Tamale Staff Celebrate World Water Day with Entrepreneurs

The CWS Tamale Staff and Water Business Entrepreneurs

March 22, 2013 — Today the CWS Tamale staff hosted 15 water business entrepreneurs at the CWS office to celebrate World Water Day. This is a tradition at CWS. Every year on World Water Day a selected group of women are invited! Now that CWS has 49 water businesses with about 90+ entrepreneurs*, how do we choose which entrepreneurs to invite? This task wasn’t easy because the staff has their favorites! Personally, I’m all for inviting the women from Kpachiyili every year… I guess I’m partial to my fellowship village (aren’t we all?). If Amin had it is way, Ayi from Yakura would be top of the list. But with only 6 staff members in Tamale, it would not be feasible to invite them all.

Affilua from Kpanayili poses with the newest member of CWS, Dauphine!

We agreed that we should invite a diverse group of entrepreneurs… Some entrepreneurs who run really successful water businesses, some entrepreneurs that have problems with their water businesses and finally some older villages and newly implemented ones. The list was made. We invited the entrepreneurs from Kpalbusi, Kpanayili, Tacpuli, Chani, Zanzagu Yipela, Kadula, Yipela and Nekpegu! Some of these villages are 2 hours away from Tamale, so the logistics of getting all of the entrepreneurs to the office at the same time were complicated. But the staff worked together and managed to get them here before the presentations began!

This year for World Water Day we focused on bringing the entrepreneurs together so they could learn from the successes and failures of each other. The CWS Tamale staff, Kathryn, Peter, Shak, Wahab, Amin and myself, have been planning this day for over a month. Shak, Peter, Amin and Wahab put together an interactive presentation to share their insights as field staff members and to engage the women in conversation.

Amin, otherwise known as “KG”, gives the introduction. He shared a poem about the importance of water at the end of the presentation. It was beautiful!

As field staff, we’re in the villages every day meeting with the entrepreneurs. We listen to their problems, ask them their opinions and give them advice on how to fix them. But we’re not the ones carrying 40 L garrawas from the dugouts into the blue drums day in and day out. Sometimes it’s more powerful to hear advice from other water business entrepreneurs. Wahab focused his presentation on household hygiene and center upkeep. He asked the women, “How do you keep the clean water at your centers from getting contaminated?” At first, there were crickets, no one spoke. But the young Binto from Yipela was courageous and spoke first. She talked about thoroughly cleaning the blue drums and the polytank before every treatment. This really broke the ice for all of the other entrepreneurs who gladly jumped in to add to the discussion. Every single woman spoke or responded to a question throughout the presentation. They were really into it!

Wahab starts off by introducing himself…

One of the themes CWS touched upon this year at World Water Day was, “Running the Water Businesses like Businesses”. Shak led the discussion on this subject. The entrepreneurs that run their water treatment centers as businesses perform the highest. They have the most customers, they treat the most water, they earn the highest profits and their centers stay open for more months out of the year. Of course, many of the entrepreneurs do have moral ties to selling clean drinking water to their communities. But when an altruistic motivation is what drives the center, the women are more likely to sell water for free or pull money from their own pockets to keep the centers running. This isn’t sustainable in the long run.

The CWS staff decided to invite Fati and Ramatu from the newly implemented Nekpegu. After only 2 months since opening day, they are already earning high profits. Shak invited Ramatu to come to the front and share her strategies on operating these centers like businesses. She explained to the women that she always keeps water in her polytank, she has a big opening day every Friday and the women keep track of the households to make sure that everyone is coming. If ever they have a problem, they incorporate the chairman, who has more pull in influencing village behavior. It was awesome! She was really comfortable in front of the big crowd.

Ramatu of Nekpegu speaks in front of all of the entrepreneurs about ways to run these centers like businesses!

The UN declared that World Water Day 2013 would be the International Year of Water Cooperation, so I find it fitting that the staff came together this year with the water business entrepreneurs. Shak always says, ” We (the staff) are not the ones drinking water in these villages.” He’s right. We don’t drink the water, we don’t know what it’s like to live in a village, and we don’t have all the answers. But by incorporating the entrepreneurs into the conversation, we might just be onto something here.


The women entrepreneurs who attended the CWS World Water Day Conference this year.

* The number of entrepreneurs running the water businesses is not fixed. Some women quit to focus on other priorities like farming or taking care of their families. Other times, women are added… more hands make for lighter work!

Fellowship Applications due TOMORROW!

We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled posting about Salamatu’s Story to remind everyone that applications for the CWS Summer Fellowship Program are due TOMORROW, March 15th at 5pm est.

This is your chance to sit with a chief and help him bring clean water to his people. This is your chance to build a business with two women that will improve the health of their school boys and girls. This is your chance to hold fresh babies and make sure they never have to drink water that is anything but clean.

What are you still thinking about? Click here to apply now!

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Salamatu’s Story: One Woman’s Journey to Becoming a CWS Water Entrepreneur

Community Water Solutions has some EXCITING NEWS….

This morning we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in an effort to raise funds for our expansion in Ghana! For more details, check out our beautiful new video featuring Salamatu, one of the woman entrepreneurs in Chani, and considering supporting our cause!

Salamatu's Story

A HUGE thanks to Phil Wall for directing and producing Salamatu’s Story, Lucy Parker Randall for capturing such beautiful photographs and videos of our work in Ghana, and Pete Seibert for composing the most perfect score for this video! You guys rock our world!

Ghana Celebrates 56th Year of Independence

Jubilee Park, Tamale – March 6, 2013

Today Tamale celebrates Ghana’s 56th year of Independence. On March 6, 1957, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first Prime Minister and President, declared that Ghana would be “free forever” after over 500 years of colonial imperialism. Ghana became the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to become independent.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah- Independent Ghana’s First Leader

56 years later, Ghanaians still celebrate this day with pride, peace and happiness. In Tamale, school children, police officers, military members and other government workers march in Jubilee Park. Every year, the schools in Tamale select their best marchers to accompany the other government officials. It’s their chance to exhibit national and school pride. Flags fly high in celebration, lit up at night by a flagpole solar spotlight to keep the colours bright. Residents hang flags from their windows and wrap then around their shoulders like capes. The atmosphere is electric.

I had the privilege of talking to four of our CWS Ghanaian field staffers, Peter, Shak, Amin and Wahab, about their take on the day. “It’s really a day of peace marching to celebrate our peaceful independence, “Amin explained.

“Maybe they thought I was a stubborn student” – Wahab

Shak and Peter marched every year when they were in school. “My first day of Marching was fantastic, I was really young”, Peter told me, grinning from ear to ear in a state of nostalgia. Amin was even selected as the flag bearer for his Junior High school, leading them around the park waving his school flag. Wahab was never chosen to march but it doesn’t bother him. “Maybe they thought I was a stubborn student,” he said. “Or maybe he was just a bad marcher”, added Peter. Either way, it’s a day he looks forward to every year. Wahab fondly looks back on celebrating March 6 when he was 15 years old, he says he’d never seen anything like it before.

Amin, on the other hand, remembers Ghana’s 50th anniversary in 2007. “It was the best, a Imagelot of celebrating. The marching was different. There was paint everywhere. All the trees were painted red, gold, green and black. The streets were painted. People were throwing 50th anniversary cups and shirts into the air. Nothing could be better.”

This is the sort of opportunity that every student should have the chance of being a part of. But not everyone has this privilege. What the country of Ghana need to consider next is how to help kids and young people, who are suffering from any financial difficulties or any form of illness that means they are left out from being involved in any sort of activities that others may be a part of. Being a part of Ghana’s Independence must have been something special for Peter, Shak, Amin and Wahab. A day to remember.

Shak is looking forward to seeing old friends and family that he hasn’t seen in a while. Most families in Tamale cook up a big meal to share together after they watch the marching. Wahab plans on going to Discovery, a new club in town, for a big night of dancing. Peter and Amin are excited to soak in the atmosphere and revel in the day. Peter told me, “I feel so glad thinking about our great grandfathers who struggled for us. It’s the happiest day because we are no longer living in a colonized Ghana.”

Shak posing with friends and the Ghanaian flag

Bring on the celebrations! I know I’m heading to Jubilee Park.


Ghana’s Google Doodle today! – Independence Arch, Accra

TroTro Rodeo

Fellows give us lots of feedback (thank you fellows! We love you guys!) One standout response we get pretty much across the board is that everyone LOVES the transportation situation. 6 person taxi rides? An intimate bonding experience! Push-starting Shak’s Jeep? Awesome bicep work-out! Ok, so it isn’t everyone’s favorite aspect of the program, but it is an authentic look at the difficulties getting around where we need to get around.

In fact, many of the people you’ll meet on the Tamale streets or in your new adopted village will jealous your private transportation. For the most part, getting places in Northern Ghana is an experience people share with each other, with strangers, with stranger’s livestock, with stranger’s yam harvest, and with that ubiquitous juju medicine guy (everyone else thinks he’s just as weird as you do). All of which I have gotten the pleasure of knowing as I’ve bused, trucked, and tro’d around this beautiful country. In this blog post we’ll explore what my traveling companion Redgie and I have come to call the…

TroTro Rodeo!

Where would we be without our motos? CWS staffer TJ poses for a picture.
Where would we be without our motos? CWS staffer TJ poses for a picture.

As you may have read, CWS is growing! That means that we are going a lot of different places at once. Of course, there’s the trusty CWS motos that help us monitor villages.

But for longer distances our Rasta-flagged cycles just aren’t going to cut it. Which is where Metro Mass comes in!

Posing with my favorite logo. Metro Mass: Moving the Nation
Posing with my favorite logo.
Metro Mass: Moving the Nation

Metro Mass Transit is a public bus service

that can get you to any big city your heart desires. They leave before dawn, they don’t believe in shocks and the get you places fast. My tickets average $3 USD for 6 hr journeys. America, take note! Affordable public transport is a beautiful thing. Ghana take note! So is air conditioning … maybe someday, Metro Mass, but for now a cracked window will do!

If you are heading somewhere closer, somewhere smaller, or if you just don’t see yourself getting to the station at 5 am, tro-tros might be your vehicle of choice. These mini-buses are mostly older than I am and fit upwards of 25 people, plus roof riders! They leave when they are full, stop in every village on your way and (fingers crossed) mostly make it to your destination. Accidents are known to occur, so be wary, but they are a nice/the only option for roads without much traffic. And, if your moto happens to have broken down by the side of the road in some remote farmland, they will stop and find space for you. Scoot on over tro-mates and blast that hip-life!

Accra-based artist Gyimah Gariba takes on the trotro. This be Ghana, oh!
Accra-based artist Gyimah Gariba takes on the trotro. This be Ghana, oh!

Last but not least, there’s the market truck. When our ladies come into the big city (Tamale, that is) to sell and shop, they mostly come in large groups in big mac trucks that can hold them, their friends and their wares. These ‘market trucks’ run only on market days (the chronology of which is still elusive). But they are also willing to pick up stranded pedestrians and are always good for conversation (or a nap). Beware during rainy season, however – rooves are not featured on these models!

The author catches a quick market truck nap
The author catches a quick market truck nap

If this all seems a bit uncomfortable, well, it can be. But nowhere is Ghanaian hospitality more apparent than when passengers are willing to squeeze just one more in, or when you are “invited” to a refreshing orange by the man you are sharing a seat with. So, future fellows, count your blessings and don’t forget to give lifts in your private vehicles when you can – you’ll never know when you need that good travel karma!