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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

Problem Solving with Water Business Owners leads to Sustainability

At the CWS Ghana office in Tamale, the field staff and I talk about “problem villages”. These are CWS partnership communities that need help troubleshooting issues at their water businesses. The issues range in severity as the problems could be anything from the entrepreneurs having low sales because community members are busy on their farms to something as far fetched as a community believing there is a baby who comes out at night and puts evil spirits in to the polytank (this actually happened in the village of Tunga).

Let’s rewind to exactly 1 year ago and take a look at the project summaries for the communities Gbung, Jerigu and Galinzegu. This time last year the staff deemed these communities to be “problem villages”.

Jerigu- Al Hassan
Al Hassan – water business entrepreneur in Jerigu

January 4, 2013 – Jerigu. The polytank was empty. Al Hassan’s wife said her husband is busy which is why he hasn’t been treating water. He also ran out of Aquatabs (chlorine tabelts) and did not buy more until a few weeks too late. Beginning of February 2013, community members in Jerigu complain they never know when the center has water because Al Hassan is not around.

January 8, 2013 – Gbung – Wahab went to Gbung and saw the water business was empty. He went and spoke to Fati and Amina who reported they are trying to move the polytank from the market back to the dugout. Later in January, Amina said they are paying donkeys to come fill the blue drums in the market with water for 3 GHC ($1.50)! She needs to increase her price of water to make up for this added cost.

Donkey seller

January 18, 2013 – Galinzegu – Amina’s polytank has been leaking, so the water she treated had dripped out. She lost 3 Aquatabs worth of water. Two weeks later in February 2013, Amina ran out of alum and had not planned to buy more, and then had to travel for a funeral before she could treat water. The center was empty during this time.

 

 

 

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Amina (top) and Fati (bottom) from Gbung Gbung-Fati

One year later, these communities have all made progress. CWS staff members would even say Jerigu, Gbung and Galinzegu are currently three of the highest performing water businesses.

In Jerigu, Peter recently reported visiting the water business early one morning and monitored sales for 16 households that came out to buy water! Household visit results from January 2014 were: 10 out of 12 households visited had clean water in their safe storage containers, which is 83% and well above CWS household visit average!

Gbung also showed improvements since last year. On February 3, 2014, Amina and Fati said that sales are going well, people come to buy water whenever they run out. They have kept their center at the market and community members pay 20 pesewas ($.10) per 20 L of water.

In Galinzegu, Amina has added Massamata to her water business team. When one of them travels, the other will be there to treat water. Massamata told CWS staff in January 2014 that she is always treating and selling water. Households told field staffer Shak that they no longer have stomach pains or diarrhea because they drink the clean water! 

Monitoring Sales with Amina
Monitoring sales with Amina in Galinzegu!
Galinzegu Amina
Amina treats water by the dugout in Galinzegu
Galinzegu - Massamata
Water business owner Massamata from Galinzegu

Business is not always easy for the CWS entrepreneurs but monitoring helps. By frequently visiting the water businesses, the CWS field staff is able to consult the entrepreneurs and give them business strategy. For example the strategies used in Jerigu, Gbung and Galinzegu: having a CWS field staffer come to monitor sales, discussing a price increase of water to make up for added treatment costs, or encouraging the community to have at least two women running the water treatment center at all times, are just a few of many ideas given to the entrepreneurs. In the future, CWS hopes the business owners will be able to make these decisions on their own by learning from experience. Through the use of monitoring and meeting with the entrepreneurs to work through issues in these “problem villages”, CWS is ensuring that the water businesses will be sustainable and independent in the long run. 

-Brianán

Peter’s Salaga Journeys

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Eric and Peter having a jumping picture by the new signboard in Kabache/Kasawuripe!

  My name is Peter Biyam, the Project Manager of CWS. I have worked full time with CWS for the past four years now. This is my first CWS blog post. I used to work full time monitoring the CWS villages in and around Tamale, but for now my daily routine has changed, which I feel so good about. As of June 2013, CWS has a new office in Salaga.  Every two weeks, I go to Salaga to monitor the villages CWS works in around there. I go to make sure all is well with our women entrepreneurs and their water businesses. Which is fun!

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Peter and Brianan covered in the Harmattan dust outside of their favorite Salaga restaurant 4A’s

Every time I’m in Salaga, I monitor the 3 Salaga villages: Kideng, Kabache and Tunga. I monitor with Eric and Brianan in Mr. Suli’s taxi. The Salaga villages are almost the same as the Tamale villages, the houses look the same and the people farm as many villagers do for a living.  The difference between the Tamale villages and the Salaga villages are the languages spoken. People in the Tamale villages only speak Dagbanni, but the Salaga villages speak three or four languages. This is because most of the villages in Salaga are farming communities and different tribes move there to farm. Some of the languages spoken in the Salaga villages are Gonjan,Dagbanni, Checosi, Twi and Howsa.

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Peter and Eric sit with Fulera and Azara, water business entrepreneurs in the Salaga village of Kideng

One thing I enjoy is the 3-hour bus ride from Tamale to Salaga. The road looks like it is getting better, so you don’t get too bored on the bus. Wow it always is great to me when I get to the bus station and find out that I have a nice seat. The best seats are the ones numbered 1-18, where you sit close to the window. The worst seats are the ones numbered 20-30 where you sit on a folding seat in the middle, which is very uncomfortable! The bus makes a lot of stops for people to get down, like people having to buy food, people having to pee or people leaving the bus for their stop. So the people sitting in the middle have to wake up and get down for all of these stops. I usually wait 10-30 minutes at the bus station before we leave. I take advantage and run and get some food before we depart.  I love when the cool air blows through the window when the bus starts to move.

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Clean drinking water from a CWS water business

The people in Salaga are awesome.  There is an egg and bread seller at the bus station who has good food. People in the villages are lovely too, the kids are smart and cute. So I feel at home anytime I am in Salaga. I always love to go to the restaurants after a long day of monitoring like the Maridon Hotel and 4A’s. The food is always good. This is what’s on the menu: fried rice, plain rice and jolof rice, I always go for the fried rice.

I am so excited to work in Salaga because it makes me feel like CWS is doing a very great job of bringing clean water not only to communities in Tamale but now also to communities in Salaga. I feel so good about this. I am proud of myself to be part of a team that is doing such an awesome job. I love my job! I hope that CWS will continue to reach out to all those who are in need of clean drinking water in rural villages all over the world.  And I hope to be part of the team as it is growing, taking on more responsibilities as one of the leaders of CWS. Thanks.

-Peter

3.Eric and Peter fix PT
Eric and Peter fix the leaking polytank in Kideng

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

Update from the Field: Water Quality Testing Begins in Jarayili!

I cannot believe how fast these two weeks are blowing by! I am already halfway through my project in Jarayili, which has been interesting in both the field and the lab.  In addition, I have visited some awesome sites in Tamale thanks to my wonderful tour guide/ housemate, Brianan.

Peter and I woke up on Saturday morning to meet with Jarayili’s chief, elders, and community members to explain the reason behind our daily visits to their small and remote village.  Earlier, we met with Jarayili’s CWS entrepreneur, Suayba.  I was really excited about her enthusiasm for our project, which is testing whether or not water is contaminated when villagers use jerry cans and garrawas to move polytank water and rainwater into their 70-liter clean water storage buckets.  Suayba wanted to get involved and thus far, has helped us everyday as we visited Jarayili’s 18 households, interviewed women in the households about their safe water practices, and taken samples from each 70 liter container.  Some of her children have gotten involved as well!  I am really enjoying getting to know the community and talking with people individually.  Hearing personal stories about how clean water has improved the quality of life in Jarayili is extremely rewarding and motivates me to get out there everyday despite having to wake up at 5:30am.

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From rainwater collected in a dry well to unwashed jerry cans and water taken from a dugout to not enough chlorine used in the polytank, I have now seen the whole gamut of methods of water contamination.  My lab results show that there is no E.coli or total coliform in the buckets of women who washed their jerry cans with soap and bought water from an adequately chlorinated polytank.  However, there is total coliform, and in some cases E.coli, in the water buckets of women who collected rainwater or did not properly wash their jerry cans.  I still have a few days to test and I am excited to see if my future results match up with my current findings!

Finally, Brianan showed me a nice restaurant in the city that is located on a rooftop! It was cool to see a bird’s eye view Tamale.  In addition, I am eagerly awaiting the completion of a shirt and dress I am having made by Martha, Brianan’s favorite tailor in town, from local Ghanaian fabric I picked out last week.

-Abby

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Abby’s First Days of Monitoring!

The last few of days have been exciting ones!  Tamale community members celebrated Eid al Adha on Tuesday and Wednesday, which brought entire families to the streets for group prayers and cow slaughterings to commemorate the completion of Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.  On Tuesday, the CWS office took the day off to celebrate the holiday with a fun afternoon BBQ of veggie and sausage kebabs.  Yesterday, Peter, Brianan, and I visited three CWS villages southeast of Tamale to meet the wonderful ladies of Libi, Nyamaliga, and Jarigu and to give me some field experience before Peter and I head to Jarayili on Friday. 

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Luckily, we caught Cheriba from Libi as she was running out the door to mosque and briefly checked up on the goings of her water business, where CWS is experimenting with metal stands that make the polytanks transportable.  Cheriba reported that her business is going fine, but that sales are down because villagers tend to collect their own rainwater during the rainy season rather than buy treated water from her  water treatment center.  Sana from Nyamaliga had a similar story about her business.  We missed the other women because of Eid’s festivities so we called it a day after getting water samples from Jarigu’s water treatment center.

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Today, Peter and I visited two villages north of the Tamale, Bogu and Tindan.  We dropped in on compounds, talked water, and grabbed tests from twelve households’ 20-liter clean water buckets.  This experience helped me realize the importance of regular monitoring in development.  The community members really appreciated our reminders about the importance of sanitation and clean water, as well as the encouragement to implement safe water practices.

Afterwards, I brought the water samples to the CWS lab to check for the presence of total coliform and E.coli.  The tests will be used later to help educate community members about the importance of transporting and storing clean water.

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I am looking forward to tomorrow, which will be my first day Jarayili!

– Abby

 

CWS Partners with South African Social Venture, See Saw, Lowering Communication Barriers between Entrepreneurs and Staff

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See Saw piloted the See Tell application with CWS, a reporting system that uses cell phones to collect data. With See Tell,  CWS entrepreneurs are encouraged to use cell phones to report issues to the CWS staff about the water businesses. 

Since February 2013, Community Water Solutions has been partnering with See Saw, a Social Venture based out of Cape Town, South Africa that aims to improve water delivery and sanitation services in Africa through the use of new technology. See Saw reached out to CWS to pilot the See Tell application, a reporting system that uses cell phones to track data from senders for free. The purpose of the pilot was to allow CWS entrepreneurs to report issues with their water treatment centers and to reduce the CWS response time to these issues. In the pilot, CWS field staff also used See Tell to report the communities they visited and the length of time each staff member spent in that community.

The pilot was implemented in thirteen CWS communities. The entrepreneurs were given a laminated See Tell sheet with six different numbers to call for six different situations. When they called this number, it would ring a few times and drop the call, so the entrepreneurs were not charged cell phone credit for reporting. On the other end, See Tell would receive the call and log the situation reported. The six situations were: 1. All is well 2. I need more chlorine 3. I need more buckets 4. My tap is broken 5. There is a problem with the tank 6. Emergency! Please call back. The emergency number was actually the CWS staff’s number in charge of that community, so if the entrepreneurs called this number then they would be charged for the call. There was also always the option for the entrepreneurs to “flash” the CWS staff or let the phone ring and drop the call. This way the entrepreneurs would not be charged and CWS staff would have to return the call.

See Saw would then send e-mails to CWS every 2-business days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) to relay all situations that were reported by the entrepreneurs. The emergency number was created so that the CWS would be able to respond more immediately to the situation.

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An example of a See Tell Report sent to CWS staff by e-mail every 2 business days.

See Saw and CWS decided to give the entrepreneurs an incentive of cell phone credit of 2 Ghana cedis, the equivalent of $1 for every month they reported, to entice the entrepreneurs to use the reporting system.

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MTN is the most popular network used by CWS entrepreneurs because it has the most cell phone coverage in Ghana. The communities are able to make calls with MTN even in very remote locations. This is an example of the airtime credit distributed to entrepreneurs as an incentive to use the See Tell application.

 

Since the pilot, CWS and See Saw have expanded See Tell to thirty-four communities and by October all fifty-five communities will be using the application. CWS and See Saw have been in conversation throughout the process to make any changes necessary to improve the application.

When the entrepreneurs first started using the application, some were not sure if their calls were going through. The “dropped call” was confusing, how could you know See Tell received the report? To fix this problem, CWS staff went back after receiving See Tell reports and informed the entrepreneurs when their call had been received.  There were also changes made to the laminated number sheet. CWS recommended that the situations be cut down to four: 1. All is well 2. I need more chlorine 3. There is a problem with the tank 4. Emergency.  This would make the options simpler for the entrepreneurs.

The challenges with the See Tell software in these remote communities are that often times the entrepreneurs do not own cell phones, they have a hard time buying cell phone credit or they do not have access to electricity to charge their cell phones.  Fully charged cell phones with credit are crucial to See Tell success. Since the entrepreneurs do not pay for the calls to See Tell, some have been using other peoples’ phones to send in their reports.

The See Tell software has overall aided the CWS staff in responding to problems. For example, recently in Checko, an independent community that is only visited once a month by CWS staff, Abiba ran out of aquatabs. She communicated through See Tell and the CWS staff was able to immediately follow up and get her the chlorine she needed to keep the center running. The emergency number has been a great way to fuel communication between the CWS staff and the entrepreneurs. As more communities become independent, CWS will need an application like See Tell or a system in place to ensure water businesses are operating without frequent monitoring.

-Brianán

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The new and improved laminated sheet with 4 situations in which the entrepreneurs can report to CWS Staff.

 

 

 

 

CWS Polytank Stands: Cement or Metal?

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Amin checks the water level of the polytank. This is a typical CWS water treatment center with cement stand.
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Wahab checks the water levels of the polytank in Gariezegu. This is a center that uses a metal stand. 

While preparations for the summer fellowship program are underway, we’re still focused on monitoring at the CWS Tamale office until the fellows get here. Tamale is in between seasons. It has been raining but the rainy season is not in full swing just yet. The CWS field staff is prepping our 49 villages for the seasonal transitions that will take place during the fellowship program when they will be given less attention. Full time field staffer, Amin, will be monitoring the communities while the other field staff will be working as translators for the fellows.

One way we’re prepping the communities is by bringing the entrepreneurs metal polytank stands. If you read my post on building polytank stands a few months ago, then you already have an idea of what I’m talking about. Several CWS partnership communities drink from multiple water sources throughout the year. As the rains come, the women, who are responsible for collecting water in the Dagomba culture, opt for fetching water from water sources that are closer to home. In some villages that might mean going to a closer dugout that only fills with water when it rains. In others, it might mean drinking from hand dug wells in the community or drinking from a stream that is created during the rainy season.

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The path to Gariezegu’s center floods when the rains start, which is why the community now uses a metal polytank stand to bring their center to town. The entrepreneurs treat and sell well water and rainwater throughout the rainy season.
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The metal polytank in Gariezegu that inspired the new CWS metal polytank stand!

We’re realizing on the monitoring side that this is a common trend and that we need to have realistic expectations for the entrepreneurs running the centers. It would be hard for the women to treat and sell water at a dugout where the path is flooded and where nobody goes to get water for three months out of the year. Initially, CWS planned on building cement polytank stands at the various locations from which people collect water. But we were inspired by the metal polytank stand that Gariezegu used last rainy season to bring their water treatment center to town to treat well water.

The metal stand can be moved around, which is ideal for villages that collect water from different sources. Instead of building multiple stands, the community can move their center to wherever it is they are getting water. West Africa Reginal Director, Kathryn Padget, and Project Manager, Peter Biyam, got in touch with a welder and showed him a diagram of what the metal polytank stand should look like. The welder was able to make the polytank stand out of metal piping and so the metal stand was created!

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CWS entrepreneur, Anatu, stands with Kpanayili’s new metal polytank stand located next to their closer dugout that is only full of water during the rainy season.

CWS does not anticipate using these metal stands in every community or using these stands first thing in implementation. The cement polytank stands are a good fit for communities that only drink from one water source year round because they are so durable and because they can’t be moved! The metal polytank stands will only be added to communities that will need to move their centers to other water points. So far, CWS has brought metal stands to Gbandu and Kpanayili. We are hoping to get metal stands out to Libi, Tindan II, Kpalbusi, Jarayili and Tacpuli before the fellowship program. As of now, we’re just waiting on the welder!

– Brianán

Reaching the CWS 5-Year Mark

Being in Ghana for 10 months now, I have had the chance to see other water NGOs in action. While I have seen some other NGOs doing great work, I have also seen broken borehole pumps and broken or inefficient filters. In the NGO water sector, there is a sustainability problem. According to the January 2011 WASH Sustainability Forum Report (cited below), “Less than five percent of water and sanitation projects are revisited after project conclusion and less than one percent of such projects have any long-term monitoring at all.”

CWS is part of that five percent and one percent of organizations that continue to monitor even after implementation. CWS will not work in a new community unless it has the funding to follow-up and monitor the business for a minimum of 5 years. By follow up and monitor, we mean visiting the newly implemented community once a week for the first 6 months of access and then at least one to three times a month until they reach the 5-year mark. During each community visit, the CWS field staff observes the clean water level at the water treatment center, holds meetings with the water business entrepreneurs and then conducts six household surveys to evaluate the water treatment center’s performance.

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Amin and I talking to Sofou, one of the water business entrepreneurs in Nyamaliga. Nyamaliga was implemented in 2010, making it the oldest CWS community and will be the first village to reach the “5-year mark”.
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Household visits! Checking the safe storage container to see if there is clean water inside.

So what happens when a community reaches the 5-year mark? The idea is that the water businesses will be self-sufficient and will be able to operate without monitoring. As of right now, CWS will still sell these 5-year mark communities aquatabs to treat the water and be on call for any water business emergencies. No community has reached that mark just yet but we are in the process of prepping our villages to get there. CWS has started a “Village Independence Ranking System” to evaluate which villages can operate successfully without frequent monitoring (as in one to three times a month). The system ranks CWS water businesses based on their performance since implementation taking into consideration: water business sales, blue drum and polytank water levels, how the entrepreneurs handle minor problems on their own, how a village handles rainwater, household visit results and whether entrepreneurs are able to pay for business supplies on their own.

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The CWS Village Independence Ranking System

Our first batch of villages to be deemed independent was in November 2012. Chani, Kpalguni, Kpalung and Wambong were the first villages to become “independent”, meaning that the CWS field staff now visits these four villages once a month instead of the usual one to three times a month. All of the water business entrepreneurs have a CWS field staff’s cell phone number to call in case they have any problems such as running out of aquatabs or if their polytank is leaking. In January 2013, CWS added Kurugu Vohoyili and Cheko to this list.

We were not really sure how the businesses would perform once CWS spent less time in these communities. But the results have been very positive! All of these centers have been up and running since they became “independent”, sales are high in all of them and household visit results have been consistent with their previous history.

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Abiba, the new water business entrepreneur in Cheko

One of the more memorable monitoring visits I had was in Cheko with my co-worker Amin. This past month we went to monitor for the first time since February. It had been a full month. We first stopped to check out the water treatment center. The polytank was completely full. This is always a good sign when monitoring because you know there is lots of clean water available (about 1,200 L in this case). Then we went to talk to Kukuoona, the water business entrepreneur in Cheko. Amin and I got to her house only to find out that she had moved to Tamale to live with her son! We were shocked because Kukuoona has worked with CWS for so long, we never thought she would leave. The woman we talked to pointed us to another compound and told us that Abiba was now running the center. So off we went to find Abiba. She was home, which is always great news. Abiba was glad to finally meet us because she just ran out of aquatabs that day. She told us that she had been running the water treatment center for the past month and that Kukuoona trained her to run it well. Abiba said sales were still high and household visits proved her story to be true! Amin and I drove back to Tamale happy as clams. Even without frequent monitoring, these centers are still running independently and successfully.

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Amin checks the polytank water level in Nekpegu

After this upcoming fellowship in summer 2013, it will be time again to evaluate six more villages to be put into this independent category. The CWS field staff enjoy going to these villages because they perform so well, so it will be sad to only go once a month. But the good news is that the system is working and when those first villages reach the 5-year mark, I know they will be ready!

-Brianán

Summary Report from the WASH Sustainability Forum January 2011: http://globalwaterchallenge.org/resources/SustainabilityForum/WASHSustainabilityForumReport.pdf

“NGO Water Sector Confronts Sustainability Problem” – Article by Maia Booker and Peter Sawyer – http://pulitzercenter.org/articles/world-water-day-wash-sustainability-forum-report