seidu was trained under Eric who would often take him out in the field monitoring and implementing. Now he can do that on his own as a full time staff. Seidu always shoos away the goats that wander into the Saha Office. Outside of Monitoring, Seidu is a skilled electrician and helps us with any electrical needs we encounter at the office.

Ziblila Mohammed Taufik has been part of 3 Global Leadership Programs. His first implementation was Baiyili. Prior to Saha Taufik used to teach ICT, but now he enjoys seeing the clear water being scooped into the PT at the water centers.

Amenyeku Dzorsah started as a translator for GLP. His first implementation was Changbuni. Prior to monitoring, Dzorsah was a taxi driver in tamale. Now he gets work with the women entrepreneurs, talk to people during household visits about clean water, and drive a moto everyday instead of a taxi. I haven’t asked him which he prefers yet!

Sulemana Tijani has known and worked with Saha in its very early stages with Shak and Kate. His first GLP village was Yapei-Yipela. Prior to Saha he worked at Melcom (the Tamale equivalent of Walmart) and drove a taxi. Now he can bring clean water to his country and work with other likeminded individuals.

A larger team has allowed us to expand and focus! So starting in January, we divided up into 3 Distinct teams: Scouting, Monitoring, and Implementation. We divided up the team based on their interests, but there is the possibility of movement across teams if desired. For now, everyone is doing an amazing job in each of their teams. Because we have focussed teams, we can have more direct goals to achieve. For the scouting team, our goal is map our all the villages within a 3 hr driving radius around Tamale, start plotting Salaga villages, and determine “Yes” villages. Our Monitoring team’s goal is to make sure our current villages are getting the support that is needed and to find ways to improve our implementations and trainings. Constant improvement is our motto! Our Implementation Team allows us to implement villages outside of our Global Leadership Program, which means we can reach more villages each year. It also helps us use what we learn from the monitoring team, to refine and perfect our implementations and trainings. I have been so impressed with how the team has handled the transition.

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the team (minus Rhiana who took the photo and Peter who was in Salaga at the time)

You’ll see below, I’ve added a *Bonus* Team. These are our part time staff that also have been doing great work for us in the past few months. Blessing, a former translator for the GLP, is now helping us build relationships with the Districts, so we can connect our villages needs to gov’t bodies. Mutala is our newest addition to the team, he and Blessing have been doing research for Kathryn to help improve our knowledge of water consumption. Kathryn has big plans for the research team, look out for her update!

Scouting: Amin, Peter

Monitoring: Simply, Nestor, Sita, Seidu, Taufik, TJ

Implementation: Wahab, Eric, Shak

 

Blessing our District Liason and Researcher
Mutala our Researcher

Bonus (part time) Teams:

 

District Liason: Blessing

Researcher: Mutala

 

 

 

 

The increase in staff was only made manageable by the addition of this amazing data organizing tool we started using called mWater. With mWater we are able to take surveys, plot points, and collect data all through an application on our phones. Once the phone is connected to the internet, this information is synced and can be stored and analysed online. We piloted it in November and fully launched it in December, however since we are still in the learning phase, there have been several iterations and updates to how we collect data. This has been a game changing addition to the day to day work. We can say goodbye to the endless amounts of paper used and manually inputting information into excel.  I am excited to see what we can do with mWater and will update you more on this in a separate post!

Welp! If you felt like that was a lot to take it, it was!!! Thanks for reading through this “brief” update. If you want to hear about anything more in detail, leave us a comment!

Go team go!

Heidi

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.

Wahab monitoring
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

First Approaches to Villages

africa 087
Saja, Rachel, and Corrine, from Team F, labeling their lab samples

On Wednesday, the fellows traveled to previously implemented CWS villages to practice household monitoring with their translators. It was the first time fellows entered the homes of the people and had one on one interactions. The visit also enabled them to see the successes of CWS; most of the households possessed clean water in their safe storage container and explained how happy they were to have clean water!

Emily, Sarah, Priya, and Lauren, from Team C, preparing their samples.
Emily, Sarah, Priya, and Lauren, from Team C, preparing their samples.

In the afternoon, the fellows practiced their chief meetings with their translators. This meeting is the most important step in the CWS implementation process, because in many villages this is meeting will be the first time that they have heard of our organization! We make sure teams have plenty of time to review the CWS pitch before this meeting and practice working through a translator.

The fellows also completed lab rotations to learn to use our lab equipment. Our water testing lab allows us to measure the bacteria in the water, both from individual households and the village water source. The fellows practiced working in the lab by tested the water they collected during household monitoring.

Today, the fellows all visited their villages for the first time! All of them had success when speaking with the chief and the elders. Some will return tomorrow for an official chief meeting, while others will return for a community meeting! The fellows are super psyched to get working in the field and bring clean drinking water to 7 new villages in Ghana!

Best,

Kristen

So, What IS the Best Way to Provide Safe Drinking Water?

As those of you who work in the water-treatment sector know, there are a variety of ways to address the need for clean drinking water in developing countries.  Some examples include:

Household Water Treatment – using technology in your home to clean enough water for your family.   Ceramic water filters, biosand water filters, cloth filters, SODIS, and boiling all fall into this category.

Community Water Treatment -treating enough water for an entire community at a centralized location (this is what CWS does in Ghana!)

Regional Water Treatment – building a large treatment facility that treats enough water for an entire region and then pipes it to the user’s homes or neighborhoods.

Improving Water Supply -borehole/well drilling, rainwater collection etc.

I am often asked what I think is the best way to treat contaminated drinking water in the developing world, and much to the dismay of the person asking this question, my answer is usually “it depends…”

Last Tuesday I was invited to speak to the Biology of Water and Health class at Tuft’s School of Public Health by my thesis adviser, Susan Murcott.  Before my presentation, Georgia Kayser, a Phd Student at Tuft’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, presented her research on household water treatment vs. community water treatment in Honduras. Her presentation was not only very interesting, but also highlighted how the appropriate solution to this water problem really depends on the specific water needs in the region.

Georgia found that after 1 year there was about 50% sustained use when ceramic water filters (a household water treatment option) were provided to families, and only 30% sustained use when a  community water treatment option was provided.  What?! 30% sustained use for a community treatment option? Our monitoring in Ghana showed 60-75% sustained use of the CWS system (much higher use than research on the ceramic filter in Ghana had shown) . Why are our results so different?

I believe that the difference in sustained use statistics between CWS’s research and Georgia’s research is due to the major differences in the water supply between her communities in Honduras and the rural villages in nothern Ghana.  Unlike the villages that we work in, where families must walk to the dugout (a contaminated surface water source) to fetch their water, each of the households that Georgia studied receive piped water in their homes. While this piped water is contaminated, and is often turbid, it is accessible in the home. In the CWS communities, our treatment centers are built right next to the dugout, where the women already walk multiple times each day to fetch water for cooking and washing. Now, in order to get clean drinking water, they just stop by the treatment center, instead of the dugout, during one of these trips.  In Georgia’s villages in Honduras, however, women (or whoever is collecting the water) must change their behavior and make an trip to the treatment facility if they want clean water for drinking and carry a heavy container of water back to the home.  A household filter make much more sense in this situation since the water is piped right to the house.

There are many other differences between the CWS water treament techniques and the community water treatment technologies used in the villages that Georgia studied, but I thought this was a great example of how the appropriate treatment technique can vary greatly depending on the water situation in a specific region.