It’s a bittersweet moment for Saha. We’re saying goodbye to 14 Field Reps in Accra – they’re hoping on planes and flying back home to school, jobs and family. At the same time, we’re excited to welcome 10 more entrepreneurs to the Saha Global family, in the two new villages of Kpanshegu and Moya, and two current partner villages of Djelo and Tacpili. We will let these numbers speak to the hard work of Field Reps past and present:
178 women have started small businesses with the help of Saha Field Reps.
They own and operate 74 Water Treatment Businesses which serve 39,534 people.
They also run 8 Solar Charging Businesses, serving 3,704 people.
100% of these businesses are in operation today.
We want to take this opportunity to congratulate Jake, Shak, Julia, Sofia, Marlena, Tj, Julia, Wahab, Jenni, Orlando, Peter, Allison, Marsha, Sarah, Amin, Kiana, Matt, Kristina and Paul for their hard work in their communities. It was such a pleasure to work with this dedicated group.
We began our solar journey by meeting with the chief and elders of the village to introduce the solar charging business. We brought along the batteries and lanterns to show and explain to them what they will be using instead of the harmful kerosene and torch lights. Without Amin, our cultural liaison, we would be unable to work together and communicate our ideas. Although they have never seen these lanterns before, they quickly grasped the overall benefit that these new materials would provide. It is good to know that these families will no longer be exposed to the hazardous materials they were used to using, such as kerosene lamps and lead acid batteries.
In 2013, Saha Global pitched a water treatment center to the chief and elders of Djelo (pronounced Jell-oh) in hopes of increasing access to clean water. Women from the community fill their water buckets twice a day. Jake and Marsha checked out the water dugouts and noticed that the women were doing a good job of maintaining past efforts. Due to their dedication and diligence, we were excited to introduce them to this new solar business concept. The community was very excited about commencing the project and quickly provided the necessary information to begin.
Day 2 consisted of building the solar charging center and getting our hands dirty! We really enjoyed this process since it did not require translation and we could all work together as a team. The villagers showed us how to build in their community, which was a novel process for us and we learned how to carry the bricks on our heads like the local villagers! However, we got the hang of it quickly and created what we think will be a great and long-lasting building for the business.
Day 3 & 4 have been our longest days so far. We hired a carpenter to do the roof, which gave us a lot of down time to play with the kids and to get to know the women a little bit better. Sarah and Jake had a great time playing football and other games with the children while Marsha learned how to swaddle a baby and even carried one on her back! Our team is truly enjoying the experience and getting to know everyone in the community.
Today was our 5th day in the wonderful village of Djelo. We are now in the process of building the solar panels and training the women on how to run the business successfully. It will be exciting to see the community use their fully charged lanterns in just a few short days!!!!!!
After almost a month post-implementation, the new CWS villages (Gbandu, Gariezegu, Djelo, Kpenchila, Jabayili and Yakura) have all hit the ground running for the clean water which they all have access to now! For the first 6 months, the CWS field staff, which includes Peter, Shak, Wahab, Amin and myself will be visiting each of these villages at least once a week. These visits include monitoring the water treatment centers, meeting with the two women that run the centers and performing 6-10 household visits to check that everyone in the village is indeed getting access to the water that is now available. So far the reports have come back and all of these new villages have really embraced the CWS approach. The two women that run the centers have taken ownership of their businesses, adapting the necessary changes needed to make it work for their communities.
The rainy season is a busy time for the majority of these villages because everyone is farming! The rain also creates some unique challenges for some of the villages because of flooding and rainwater harvesting. In Gbandu, Mariama and Abiba decided to have opening days at their centers on Mondays and Thursdays to make life easier for themselves and for their village. In Gariezegu, Selamatu and Adamu discussed moving their center into town during the rainy season because the walk to their dugout floods, making the water treatment center inaccessible. They are currently awaiting confirmation from the chairman of their village to build a new stand.
Fati and Mimatu, the fine ladies that run the center in Jabayili, informed us that their small, neighboring village, Korboniyili, uses the same dugout as them. There are only 10 households in Korboniyili. We are currently working with the women on distributing safe storage containers to the people of this village, so that they too can have the opportunity to buy clean water. In Yakura, Ayi and Awabu have been busy busy farming! They have been so busy that we often don’t catch them unless we get to Yakura early enough. Even during these busy times, they still manage to operate the water treatment center. In fact, they say that sales have not really dropped since it started raining.
Water sales are high in Kpenchila. Adamu otherwise known as “Jahamah”(a nickname given to her because she has had 2 sets of twins) and Zuira told us that since it has not been consistently raining, most people would rather come to buy water than risk waiting for a storm that they cannot be sure will come. Zelia and Fuseina of Djelo have been demanding for more safe storage containers to sell. Many of the households have been buying a second safe storage container so that their families can have 20 L more water stored in their compounds. Their polytank tap was leaking but is now fixed! So far these 6 new CWS villages are looking good– more updates to come soon!
Team #5 (a.k.a. Team Global Pack a.k.a. Team AWESOME a.k.a. All Girls’ Team!)
After about a week of learning more of what CWS is all about, and the important processes that we will implement in new communities, the team finally was able to visit the new village for the first time. It is called Djelo (pronounced like the tasty Desert treat, Jello), and is about an hour to the east of where we are staying in Tamale.
The first time our team showed up was both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. In this culture, it is important to first talk with the chief of the village that you are visiting to introduce yourselves and ask if they are interested in working with you. This way you know that the villagers will accept the help, and know what is coming. In any case, we searched for the chief, but he was traveling at the time, so we talked to the assistant chief, who gave us permission to go to the dugout to test their current water source. We then set up a time to talk with the chief the next day more about how we can work with them to provide sustainable clean water.
Though we were all expecting a really formal meeting, when we arrived on the second day, we were surprised in a couple ways:
a) The meeting was much more casual than we expected! The kids put together a low chair for the chief to sit in, and benches for the elders. We were not inside the chief’s hut, and by the time we really got into the discussion, a lot of the community was standing around listening, and even jumping in at times.
b) Some of the children were hanging out with the elders during the meeting! Our team has noticed that the kids in the villages are brought up in much more of a community fashion than we are used to in North America. In other similar cultures, the fathers and other male figure-heads are not necessarily very involved in the upbringing of the children, but in this case they were very willing to play with them and keep them company even in the context of a meeting with the chief and another organization.
c) Though it is a given that in these villages the animals have free range, it was not expected that they too voice their opinions on the matters at hand. During our meeting, one particular goat had very strong opinions, and was not afraid to share them. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t keep from laughing.
Once we had complete permission to go ahead with the CWS model, there was a dilemma that still needed to be solved. At this village (and others in the area), there are two dugouts. One is much closer to the village than the other, but is also smaller, and sometimes dries up in the peak of the dry season, so the villagers then use the dugout that is farther away. This brought up the dilemma of which dugout to put the implementation center. We asked the elders what they thought, and here are some highlights of their discussion:
a) They could put the center in the village itself so that they could take water from either dugout. The chief had some concerns with that though, because it would be a lot of work for the two women that actually run the center. He was worried that they would tire from it, and then maybe not even do it at all, which would negate the whole purpose of the project in the first place.
b) If they put the center at the small dugout, they said they were also willing to pay for and build a second Polytank stand by the other dugout if they thought it was necessary. With these two points discussed, they came to the conclusion of putting the original stand by the smaller, closer dugout that is used more often anyway.
Though they came to a great conclusion, there is still an interesting factor that stems from the second dugout. If the women and children, and the rest of the community that come to get the water have a second, dirty dugout with no implementation center at it, how do we keep them from using it anyway? This is a problem that the team will discuss with the villagers in the coming days, but is something that is hard to monitor. It is not a huge concern, however, because of the initial excitement that the village expressed about finally having clean water. One interesting thing that the elders said was that they used to think that people were getting sick from the water because their enemies were mad at them. Once the Guinea worm was eradicated, however, they now realize that it is the water itself that is making them sick, and not their enemies. With this realization, they know they can take control of the situation, and using clean water will make a difference for their health. Knowing that they have this understanding gives our team confidence that they will choose to use the clean water for drinking even though they still have access to a source of dirty dugout water.
The day after we got permission to begin the process, we brought the materials for the first steps and began building the Polytank stand. When we went with the masons to decide a good place to put it, the chief actually came to help! This was another unexpected, welcome surprise because some of the other elders followed him there too.
This was really cool because they got to see some of the process instead of sitting back and remaining uninvolved. While the masons were building with our help and the help of our wonderful translator, Amin, they were also joking around with each other. It was great to see how they interact on a regular basis, and not just within the context of a meeting. We were all expecting them to be the officials of the village, and completely serious all the time, but it was great to see their personalities come out a bit in a more casual setting.
We have learned a lot as a team, and look forward to getting to know the women, children, and other villagers better as we work more closely with them in the next steps of the process!