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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:

 

Opening New Water Businesses in 2021

We’re back! Since the first Saha business opened in 2008, we’ve never taken a full year away from implementing new water businesses. When the pandemic hit Ghana, we took a pause in our field operations, and then pivoted nearly the whole team to implementing the Emergency Water Fund (EWF) so we could support the Government of Ghana’s initiative to bring free water to all.

The free water mandate ended on March 31 2021, and we were ready to be “back in business” opening new businesses!  Throughout the EWF program, our expansion team continued to work behind the scenes to scout new potential communities to work in.  Over this time, our scouters visited more than 1,400 communities across northern Ghana, mapping their water access.  The admin and procurement team secured all the supplies and parts our new businesses need, and planned out logistics like team transportation and housing. Thanks to all of this preparation, as soon as we could start visiting new communities, we did!

We’re doing things a little bit differently now, with a smaller team.  In order to keep our communities and our staff safe as the threat of COVID remains, we’ve developed new protocols for community meetings and household visits.  We make sure to have two team members present for a community meeting so they can do some “crowd control” and make sure the meeting doesn’t exceed the government limit for gatherings, and distribute masks to everyone who attends.  We’ve actually found gathering people for community meetings is a little bit easier now – people like getting a free mask!

We give the elected entrepreneurs reusable cloth masks to wear while training with our team and to continue using while they serve water to their community after the business has opened.  When we visit households to distribute safe storage containers and tell customers about the new business, we make sure not to enter people’s room and keep the conversations outside in the open-air courtyards.

Amin Bangaham distributing safe storage containers in March 2021

Like any big process change, we needed to test these out first.  Our two implementation team supervisors, Nestor Danaa and Amin Bangaham Mohammed, implemented the first two communities of 2021 in Savelugu District.  Thanks to their testing and feedback, we refined our safety plans and were able to train the rest of the team.  Now, we’ve already opened 10 new businesses, on track to hit our goal of 50 for 2021.

It’s energizing to be back in the field meeting new people and bringing water access to new places.  One leader in a new Saha community near Salaga told our team, “We’ve been waiting for you!”

Opening Day in Bachado
Charity distributes safe storage containers in a household in East Gonja
Implementor Aisha poses on opening day with community elders in Makango Enuyasu

… and that’s a WRAP! Reflections on Summer 2019’s Global Leadership Program

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just two days since we said goodbye to the 2019 Summer Field Reps. Thanks to this awesome group students and young professionals, Saha was able to partner with with 5 more communities in Northern Ghana to open new water treatment businesses. Because of them, 1,221 people now have the ability to drink clean water each day. 17 women entrepreneurs are able to provide potable water to their friends, family and neighbors through community-supported small businesses. And Saha is able to welcome 20 new faces to our global Saha family!

Aidan, Alex, Ali, Amanda, Emily, Gretchen, Grace, Jonell, Kayla, Kaz, Leslieann, Maggie B, Maggie R, Mitch, Natalie, Olivia, Quinn, Sarah, Shannon, and Sophie:

Can you believe it? We sweated through taxi breakdowns and laughed through broken stand disasters. We rolled alum balls on the porch and rolled with the punches more generally. We navigated the market and the ins and outs of a new-to-us culture. Most importantly, we found joy and success in the surprise of the unanticipated. Though not every moment was easy, all the (literal) blood, sweat and tears certainly paid off. 
It was such a pleasure to work with all of y’all, and we consider ourselves lucky to count you as part of Sahayili! As you head off to your next adventures, please don’t forget

Kpegunaya, Chahanaya, Bonyase, Dasana Kuraa, Kpintalga

and all of us here at Saha, and let us know what we can do to further your missions.

With gratitude,

Rhiana & Team Saha

and now… the jumping pics!

Team Bangaham in Chahanaaya
Team Shirazu in Dasana Kuraa
Team Jude in Bonyase
Team Kamil in Kpegunaya
Team Nestor in Kpintalga

Field Rep Voices: Team Emma, Caitlin, Simply, Solum& Zach

Goose, Goose, Goose

The trick to teaching a bunch of kids who don’t speak English how to play a new game is a lot of hand signals and aggressive smiling. So that is exactly how we went about showing twenty-odd kids in the Dagbani speaking village of Larigbani how to play the time tested, kid approved game of “Duck, Duck, Goose”.

We started out sitting in the dirt outside of the chief’s village, in as much of a circle as the four of us field representatives could make, motioning to the kids to come and sit with us. The bravest by far were the girls, who marched up with little siblings on their backs, plopped down with a burst of dust and stared at us with curiosity and the sort of humorous trepidation you’d imagine you’d feel whenever finding yourself sitting in a circle with four wildly gesturing, wide smiling salamingas who wandered into your hometown for the first time only the day before. A few more kids trickled in, and after calling over our translator/BFF Simply to help explain our foreign blabbering to the kids, we were off.

The game started out slow as everyone got familiar with the in’s and out’s of Duck, Duck, Goose, but quickly ramped up. Before we knew it we had a crowd of both adults and children watching our game, yelling out encouragements to the Goose’s and hooting with laughter each time one of the kids picked a field rep as the goose (they mostly forgot the word “duck” pretty early on, so we had to judge who they were picking as the goose by how forcefully they said it. “Goose, Goose… Goose, Goose, Goose… GOOSE!”) and we had to hoist ourselves up, sliding on the loose ground as we chased the little darts around our now sizable circle.

Eventually we had to call it quits to get to work, leaving our circle of brand new teeny tiny friends for the track to the dugout, but had those stubborn, cheek picking smiles stuck on our faces for the rest of the day.

-Team Simply

Field Rep Voices: Team Amin, Brian, Gaby, Henry and Jessica

If you can believe it, we’re mid-way through the process of setting up our clean water business here in the outskirts of Tamale!  Over the past two weeks, there have been far too many experiences to recount in full, but one of the most memorable of the bunch has been finally getting to know our women entrepreneurs and training them on how to set up, manage, and eventually take over the clean water business.

 

Our team works in a tiny village called Lambo, with just 10 village households and 17 Fulani households.  It’s tucked away in a verdant grove, and is very much off the beaten path, leading to a scenic drive there but also lots of difficulties for our villagers when it comes to accessing basic resources.  In particular, their water situation was notably worrisome when we first arrived.  They are currently drinking out of a very shallow dugout nearby town that may dry up shortly if the rains don’t come.  As a result, the water quality is very poor – it is heavily silted, covered with a light layer of scum, and our tests came back showing that it was full of E.coli and other dangerous bacteria.

 

Fortunately, meeting with the chief and the community went smoothly – everyone was quite receptive to the idea and asked some great questions before welcoming us into their village to begin building the center.  The two women who were nominated to run the center are named Fuseina and Awabu, and both are strong in both body and spirit, incredibly attentive, and very much committed to the well-being of their families.

The process of training our women partners turned out to be relatively simple, as they have been dealing with household water their whole lives and intuitively understand the need for providing their families with clean water.  First, they fill our three 200L jerry cans with dugout water using their garrawas, the large buckets they use to fetch water, helping one another hoist them over their heads and pour them expertly into the cans.  Even with only two or three women filling the cans, we were shocked at how rapidly and efficiently they were able to move that much water around so quickly!  A true feat, as anyone who has attempted to lift 50 pounds worth of water over the heads could attest.

 

Once the jerry cans were full, we showed Fuseina and Awabu how to use alum, our flocculant of choice that helps the sediments in the water clear and settle to the bottom.  Many people in the North have used alum before in order to clear the water they use for laundry.  As a result, the women took to the task instantly, rolling alum into tight balls and barely needing any guidance on how to swirl the golf ball sized chunks in the cans with care.  Finding the right amount of alum to use is a bit of a tricky process – use too little, and the water doesn’t clear, but use too much and the water has a bit of a funky, chemical taste – so we urged our women to err on the side of caution.  As it turned out, the first go around wasn’t quite enough, so we had to add a little bit extra the next day, but no harm done.

 

Once the water had settled and cleared, and we’d lugged our big, 1400 litre polytalk out to the village and mounted it on the stand, the water was ready for purification!  Using smaller hand buckets, Fuseina and Awabu delicately scooped the clear, sediment-free water from the top of the jerry cans and poured them into the polytank.  We gave them a bag of starter chlorine tablets to use for the time being, and briefly explained to them that they only should add 1 big tablet for every jerry can of water that gets added to the polytank.  The two of them listened intently, nodding and making small comments to one other, before getting right to business.  Sure enough, the water came out clear and sterilized once poured from the polytank and tested, so we should be good to go for our opening day tomorrow – a huge achievement and a great testament to the hard work of our female entrepreneurs.

 

In all, it has been a delight to get to know the women who will be at the helm of our business, and we only have the highest hopes for them and their commitment towards providing their communities with clean water.  There may be some challenges and road bumps ahead – once the current dugout dries out, we’ll have to relocate the center to a different one nearby – but if the perseverance we’ve seen in our villagers thus far sticks around, they should have no problem getting the center up and running again.  So here’s to a future of clean water for Lambo!

  • Gaby, Jess, Brian, and Henry

Field Rep Voices: Team Alex, Amanda, Peter, Zach and Zijun

With this post, we’re kicking off our “Field Rep Voices” segment for summer 17! What better way to keep you up to date with the progress of our 10 new water business implementations then to hear from our Field Reps themselves? Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the chance to hear from each team about the challenges and successes of all our new business. So without further ado, take it away, Team Peter!

It was a hot one, with the temperature reaching nearly 100 degrees. The cab ride is always an interesting experience, with four of us (all over 5’7) melting together in the backseat – truly living up to our team name, Team Sweat, also known in Dagbani as Team Wolgu. Upon our arrival in the village, the whole community was waiting for us. Suri, a small village of only twenty households, is a beautiful and quiet community. Our community meeting was a success – our women entrepreneurs were announced and many questions were asked. We were excited to see the level of community engagement, with many of the community members answering each other’s questions. Another exciting moment was when a few community members asked if they could purchase additional safe storage containers to have as much clean drinking water in their household as possible.

Our community meeting in Suri!

 

At first, the kids were shy and hesitant to come up to us, but they’re beginning to warm up. While we were painting the Polytank stand, the kids began to make their way toward us, curious as to what we were doing. We were hoping that everyone would go back to their daily tasks after the community meeting, but instead, all eyes were on us as we meticulously painted their stand, hoping that we didn’t miss a spot.

Painting the polytank stand

 

Painting the polytank stand continued!

After we finished painting our stand, we took another trip to the dugout, hoping that we wouldn’t run into any of the crocodiles that we’re told dwell at the bottom. While we were visiting the dugout, we encountered a group of Fulani women for the first time. They were bathing and doing their laundry. We were struck by how distinctly they were dressed, wearing colorful clothing and many pieces of silver jewelry and beads. The Fulani are a semi-nomadic people, who follow their cattle from place to place. They’re often seen as the outsiders by the village people, although they may have lived in a place for fifteen years, making their relationships more complex than it initially appears. Suri has a large population of Fulani and we are looking forward to getting to know them and understanding the dynamic more. Upon our departure from the village, we were treated to a basket of eggs from the chief and a marriage proposal from the linguist, which we politely declined. Twice. We couldn’t be more excited by the response that we received from the people of Suri and we can’t wait to move forward with the water business.

A gift of guinea fowl eggs from the community!

Sincerely,

Team Sweat.

 

#sahappy2behere – Reflections on the 2017 Winter Global Leadership Program

It’s crazy to think that less than a week ago we were saying farewell to the 2017 Winter Field Reps. Thanks to this group of awesome, driven individuals, Saha was able to partner with with 9 communities in Northern Ghana to open 7 new water treatment businesses and 2 new solar charging businesses, which provide jobs to 21 new entrepreneurs. 1,664 people now have permanent access to safe drinking water and 752 people have access to reliable, clean solar electricity. Additionally, 5 of our water entrepreneurs have now been trained to run solar businesses, increasing their earning potential!

Alex C, Alex K, Ann, Becky, Caleb, Caroline, Celine, Elijah, Erin, Joanne, Kalin, Kevin, Laura, Lexie, Louis, Matt, Maureen, Micah, Mona-Mae, Morgan, Nikita, Olivia, Qingyi, Sarah, Shaminika, Shane, Shanelle, Shannon, Terynek, Tess, Walker, Wyatt, Yu and Zulean,

We can’t believe that just under a week ago, we packed our bags and loaded up in front of GILLBT for the last time! We are so grateful for the excitement, enthusiasm, hard-work and positivity that you brought to team Saha. Because of you, thousands of people are living their lives with more opportunities for health and happiness. It was such a pleasure to work with all of y’all, and we consider ourselves lucky to count you as part of Sahayili! As you head off to your next impactful adventures, please don’t forget your community and all of us here at Saha, and let us know what we can do to further your missions. 

With gratitude,

Amin, Eda, Eric, Kathryn, Morganne, Peter, Shak & Wahab

And now … for the jumping pics!

Eric, Iddrisu, Erin, Qingyi, Sarah and Shane in Chihigu

 

Elijah, Kalin, Ann and Wahab in Defisa

 

Wyatt, Caleb, Joanne, Shanelle and Shak in Jagberin

 

Celine, Laura, Olivia, Matt, and Nestor in Juni

 

Terynek, Micah, Shannon and Becky in Labariga

 

Morganne, Mona, Simply and Alex in Kpumi

 

Walker, Shamanika, Sita, Lexie and Tess (not shown) in Parishenaaya

 

Louis, Alex, Caroline and Maureen in Tuya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voices from the Field – Team Sita, Valerie, Sean, Haley & Bri

They may have left Ghana, but we’ve got one last update from a Saha team written on their (first) last day in their community. Take it away Team Sita:

As we were sitting on the thin wooden bench in the middle of our village, we began to reflect. We had sat on that thin, wooden bench two weeks earlier when we were asking permission from the chief elders, and community to implement a water treatment center. However, this time we were sitting on that bench to say goodbye to Kombonaayili and thank them for all of their help. There was no doubt in our minds that the past three weeks have been an adventure and some of the best we’ve ever had and with those three weeks came a lot of firsts for each of us.

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Sean
This trip was my first experience in Africa. I have never ever been across the Atlantic before- a useful fact for those Never Have I Evers. I was not sure what to expect in the “city” I would be staying in or the village I would be working in- I didn’t even know if they used bathrooms, for example, and if so, what kind. Through my weeks, the thing that struck me most were not the differences between what I felt would be a strange planet and the U.S., but the similarities. The city doesn’t have the sky scrapers I’m more familiar with, but it bustles all the same. The people I encountered loved to tell jokes and laugh with me about them. It was a way of welcoming me that surpassed any greeting. The children love to play with us, completely ignoring the fact that we are bizarre-looking strangers. After three weeks here the differences are hardly noticeable. I’ve been welcomed by so many people, both directly and indirectly, that this place has started to feel like a home away from home. I am sad to see it go- Komonaayili, Tamale, Ghana, and Africa in general.

Haley
This trip was my first time using a bathroom that essentially was a separated “room” and a cement floor with a small hole in this wall to drain everything to the outside. At first it was somewhat scary, but after 2 weeks of using the restroom around 10 am every day, it became part of my daily routine. You only really get to know a village if you use their bathroom.

Haley

Bri
I can honestly say that this trip was the first time I have ever made a baby cry just by looking at it. .I wish I was exaggerating. Some of the children in our village have never seen “salameenses” (It means white people, but is used to describe all light-skinned foreigners) before or even heard of one for that matter so we must seem like aliens to them. I remember walking into one household and seeing a bay about two years old screaming and running away from me. Unfortunately, he ran into the house I was about to go into so the screaming continued. While I was in the house one of the women picked up the small boy and shoved him in my face as to say “see they aren’t that scary” but it just made him scream louder and squirm until the woman let him go. For the remainder of the time he sat on another woman’s lap with a shawl over his face to keep him from seeing us and to silence his screams. This is of course just one instance out of many, but it is definitely one I’ll never forget and one that I can hopefully look back and laugh at.

Bri

Valerie
I never ever in my 22 years of life imagined that I would be betrothed so early. I was one of the fortunate ones that had been chosen by one of the village chiefs to be a second or even third wife (polygamy is a normal practice in Northern Ghana). This was obviously just said in jest, and no rings were ever exchanged. No, mom, there is no reason to alert the U.S. Embassy. I am indeed coming back home, promise! But it was not uncommon to hear a man ask Sean, my teammate, if he could have one of “his” women. Sean would very graciously decline and try to explain that we belonged only to ourselves. But after two days, he was practically giving us away for free.
Now, this may make the villagers seem as if they treat the women as a commodity, however that was not the case. All of the women we met were powerful and outspoken. It was almost surprising to me at first. They could carry babies on their backs and a bucket of water on their heads, as they carried other items in their hand. They did not seem to hold back on their thoughts, even when there were men around. And even today, as we sat on that wooden bench, when we were trying to make sure to reiterate the importance of the women in the village and their role in the treatment center, we were received with only reassuring agreement. It was one of the top moments in that village, probably next to getting “engaged” numerous times.

Val

Overall, no matter what our firsts have been, they have only served to open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts. So if you ever decide to apply as a field rep, be prepared to have many interesting firsts!

Distribution

Voice from the Field: Team TJ – Jeremy, Ellie, Jessica and Leigh

Dear Diary,

Today began with uncertainty… Last night we lay restless with the thought that our Poltyank water could be contaminated. On the ride to Futa today, we anxiously waited for Kathryn’s call to disclose the water tests. To our relief, the water was clean! Although we were one man down (feel better Jess!) we were so excited that opening day had finally arrived!!! We got to Futa and quickly realized the key to the Polytank was with our fallen team mate back at the guesthouse. Yet there was a solution: our translator TJ, a rock, and a screwdriver after much effort cracked it.

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There was a buzz in Futa upon our arrival. Several women had sent their children ahead to queue up for the opening. Our three entrepreneurs, Fati, Mariama, and Sanatu, met us at the treatment center, ready to make their first sales. Quickly a line formed and it seemed all of Futa’s women were ready to claim their clean water with their safe storage containers in hand. We eagerly jotted down ever family that came to the center, remembering their households during the container distribution days.

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Many women tried the water firsthand and loved the taste, comparing it to sachet water locally found in town. The transformation from mucky dugout water to clear, safe drinking water was amazing. In order to celebrate the success of the center and the water’s outcome, many laughs were had and there was even a dance off between Jeremy and Fati (Fati clearly won). Out of the 32 households, 27 were present at the center. Fati, Mariama, and Sanatu did a wonderful job running their business and were beyond thrilled to be providing their community with clean drinking water.

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To finish off the day, a few egg and bread sandwiches were in order to commemorate the business’ opening. Now for some Fanmilk and much needed naps! More to come, stay tuned…

Love,

Team TJ, aka Team Eggs and Bread

Voices from the Field: Team Khadijah – Phoebe, Hannah, Kevin and Kayleah

Over the course of the of the past week and a half our team has been working in the village of Vogu-Gundaa which is about an hour’s drive outside the city of Tamale. Saha Global implemented a clean water system in this community 2 ½ years ago and now we are working to install a solar center to provide the community with clean electricity. During our meetings with the chief and the community we learned that they are currently using kerosene lamps and lead acid batteries to power flashlights for lighting. They have experienced the harmful effects of these products but do not have other options to have light in their homes. Our goal is to install a solar center that can charge reusable batteries for lanterns as well as charge cell phones and other small appliances.

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Installing the solar panels in Vogu-Gundaa

These past few days we have been working to construct the physical structure that will house the solar center. Yesterday we worked with the community to set up the solar panels. We also started to train the women who will be running the business. We are very lucky to have 4 women that currently run the water business in the village and who will also run the solar business. Miriam, Abebeta, Awaab, and Fati have all been very excited about learning how the system works and getting started with the solar business. The typical Saha business only has 2 women running it but we have found that with 4 women there is a lot of energy for this project and they are wonderful at working together. We are very proud of how well they are doing and excited for them to run this business!

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Phoebe, Kevin and Khadijah instructing the Miriam, Abebeta, Awaab and Fati how to hook up the solar panels

The next step of training was putting the system together. Today we disconnected everything and they put it back together independently so they knew how everything works. We have been talking them through the processes and it was so great to see their excitement when they flipped the switches and the lights came on showing that the batteries and phones were charging. This is great progress for this community and it was awesome to see how happy they are about this potential.

Now that we have installed the solar system itself and begun training the women, our next steps are finishing their financial training and beginning distribution of the lanterns to the community. We have 43 households in our community and each will have the chance to purchase lanterns for a very reduced price so every household can afford it. Everyone we have talked to is very excited about the prospect of having lanterns in their households to provide light for cooking, studying and nightly chores. They are also very excited to charge their cell phones in their own community rather than traveling to town to do so. We have had a great time working with the women and the community, and are very excited to see this business prosper for the social and economic benefit of all members of Vogu-Gundaa.

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Team Khadijah (Hannah, Kayleah, Kevin & Phoebe)