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Expansion and Growth Means Opportunity and Promotions!

As Saha continues to expand to new geographic hubs throughout northern Ghana, we need skilled teammates to manage ongoing Customer Care services in those areas.  Luckily for us, we have a team of smart, hard-working, highly capable people ready for new challenges!  In the last 6 months, we’ve have the most promotions and team movements ever!  We’re really proud to create not just clean water businesses in rural villages, but good jobs and opportunities to advance for our team.

Eric Awini and Jude Esang: Operations Managers, Customer Care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the Customer Care team has grown and grown, it was getting unwieldy for one person to manage.  Jude and Eric are able to make sure that Customer Care in Krachi looks like it does in Salaga, and Tamale, and Yendi, and Bimbilla, and Buipe (you get the picture!) They make sure all the teams have consistent messages, educational techniques, and water quality  across 360 clean water businesses.  Prior to this role, Jude was the Operations Coordinator for Tamale West, and Eric had most recently been the Operations Coordinator for Satellite teams, getting both Buipe and Bimbilla regions set up last year.

Aisha Tijani, Kamil Zakari, and Asita Abubakari, Operations Coordinators and Rahana Abubakari, Satellite Front-Line Supervisor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we open new geographical zones, we hire local front-line teammates for both implementation and Customer Care.  By hiring locally, we can add teammates with deeper knowledge of the area and appropriate language skills.  Remember, Ghana has over 80 languages spoken, and making sure we can communicate in our communities is a huge priority!  Aisha and Kamil both moved from the implementation team to their new roles based in Krachi and Yendi.  Asita is a long-time teammate who started as a translator back in 2014 and now is the Operations Coordinator for Salaga.  Rahana has been a Customer Care Teammate in Tamale since 2019.  She is filling a newly created position, the Satellite Front-Line Supervisor, so she will be traveling to our smaller zones like Bimbilla, Kpandai, and Yendi to provide field-based support and training for new front-line teammates and businesses.

Amin Bangaham Mohammed, R&D Supervisor, and Shirazu Yakubu, Implementation Supervisor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bangaham has been leading the Implementation Team for the past year, helping us work during the pandemic and spearheading our most ambitious period of expansion.  He’ll be moving over to Team Research and Development (R&D) to support critical projects that ensure we are providing the best we can for our communities.  Taking his place is Shirazu, who has been a stalwart member of Implementation Team since 2019.  Both have lost count of how many new businesses they have opened!

Gloria Asenso-Kumi, Training Manager

All these new teammates means that someone needs to be onboarding and training them full-time.  Last year, Gloria took on the new role of Training Coordinator, and her responsibilities and expertise have expanded dramatically.  She’s one of the first faces newly hired teammates meet, and also ensures every member of our team from the managers to the admin to the drivers are up-to-date on policy and procedure, and helps every teammate expand their skills and grow professionally.

Mohammed Kailan, Expansion Manager

Since he joined Saha, Kailan has been in charge of all aspects of expansion at one time or another – moving from Implementation Supervisor to Expansion Supervisor where he has overseen our Scouting Team.  This year, he took on Implementation Team as well, so he is responsible for every new community from first visit until the business is opened.  He’s always ten steps ahead of the rest of us to make sure we know where there are villages we can help!

Gbandan Francis (Blessing), Stakeholder and Government Relations Manager

Blessing’s responsibilities have increased dramatically in the past few years.  First and foremost, he has to make sure Saha is properly registered in every district we work in – not easy now that we work in 22 districts across three regions!  Blessing also manages our relationships with government agencies like Ghana Water Company and Community Water and Sanitation Agency and peer NGOs working in the sector.

Every day we appreciate how lucky we are to work with such a stellar team!

 

Saha’s Team Together in Ghana

While Saha’s operations have been steadily rolling on throughout the ongoing pandemic, one big piece has been missing – the presence of our US-based teammates!  Executive Director and Co-Founder Kate Cincotta, Deputy Director Kathryn Padgett, and consultant Elise Willer all visited Ghana for the first time in two years!  Before the pandemic, it had never been more than a few months between their trips.

Bernice, Aisha, and Kate visit a water business in the Saha’s new Krachi region

Since they’d last visited, Saha’s geographic reach has expanded dramatically.  Kate visited the new Kete-Krachi office and our newest communities in that region.  The implementation team was working out of in Kete-Krachi at the time, so she was also able to visit and have a little bit of fun with that team in beautiful Lake Volta.  Kate loved meeting new entrepreneurs in the Krachi communities, and seeing a recently promoted manager, Aisha, mentoring Bernice who is new to Saha this year.  Another highlight for Kate was visiting two older Saha communities, Djelo and Vogyili, and chatting with experienced entrepreneurs as they sold water at their businesses.

Kate and the Implementation Team enjoy some fun in Lake Volta

Kathryn visited Saha’s Buipe office with R&D Supervisor Wahab to launch a new project on water pricing in several villages in the region (more info coming soon – watch this space!).  She joined Customer Care teammates Alhassan and Latifa in the field visiting several of our newest communities, and saw how the business works in these river communities – different than the original dugout model, but still working well! She also visited new villages in the Bimbilla/Kpandai region, and got to learn a whole new set of greetings in a new language!

Alhassan, Kathryn, and Latifa share a laugh

All our newest front-line teammates met together in the Salaga office for two days of workshops led by communications expert and behavior change consultant Elise Willer.  Elise notes, “During my visit, I noted, what can only be described as, a positive, unstoppable energy. Over the past two years, even while facing obvious challenges, Saha’s commitment to building trust, providing opportunities for regular growth/learning and working as a team has resulted in an impressive number of leaders. During my recent trip, I had the distinct pleasure of working with these leaders as they continue to build their skills!”

Elise and her newest communication experts after the workshops in Salaga

 

Rippleworks + Saha: How does pricing drive water consumption?

At Saha, a new water business is just the beginning of our work in a community.  It’s not enough to bring access to clean water – we want to make it an easy choice to purchase and drink clean water instead of free dirty water. That’s why we build 10 years of ongoing community visits and support into the budget for every new business and are always pursuing Research and Development projects to improve our model. We are excited to announce a partnership with Rippleworks for a new project to determine some major drivers behind clean water consumption.

Behavior change is hard!  While we’ve designed our water businesses to fit in with normal water gathering routines, it is hard for people to change their habits – if you’ve ever tried to form a new habit, or break a bad one, or bought any sort of self-help book, you can start to understand how challenging behavior change can be.

During the period of the Emergency Water Fund when water was free for all, we saw a drastic increase in clean water consumption – on average, more than six times as much water was consumed during this time compared to average water consumption in 2019.  We were thrilled to see that, and also curious: what caused this incredible effect?  Was it simply the water being free to the consumer? Was it that the stipends motivated the entrepreneurs to treat and sell more water?  Both? How can we learn from that success?  The free water program ended in March 2021, and we’ve successfully transitioned our businesses back to the original model: consumers pay for the water (usually at a price around $0.05/L), and the water entrepreneurs use the revenue to buy the treatment chemicals and pay themselves.

We knew there was something big to learn about barriers to water consumption from this experience, which is where Rippleworks came in.  Rippleworks is an organization that partners high-impact social ventures with leading Silicon Valley executives to tackle top operational challenges.  Saha was paired with Stephanie Cruz, a product and marketing expert with experience from IPSY, Stella & Dot, Ancestry, Yahoo, and PayPal.  Stephanie worked closely with Saha’s Research and Development team to design an experiment that will help us explore the main drivers behind the dramatic increase in clean water consumption.  Together we created a five cohort test that will aim to identify how entrepreneur salaries and price affect clean water consumption.

This month, Team R&D, with help from the Customer Care teams are rolling out an experiment in 30 communities which will run for four to eight weeks.  The goal is that this first test will identify which form of subsidy, entrepreneur salaries or the price of water, have a bigger impact on clean water consumption. Once the drivers have been identified, the R&D will immediately run another round of testing to better understand how different levels of subsidy affect clean water consumption. We aim to have both rounds of testing complete before the 2022 rainy season begins in June.

It’s exciting to partner with Rippleworks on this project: they have helped us focus a lot of new ideas into an actionable plan.  We’re grateful for their partnership and support. So watch this space! We’ll report out what we learn from this experiment, and are always prepared to make changes in pursuit of getting the cleanest water to the people who need it most.

Meet the Saha Team: Gbandan Francis (Blessing)

Blessing attends the 2021 Mole Conference

Meet Blessing: Saha’s dedicated government liaison.  He works with Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies, regional governments, and government entities such as the Community Water and Sanitation Agency on behalf of Saha.  He ensures that we are properly registered in each district in which we work, introduces Saha’s work to new districts, and builds partnerships and maintains relationships with government partners.  Most of this work happens behind the scenes, but it is absolutely essential to Saha’s work and sustainability.

Blessing grew up in Tamale and attended high school in Salaga.  After senior high school, while preparing for his exams, Blessing worked as a “man with many hats” at WASHPOT – managing a supermarket, a pharmacy, and a drinking spot.  That’s where he met (now Deputy Director) Kathryn and her partner Redgie, and later (then Country Manager) Brianan, and became football-watching friends.  At first, when Saha needed part-time translators for the Global Leadership Program (GLP), Blessing wasn’t free – he had to prepare for exams, and couldn’t quit his job just for a 3-week program. He got the call again in 2014, and since he was planning to start university that year, he decided to take the leap.  During training, Blessing vividly remembers visiting the rural villages for the first time – he hadn’t been to places like that before, and his eyes were opened to how much development was needed in some places.  His first GLP village implementation was in Original Kabache in Salaga.  He describes that first team as great, and still counts them as friends.

Throughout his years studying at University for Development Studies (UDS), Blessing would occasionally translate for the GLP programs – filling in as needed for other people, and in 2017 completed a full implementation in Darivoguyili.  Also in 2017, Blessing interned for Saha’s new Research and Development team, staying overnight for two to three days in different communities to observe individuals’ water consumption.  When he graduated university in 2018, Saha made sure to snag him for the compulsory National Service Year.  That is when Blessing started doing the government liaising work full-time and he’s since become one of our best travelled teammates – visiting all our district and regional partners multiple times a year and bringing different government officials to visit Saha projects.

Translating during a GLP Program
Using 3M tests to explain the hazards of drinking dugout water

Blessing’s favorite thing about working at Saha is first and foremost the project itself – he identifies strongly with Saha’s mission to get clean water to rural communities.  Second, he appreciates how supportive Saha has been to him over the years – this is a culture he attributes to coming straight from Kate at the top. Currently, Blessing is balancing his Saha work with pursuing his master’s in Development Education from UDS and staying on top of every match from Manchester City.

Saha would not be able to do the work it does without our people!  We appreciate Blessing for all his many roles over the years with Saha and we are so proud he is a part of our ambitious clean water mission.

Blessing and his first GLP team celebrate the water business at Original Kabache

The Saha Model: Getting the Cleanest Water to the Hardest to Reach Places

There are a lot of different ways to produce clean, safe water.  At Saha, we use a simple, low-cost, low-tech solution that fits the context of our communities.  Water is conveyed from surface water sources by hand into drums, where it is treated with aluminum sulfate and then disinfected with chlorine.  The water is sold to families for about 3 cents per 20 liters, which they keep free from recontamination in the home using safe storage containers.

While we dream of a (hopefully very near!) future when every household in northern Ghana has water piped into their dwelling, let’s get into the basics of why Saha works the way we do.  Our mission at Saha is to get the cleanest water to the hardest to reach places in northern Ghana – here’s what we mean by that:

Saha communities are super small – most have fewer than 1,000 residents.  Many have fewer than 200!  Most safe water enterprises use a combination of subsidy, funding, and user fees to keep the systems maintained over time. The large mechanized systems that can work well in denser areas would need to be heavily subsidized in Saha communities since the user base is so small.  Instead, Saha designed a process where water is treated by hand. Saha water treatment centers, with their simple design, are able to be maintained based on the user fees.

Saha communities are really rural – connecting to larger municipal systems would take miles and miles of pipe!  While it’s been exciting to see electrification reach even some of our most remote communities in recent years, many places in which we work still have roads only passable by motorbike.  Approximately 40% of our communities get totally cut off from road access for at least a portion of the rainy season, so the fact that our systems can be repaired and maintained using only expertise and parts found within the community is really important.

Groundwater is complicated here!  Beyond the abandoned or broken borehole, we’ve seen boreholes that work for one year and then dry up, boreholes that have water only seasonally, boreholes that pump visibly dirty water, and boreholes that pump salty water.  While we know groundwater can be an excellent solution for many regions, it has proved very challenging where we work.  Recently, we visited a Saha community with a new borehole – everyone was excited, and so were we!  We always want people to have easier access to water. But the next week when we visited, and asked how the borehole was working, everyone had gone back to the Saha center because the water was so hard that it couldn’t even lather soap to do laundry, much less drink.

Our system might be simple, but it works. Currently, Saha water treatment centers, run by entrepreneurial women, are providing access to clean water in 260 communities throughout northern Ghana.

From R&D Project to S.O.P: The Maintenance Service Program

At Saha, we are always learning new things about the best way to open and run clean water businesses in small, rural communities.  When we decide to make changes to our model, these ideas need to be vetted and understood thoroughly before they are rolled out to all our partner communities.  How do we decide when a great idea merits a big change?  The secret lies with our Research and Development (R&D) Team – one of our smallest but most important teams.

While we had conducted small, focused research projects over the years, R&D became an official, permanent fixture at Saha in 2018 when Fuseini Abdul-Mutala was hired.  Mutala, along with Deputy Director Kathryn Padgett, commanded a 2-member team until this year when Wahab Lawal joined the team after most recently serving as a Customer Care Front-Line Supervisor.  As R&D Supervisors, Mutala and Wahab work diligently towards their mission to research new and innovative projects for Saha.  Currently, they spend about 70% of their time in the field, running the projects and collecting data and user feedback, and the other 30% in the office analyzing that data and feedback, making recommendations, and communicating results to their colleagues.

The R&D team has conducted many projects over the years from annual entrepreneur perception surveys to drinking habit observation studies.  Several projects from recent years have dramatically shifted parts of Saha’s model. One such project is called the Maintenance Service Program.

The Maintenance Service Fee, or MSF, was a solution to solve a problem that had troubled many Saha businesses from the beginning: how to save the right amount of money to pay for spare parts and repairs at the business.  Saha businesses use low-cost, locally available materials, but it was an ongoing challenge for our entrepreneurs to plan their savings cycle for broken parts, and to pay for them when the time came.  Sometimes they would take new parts with a loan repayment plan, but collecting money regularly was difficult and could lead to stressful conversations for the field team and the entrepreneurs.

We knew we could make this process easier!  Our goal is to implement community owned and operated businesses that run well and have technical problems fixed quickly so they can continue deliver clean water. The R&D team started with an idea: could we offer an annual insurance program that the women entrepreneurs paid into that would cover the cost of replacement parts?  First came field research: would anyone even be interested in a 1-time lump sum fee for this service?  Team R&D started with surveys of the women entrepreneurs.  Ghana has national health insurance, so even in the most remote communities, people understood the concept of “insurancy” – paying in to a scheme that you may never use, but is there when you need it.  The entrepreneurs both easily understood the concept and saw the value in such a program.  The next step involved some creativity: we wanted a unique term, separate from health insurance and unique to the Saha business, and came up with “maintenance service.” 

Back in the office, Team R&D studied years of data to understand which parts break, how often, and how much that would cost a business annually.  A pricing structure was created based on village size so the fee was correlated with the amount of money it was possible to make from water sales, and the corresponding wear and tear on the business.  The team designed certificates of enrollment that included the date enrolled, and the phone number to call when anything broke.

The team first rolled out the program in six pilot communities, and after seven months, fourteen more.  To understand the impact of the program fully, they studied the claims cycle for technical part replacements in these pilot communities versus communities not enrolled in the program.  It was remarkable – parts were fixed and replaced quickly without hassle or delay, so businesses had less downtime due to broken parts.  The final test – would this program have seemed “worth it” to the entrepreneurs? Yes: when the year was up, all the entrepreneurs elected to renew.  When surveyed, all entrepreneurs emphasized how much easier this program was than the old way: challenges were resolved promptly, repairs were fixed faster, and it was much easier financially to save money from the business.

Once the pilot concluded, the data was clear – this service could benefit all Saha communities.  After some training, the Customer Care field teams in Tamale and Salaga introduced the concept to each community, collecting fees and issuing receipts and enrollment certificates.  To date, 231 businesses are covered under the Maintenance Service Program.  

Now the program is in the hands of the Customer Care teams, taking phone calls or visiting communities to discover broken parts, and fixing them as soon as possible.  Our goal for “urgent” part replacements, that is, those that completely shut down a business, is 4 days.  Recent reports have our teams replacing urgent parts within 4.3 days – not bad for a new program!  We are working on closing efficiency gaps to make that even better over time.

As for Team R&D, they are on to new projects!  While many of their studies don’t end with such a huge, organizational-wide effect, it is very gratifying for the team when they do.  According to Wahab, “I thought this program would help improve Saha water treatment businesses to grow faster, and relieve the stress of broken parts for both the entrepreneurs and Saha staff. So I call it ‘Broken Parts Stress Free.’”

Mutala adds: “This idea is so far the best not just reducing the burden both customer care and the entrepreneurs go through but also to ensure that broken parts are repaired or fixed within the shortest possible time to keep the water business running.”

 

R&D Supervisor Mutala at Mahamuruyili. The entrepreneurs in this community decided to have a big day of sales to raise funds to enroll in the Maintenance Service Program

Saha Global, Water Access Now, and Catholic Relief Services – A New Partnership for Clean Water

We are thrilled to announce the opening of two new clean water businesses through a partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Water Access Now (WAN).

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. CRS works to save, protect, and transform lives in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, health, agriculture, education, microfinance, and peacebuilding. CRS began working in Ghana just one year after independence, in 1958, and has two offices in Accra and Tamale.

Since 2007, WAN and CRS have supported over 220 health facilities, schools, and communities to gain access to safe drinking water in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West, and Oti Regions of Ghana. To date, WAN has provided over $2 million to support the provision of safe water supply through the construction and rehabilitation of boreholes, including limited mechanized water systems.

CRS approached Saha to discuss their water business model as an alternative to communities with very poor aquifers to support groundwater extraction and use. Several attempts by CRS and WAN using conventional drilling methods and technologies failed to provide sufficient water in several rural communities.

Saha specializes in providing water solutions to rural communities where other technologies won’t work– either in areas with no accessible groundwater or unsuitable groundwater (salty, contaminated, seasonal, or a combination), and with populations so small that the economics of other systems are unsustainable. Together with CRS, we found two communities that were the perfect fit for both organizations. CRS is deeply involved in the communities through Savings and Internal Lending (SILC) groups and other interventions, and Saha could fill in the missing piece for clean, safe water.

The two communities, located in West Mamprusi and Gushegu districts, were coordinated by Saha Implementers Shirazu Yakubu, Charity Dong, Implementation Supervisor Nestor Danaa, and CRS Project Officer Emmanuel Narimah. The water business in Sooba, in West Mamprusi opened on June 21 by water entrepreneurs Azaratu, Amina, Mariama, and Arhanatu. Their business provides clean water access for all 38 households in their community, with more than 600 people! On opening day, all 119 families came out and filled their Saha Safe Storage Container (SSC) – that’s 2,380 liters of treated, safe water going into homes on a single day! Since opening, while rainy season has begun, sales at the center are continuing with some customers even coming from neighboring villages to purchase clean water.

The second community, Nanyuni, in Gushegu, opened their water business with entrepreneurs Alima, Felicia, and Ama on July 6. This business provides clean water access to 351 people in the 25 households in Nanyuni.  On opening day, all 75 families in this village came to fill their SSC and bring clean water back to their families. When we’ve visited after opening, it’s been amazing to see how strong the business is continuing – though it’s been open less than a month, the entrepreneurs have already purchased chlorine twice to keep up with the volume of treatment!

At Saha, we know that by partnering with CRS in these communities, it will create an even stronger clean water business in the long term. The financial training the entrepreneurs receive through the SILC programs can inform their water business acumen. We look forward eagerly to future opportunities for collaboration in our mission to bring clean water to rural communities in northern Ghana.

“The Saha Global Water Business Model is a guaranteed approach for providing safe drinking water to communities with poor groundwater potential. The exciting part of the model is the treatment process, which is simple and done by rural women with little or no formal education. The women also make some earnings from the sale of the treated water. Thus, improving health of communities and addressing financial constraints facing women. The first two beneficiaries of the model in partnership with Water Access Now (WAN) and Catholic Relief Services (i.e., Sooba and Nanyuni) are bustling with excitement. It is my hope that more communities will be covered”.

  • Emmanuel Narimah (WASH Project Officer- Catholic Relief Services)

“Before the Water Treatment site was constructed, we drank unclean water directly from our river, which came with frequent health conditions such as diarrhea in our community, but now thanks to WAN, CRS, and SAHA Global we have clean drinking water for ourselves and our visitors. Hopefully, our disease burden will be reduced or eliminated totally”.

  • Dokurugu – Field Agent (Savings and Internal Lending Communities, SILC), Sooba Community

 

 

Signboard installation at Sooba
Community meeting at Sooba
Charity at opening day in Sooba

 

 

Women entrepreneurs in Sooba learning how to assemble safe storage containers
Assembling the center at Nanyuni
Alum works at Nanyuni
Opening Day in Nanyuni

 

Emergency Water Fund Wrap Up Part II: The Stories

Throughout the Emergency Water Fund (EWF), we’ve been able to talk to our entrepreneurs and customers to get a better understanding of how they feel about COVID, clean water, and the free water program.

The water entrepreneurs were working really hard throughout this time, treating much more water than they had before (see Part I: The Numbers). We asked them several questions about the EWF and their feedback was really interesting and really helpful for Saha to consider.

First 98% of the entrepreneurs that we surveyed were satisfied with the EWF payments. We told the women that they were allowed to use the money earned for anything they wanted, and they did!  Some examples include:

  • Paying school fees for their children
  • Purchasing plots of land for farming
  • Purchasing seeds to store and sell later
  • Farming rice
  • Expanding stores/growing trading businesses
  • Buying cell phones
  • Planning new businesses
  • Investing in village savings and loan (VSLA) associations

Despite being satisfied with payments, 49% found the EWF “stressful” or “not easy” due to the tremendous increase in clean water demand and workload. This is not surprising, especially given the other responsibilities that the women entrepreneurs have at home, including farming and harvesting shea nuts, cooking, cleaning, and caring for their children. In the future, as we consider potential changes to our model aimed at increasing clean water consumption in Saha villages, it will be really important for Saha to acknowledge the increase in workload to the entrepreneurs and to explore solutions to burnout.

The first few months of the COVID response in Ghana included lockdowns in larger cities and limited public transportation which had economic impacts in Saha communities.  Most communities’ primary economy is farming or fishing, and the people rely on travel to larger market towns to sell their goods and to buy things that aren’t produced in the communities.  While there were no official lockdowns in the north, travel was restricted, and many people didn’t travel outside of their communities due to fear about the virus.  People had challenges both selling their goods and finding everything they would normally buy in market towns.  After the initial few months of this, markets returned to normal, with some changes.  There are “veronica” buckets for handwashing stationed at many places, and you need to wear a face mask to board public transportation.

Entrepreneurs reported that while their long-time customers were fetching water for free, so were many other people who had previously only fetch sporadically or not at all.  That’s exciting to us – we like the idea that the free water might have created new continuing water purchasers by removing the cost barrier to clean water.  When we polled customers about the free water, we heard 100% positive feedback, including:

  • “I was very excited for fetching water at the center for free!”
  • “It actually helped me and my family.”
  • “Very grateful for the free water project.
  • “Saha should keep telling the entrepreneurs to be active in treatment so that people will not miss drinking clean water at the center.”

We asked village “VIPs” – elders, assemblymen, chairmen, volunteers, and chiefs about their perception of the free water program. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, including:

  • “Everyone had the chance of getting clean water available in the community!”
  • “It is very good and wished if could continue, because I’m the community leader I really liked the idea everyone could come for water and it prevents my people from various illness.”
  • “This initiative was the best, even though it wasn’t everyone who fetched, but most of the the community people fetched the free water so it has really helped my community.”

One VIP even told us that he refused to drink dugout water when offered in another community he visited recently! We asked them for advice about what Saha could do now that the EWF had ended, and they told us to keep visiting households, educating the community, and encouraging them to purchase.  Many told us that they want to be included more in that effort going forward, and using their influence to encourage people to drink safe water.

Overall, the response from entrepreneurs, customers, and VIPs was positive – more people were drinking clean water and seeing how it could fit into their lives over the EWF period.  Now the real work for Saha begins: how to keep those new customers, retain the old ones, and keep supporting entrepreneurs and communities with their clean water businesses.

Mma Damu, water entrepreneur in Balamposo (photo credit: David Gutierrez Gomez)

Emergency Water Fund Wrap Up – Part 1: The Numbers

Saha Global’s Emergency Coronavirus Water Fund program. (EWF) ran for 10 months from June 2020 through March 2021.  The program was established to fulfill a government mandate that as part of coronavirus relief, water had to be provided for free for all Ghanaians.  Now that the program is wrapped up, and the team has fully transitioned back to normal operations and can look back and take stock of all the program accomplished.

We ran the EWF program with 226 businesses, and were able to fully fund the program due to a combination of working with generous existing funders and direct fundraising from foundations and individuals, including over 19,750 USD from individual donors on Giving Tuesday 2020.

The EWF focused on enabling women entrepreneurs to give the water for free – by providing the supplies they need for treatment and paying them a wage to replace lost earnings.  We created a bonus structure whereby women could earn an additional 33% on top of the monthly wage if the community reported that water was free and conveniently available all month.

In the 10 months of operation, on average 92.5% of entrepreneurs earned their bonus each month – keeping businesses running throughout the rainy season (roughly mid-June through September), a time when many choose to temporarily close the business due to easy and free rainwater access.  This means that month after month, they continued to treat water and give it away – for free!  When asked, 98% of customers reported free and consistent access to the water.

Water quality remained high throughout the program – 98% of tested polytanks were clean and free from disease-causing E. coli.

When we sum up all the chlorine Aquatabs that were used over the program, women entrepreneurs treated more than 10 million liters of water – a massive increase over previous years.

In addition to treating and giving away clean water, the EWF program also focused on education around mask wearing, social distancing, and hand-washing.  We posted large infographic posters at the water centers and smaller ones on household safe storage containers – over 14,000 pieces of educational material in all.  In staff observations, 94% of the time we saw social distancing protocols followed at the business.  We distributed over 3,000 reusable cloth masks to over 600 women entrepreneurs so they could stay safe while serving their communities – and 95% of the time our staff arrived at the business, they saw the women wearing them.

Overall, we are thrilled with the results of the EWF program. We are proud we could support the government’s goal of providing both health benefits and economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We also learned a lot about the barriers and motivations people have for drinking clean water!  There’s a lot more we will learn as the businesses transition back to self-sustaining enterprises.  For now, we are focusing on opening new businesses again, and working with our existing businesses to keep the momentum from the EWF program going.

In our next post, we will share some of the anecdotes and stories from the field throughout the EWF. Stay tuned!

 

Clean Water, Fueled by Sustainable Shea

Last year, we were excited to include a new corporate partner in our clean water mission.  AAK, headquartered in Malmö, Sweden, is a multinational company specializing in plant-based oils and one of the largest shea buyers in West Africa.  Shea harvesting is a major industry in northern Ghana, and approximately four million women across West Africa participate in the shea industry.  As you can imagine, this includes many of the women we work with in Saha partner communities.

In addition to purchasing shea through the traditional supply chain, AAK is continuously expanding its Kolo Nafaso program, sourcing shea directly from the women who harvest it. The set-up within Kolo Nafaso includes innovative pre-financing, best practices and finance training programs. According to AAK’s latest report, the company currently works directly with 321,443 women across West Africa.  AAK is committed to sustainable sourcing of shea and improving women’s livelihoods in the same rural communities in which Saha works.

Initially, AAK supported the Emergency Coronavirus Water Fund, helping Saha fulfil the government free water mandate. When the free water mandate ended, we moved quickly to open our first AAK-sponsored water business in Bachado this April.  Implementation officers Basha and Charity worked to set up this business with entrepreneurs Gmayenan, Poalati, and Tiboryan.  Bachado, a community of approximately 270 people, previously had no source of clean water. We were told that other organizations had attempted to drill boreholes in the past but that they were unable to find viable groundwater.  The new Saha water business enables the women entrepreneurs to treat the surface water from their nearby river into good, healthy drinking water.  Opening day was an exciting affair, with 100% of the households coming out to purchase clean water!

One of the things we appreciate about working with AAK is that, like us, they have a long-term plan for working in rural northern Ghana.  Laura Schlebes, AAK Sustainable Multi-Oil Manager, says it best:

“A partnership with Saha Global is a perfect match for AAK on our journey of improving livelihoods and empowering women through our Kolo Nafaso program. Saha Global’s simple and cost-effective technologies, long-term partnership approach, and focus on business-based solutions fit perfectly with our preferred way of working. We are excited to have partnered with Saha and are looking forward to connecting them to more women’s groups that we work with.”

Photos from Opening Day in Bachado: