Oh Where Oh Where to Put the Polytank?

Peter and Wahab monitor the water treatment center in Kpachiyili. This is a typical center placement. It’s located right next to the dugout. Look at how green it is! This picture was taken during the rainy season, as you can see not flooded!

The placement of the CWS water treatment center is key in running a successful water business. Fellows and CWS translators ask very specific questions when it comes to finding a spot for the polytank. The villagers select where they want their water treatment center based on what dugout or water source they use for the majority of the year and look for an area that does not flood during the rainy season.

But what happens to the water business when a dugout dries up or when people use multiple water sources throughout the year?

In some villages, the women entrepreneurs figure it out for themselves. Adamu and Salamatu in Gariezegu found a metal, moveable polytank stand that was used in the school, which allowed them to move the water treatment center to various wells in the village. After the rainy season, Lasinchi and Mariama in Tacpuli moved the center to a well that was closer to the village and placed the polytank on large branches, using a hose to fill safe storage containers. For the most part though, the women who run the centers have a hard time coping with seasonal transitions on their own.

The chairman in Gariezegu posing with the metal polytank stand.


The CWS policy for moving water businesses in the past has been that the women have the freedom to move the centers as long as they come up with the materials to build polytank stands themselves. CWS wants the centers to be as self-reliant as possible. If we continually help the water businesses to thrive off of our dime, then they will not be sustainable in the long run. But where is the line drawn? We’re realizing on the monitoring side that there is a monetary limit to what we can ask of the women. It costs roughly $38 to build a polytank stand in Ghana. This is more money than most women make in a month working at the water treatment center.

It’s time to start building polytank stands! We’ve decided that by building polytank stands for communities that use multiple water sources, this will take a large burden off of the women who run the water treatment centers. So far we’ve mapped out 11 communities that will need polytank stands built at another source in the next 6 months: Bogu, Djelo, Gbandu, Gbung, Kpalbusi, Kpanayili, Tacpuli, Tohinaayili, Yapalsi, Yipela and Zanzagu Yipela. The communities will still be responsible for moving the polytank and blue drums to the new location when they need to (and making decisions about when to move it) but CWS will fund the building.

                                        Polytank Stand Building 101 with Shak

Our first stop is Djelo, as their water source situation poses the largest threat to the community. The dugout where the center was initially built is starting to dry. The women, Zelia and Fuseina, predict that the dugout will be dry within the month. Luckily, there is another dugout a little farther away that will not dry up. This weekend CWS field staff, Shak and Amin, went to Djelo to build a polytank stand at this second dugout. We wanted to get the stand built before the dugout dried, to make the transition as smooth as possible. This will not cause any behavioral disruption because the villagers of Djelo are going to start going to that second dugout very soon.

                                        Djelo’s plentiful, second dugout.
                                         The stand in Djelo is complete!

The CWS technology in Ghana will only work if there is water to treat. The water businesses will be most successful if they are located next to the water source that the villagers use the most. If that source changes throughout the year, then the center needs to change with it. More updates to come as we continue to build!


CWS on the Road: US Edition Part 2


**First, our apologies to our email subscribers for filling your inboxes yesterday! We recently switched back to using wordpress for our blog and needed to transfer over all the posts from the past couple of months. Everything should be all set now!***

Its that time of year again! CWS is hitting the road to recruit for our Summer Fellowship Program (apps due March 15th, APPLY HERE!) This year, we’re doing things a little bit differently, focusing on career/internship fairs instead of info sessions. Check out our schedule below and if you’re in the area, come on by our booth and chat with us! Don’t see your school listed an want to learn? Email Sam ( and we’ll try to schedule info session for you!

CWS On the Road

January 24th: Boston College Internship Fair

January 31st: NorthEastern Internship Fair

February 13th: University of Rochester Spring Career and Internship Day

February 15th: Princeton Non-Profit Career Fair

February 20th: Brown/RISD Non-Profit Career Fair and the UMASS Amherst Career Blast

February 22nd: Georgetown Government and Non-Profit Expo

February 26th: BU School of Public Health Career Fair

March 5th: Harvard School of Public Health Spring Career Fair

March 7th: John Hopkins Spring Career Fair

March 8th: Tufts Spring Career Fair

March 8th: Columbia Spring Career Fair

Implementation Envy and Jarayili Jams

I love monitoring. It’s “sort of my jam”, as Director of US Operations Sam Reilley would say (I’m sure Brianán Kiernan, Peter Biyam, Shakun Ibrahim and the rest of our full-time Tamale staff can relate). But every so often I get a sense of Implementation Envy. Watching the fellows roll back in their taxis from dusty days distributing safe storage containers or organizing community meetings makes me jealous! DSC_3667(Think you could Azonto with a Ghanain P1 class or assemble a safe storage container with the speed and efficiency of a NASCAR team? Maybe the CWS fellowship is the thing for you!) But fortunately for me I’ve had the opportunity these past few weeks to get in on the center set-up action once again. That’s right, the alum training, the stand building, the opening day anticipation, the taxi breakdowns, it all happened for the 49th time this January in …

The Newest CWS Partner Community, Jarayili!!

DSC_3801Jarayili is a really tiny community about an hour outside of Tamale. I had stopped in here a few times before to chat water, but unfortunately the village didn’t seem to be a good fellowship match for one daunting reason: the walk to the dugout is actually a DSC_3815mile long. In villages where the water source is incredibly far away like this, our current method does not make much sense – each safe storage container only holds 20 liters, and garawas (metal buckets traditionally used to move water) hold up to double this amount. Could we really ask women to double their usual walking time and distance to buy treated water? Would they even be interested in doing it?

DSC_3807To see if we can deal with all this we coupled with UNICEF, the East Gonja District Assembly, and the village of Jarayili to try out another option. We distributed 70 liter safe storage containers to each of the 17 houses in the community. We set up the treatment center by the dugout in the usual way. And we told people they could use whatever they liked to transport the clean water to their houses, as long as the water is stored in the safe storage container in the house (to prevent recontamination) and is transported in something clean. Opening day found nine jerrycans (yellow  buckets with twist on lids that are transported by bike), six garawas and two metal washing tins lined up for clean water. People seemed ready to go the distance to bring home clean water now that larger transporting options were on the table! So exciting!

But now the second test. Will the water stay clean between the time it leaves the polytank and the time it enters the drinking cup? Only time and further water tests will tell, but if so we might well be able to roll out water businesses in communities we previously thought we could not help, which is obviously huge! Enough big picture talk. Getting the chance to work with the wonderful Suayba and Awulatu, seeing them own the opening of their business (and pocket the hard-earned peswas), hanging out with the Jarayili chief and son, and providing endless unintentional entertainment for Mohammed, Rashid, Fushi and the rest of the Jarayili kids was awesome in and of itself. It was so great to get my center start-up fix, and now… More Monitoring!