Season Changeover Stimulates Water Business Sales

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!


Voices from the Field: The Village Elders!

Hey there from the Village Elders,
We and our translator T.J. opened our beautiful new water treatment center at Gbanteni this past Friday and have since then been making trips to our village to check up on them! We’re lucky we implemented when we did because with the rainy season coming and the precarious spots on the rocky dirt road, travel to our village will soon be nearly impossibly (unless you swim). On the up side, since it is so far out in the country, it is one of the prettiest villages and we loved working there! Here’s what we’ve seen over the past few days:

We have been around to talk to all of the households to inspect their buckets to ensure that they are full of only clean water, there are no problems with the buckets, and they are happy with the new water. We’ve seen all of the usual suspects: broken and leaky taps, people who haven’t filled their buckets, people filling ‘illegal’ buckets (aka unclean buckets without a lid and a tap), and people hesitant to buy more water. However, after 3 days of thorough monitoring, we believe we have ironed out all of the kinks. We were proud when our chief suggested and our village agreed to implement a flat monthly fee rather than a pay per fill fee in order to solve some of these problems! We are hopeful this system will work for them. People have even bought extra buckets so they can have clean water when they are out at the farm for extended periods of time. Everyone’s been raving about how much the new water has made them feel better already! Word about the water has gotten out and a neighboring village has come to check it out and wants it in their village too; they were quickly added to the CWS list of villages and will hopefully get clean water soon!

Kendra hard at work in the field doing household monitoring!


T.J. and the team fixing a leaky tap

We are confident that the women selected to run the center will do a wonderful job. They are respected in the community and were familiar with the use of alum (one of the chemicals used to clean the water). They have successfully been treating the water since opening day. They seem committed to working at the center and are even stronger than the man in our group; they can carry 30L buckets on their heads and Javier couldn’t quite master that one… In fact, one of the women managed to fill all 3 of the 200L buckets today by herself!

The women filling the polytank!

Even the children are learning a lot about clean water! While somewhat shy when we first arrived a few weeks ago, they now run to the car when we arrive and follow us around the village wherever we go. It was also customary at first to see them drinking dugout water but there is nothing more exciting than seeing them drink clean, clear water from the center out of a water bottle we gave them. Just yesterday, we saw a girl with a bottle of dugout water and we disciplined her in English and although she couldn’t understand our language, between the gestures and the kids understanding why we are there, the group of kids told the girl to dump out the dugout water. They really are beginning to understand the importance of ONLY DRINKING CLEAN WATER!

Some of the familiar faces that have been following us around

Today was a bittersweet day. It was our last visit to Gbateni and while we are ecstatic that they are becoming self-sufficient regarding clean water, it was very hard to leave these people we have come to know so well over the past few weeks. When we first arrived the chief said “I would offer you some water but we only have dugout water.” We left them today knowing they have a clean, safe, sustainable source of water for their community. The chief, his wife, and everyone who saw us off were beyond grateful. We took some final photos by their brand new CWS sign! We gave them a few photos and small gifts and plan to mail even more! It was wonderful to work with a village that was so enthusiastic about clean water and health and we will definitely be tracking the progress of our village in the future.

The team with Chief Kasullan Fuseini and the new sign in front of Gbateni

-Kelsey. Javier, Jess and Kendra

P.S. We’ll also miss T.J. tons. His singing, dancing, smiling, tardiness, and willingness to eat all the time (particularly bread with us on the road!).