Voices from the Field: Team Sharifa

“Despa! Despa!” The children shouted, running after our car as we drove up. Today was our sixth day working in Sagbarigu; we finished construction of the solar charging center, held our community meeting, and installed the solar panels.

The community we’re working in is very small, located about an hour outside of Tamale. They already have a Saha water business, and the owner, Sanatu, has been taking good care of things for the past year and a half.

The initial chief meeting went well, so we started building on Monday. Most of the women in the community were traveling for the first few days, so we didn’t have a chance to meet with the whole community until today.


We started off by going over the details of the business model, making sure to emphasize that the entrepreneurs are the owners, not Saha Global. Then we passed around a lantern and showed them its functionality, explaining the procedure for renting batteries and charging cell phones at the center. They had mentioned getting a television yesterday, so we mentioned that the charging center is expressly not for large electronics.


Near the end of the meeting, we opened the floor for questions. They asked how much everything would cost, whether they could buy extra lanterns, and when opening night would be. We told them that prices were up to the women running the business, but that they could buy extra lanterns from them later on if they needed to, and that we are scheduled to open next Wednesday!


-Sarah, Sienna, Ali, Michelle and Sharifa

Voices from the Field: Signe, Nestor, Cayla, Abbey and Nicole

Team Nestor is having an amazing time working with Saha Global! The past couple days have been so rewarding for everyone involved in this mission to bring clean water to our village of Naha. Yesterday we had our community meeting with the village of 45 households. After we explained the entire Saha process, the village told us how appreciative they were for our effort to bring them safe water and we said we were so excited to begin working with them. We had our taxi loaded up with a Polytank stand and two big blue drums- a funny sight to see driving through town and down a dirt road to our village.

Taxis loaded down with supplies
Taxis loaded down with supplies

After we unloaded our supplies, we played a game of soccer with some of the many children of Naha. It was us and Nestor vs. the kids. Needless to say, the kids were much better than us and Nestor carried the whole team. Soon after, we too Nestor out to a surprise lunch of TZ because its his favorite dish and he’s the best translator (in our opinion). We headed back to the office to check on our lab results of the dugout water that they drink, untreated. We found some of the worst results that have been seen in a while. Our 3M test was covered in blue dots, which indicate E. Coli. It was a sad sight, but the good news is today we started training Aranhanatu and Madamu how to clean the water.

3M Tests from this winter's water sources - Naha's test is the bottom right
3M Tests from this winter’s water sources – Naha’s test is the bottom right

We started by cleaning the inside and outside of the Polytank and 3 blue drums. The Polytank is so big that Nicole had to go inside of it to clean it. Nestor and Cayla may have rolled it around a little to scare her… it was all the kids’ idea! All of us helped collect water to fill the blue drums, and yes carrying things on your head is as hard as it looks. After we finished alum training, we headed back to the Saha office, blasting “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and teaching Nestor the words. Tomorrow, we hope to finish the training process and start distributing safe storage containers! We can’t wait for our opening day on Sunday!

  • Nicole, Signe, Cayla, Abbey & Nestor

2015 Summer Program ends with a dance circle

IMG_3293Dear Kelly, Jessie, Bria, Kelsey, Rachel, Andrew, Val, Sol, Jessica, Phoebe, Mekleet, Britt, Molly, Isabel, Kevin, Emma, Hunter, Lindsey, Greta, Heidi, Josh, Camille, Hallie, Paul, Cassi, Dani, Robert, Lauren, Morganne, Katie, Dawnelle, Kristely, Nardos, Tara, Sarah, Richard, Sasha, Danaite, Elizabeth, Maggie & Havana,

We can’t believe that it was just a little over a week ago that we were sitting at the top of Giddipass cheers-ing all your hard work, closing the 2015 Summer Global Leadership Program with an epic dance circle.

YOU DID IT! We are so grateful for your dedication to fundraise, visit doctors, and struggle with visas, sit on a 12+ plane ride followed by an 18 hour bus ride, smush into a taxi for a ~2 hour ride out to your village, work under the sweltering African heat and sun, eat the chicken and rice, jump in the cold showers, and own the layer upon layers of dirt.

Working in some of the most remote villages in the Northern Region is hard work. The work to get these businesses up and running is grueling. Some days you may have asked yourself,  “What the heck am I doing here?” But each day you rose to the occasion. Each day you were quickly reminded of the end goal, maybe from watching a child run to the dugout to grab a drink of extremely turbid water, talking to a mother about the effects of kerosene she has seen within her family, or chattin’  with the chief and elders about their community’s options for water or electricity.

Words can hardly express our gratitude. We really enjoyed getting to know each of you. Your passion and drive are infectious. From the moment you arrived in Ghana we were impressed by your energy, go-getter spirits, and ability to learn on the fly. You all were exactly what we needed on our team to reach our goal of 11 new businesses this summer. We are so proud of the work that you were able to accomplish and feel fully confident in the sustainability of the businesses that you implemented during your time in Ghana. Thanks to each of you, approximately 1,320 people now have a permanent source of clean drinking water, 2,240 people have access to solar electricity and 28 women have become business owners.

Welcome to the Saha Family!


Kate, Shak, Peter, Sam, Amin, Kathryn, Wahab & Eric

Yepala - Kelly Jessie Wahab Bria Kelsey
Kelly, Jessie, Wahab, Bria & Kelsey worked in Yepela to bring a source of clean drinking water to 456 people and a new job opportunity to Abiba & Amina.
Yakura - Cassie Sharifa Dani Paul
Cassie, Sharifa, Dani & Paul worked in Yakura to bring a source of electricity to 184 people and a new job opportunity to Ayi and Awabu.
Warivi - Nardos Kristely Dawnelle Sita
Nardos, Kristely, Dawnelle & Sita worked in Warivi brought a source of clean drinking water to 392 people and a new job opportunity to Fati, Fesina, Salamatu & Zuleha.
Vogyili - Nestor Josh Hallie Camille
Nestor, Josh Hallie & Camille worked in Vogyili to bring a source of electricity to 264 people and a new job opportunity to Asia, Fushina & Sanatu.
Namdu 2 - Andrew Sol Rachel Val
Andrew, Sol, Rachel, Val and Shak worked in Namdu 2 to bring a source of electricity to 288 people and a new job opportunity to Fusiena, Rabi and Wumbe.
Namdu 1 - Morganne Katie Khadijah Robert Lauren
Morganne, Katie, Khadijah, Robert & Lauren worked in Namdu to bring a source of electricity to 544 people and a new job opportunity to Fatima & Sowda.
Isabel, Emma, Kevin, Eric and Molly worked in Kpenchilla to bring a source of electricity to 512 people and a new job opportunity to Zuera, Sana and Damu.
Komlanyili - Sasha Richard Sarah Tara Amin
Sasha, Richard, Sarah, Tara and Amin worked in Komlanyili to bring a source of clean drinking water to 272 people and a new job opportunity to Nina & Safia.
Jangbarayili - Hunter Lindsey Greta Heidi Jaleel
Hunter, Lindsey, Greta, Heidi & Jaleel worked in Jangbarayili to bring 176 people a source of electricity and a new job opportunity to Aisha & Salamatu.
Belmapuso - Britt Phoebe Mekleet Jessica TJ
Britt, Phoebe, Mekleet, Jessica & TJ worked in Belampuso to bring a source of electricity to 272 people and a new job opportunity to Beremina, Damu and Sana.
Bamvim - Elizabeth Havana Simply Danaite Maggie
Elizabeth, Havana, Simply. Danaite and Maggie worked in Bamvim to bring a source of clean drinking water to 200 people and a new job opportunity to Mariama and Hawabu.

Voices from the Field: Cassie, Paul and Dannie

After an amazing three weeks in Ghana, the Saha US Team and the Summer Field Reps are all a little sad to be back home to our “normal” lives in the States. Luckily, we have a chance to go back and re-live our summer program through this final blog post from Team Sharifa! Our apologies for the delay in this post, but we promise it will be worth the wait!

After opening our solar business in Yakura on Tuesday, we spent the next few days monitoring (checking on lantern usage and answering questions). This morning, the community bid us farewell with an incredible dance ceremony, even allowing us to participate in several of the dances. After this morning, we’re pretty sure the residents of Yakura have learned that Salamingas aren’t as apt at dancing as we are at installing solar panels. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone in Yakura and watching our entrepreneurs, Ayi and Hawabu, grow as leaders in the community.

Yakura Jumping

Below, our team members reflect on some of our most memorable experiences in Yakura.

Paul: One brief image from opening night, emblematic of that night as a whole, has stuck with me. A Fulani man showed up about an hour after our 6:30pm opening time. His compound, the most remote in the village, lies more than half a mile from the solar center (I remembered him specifically because of our walk to his residence during lantern distribution). He bought his batteries and left within two minutes. We watched from about 10 feet away as Ayi and Hawabu installed the batteries, took his money, and gave him change. That was it. No ceremony, no outpouring of thanks. Just a simple transaction. At that moment, I thought to myself: this is the point, this is exactly why we’re here. This kind of commerce didn’t exist in Yakura and now it does. We then checked in on this Fulani man’s household this morning during monitoring: he had no questions for us and he reported that he’d been using the lantern for additional cooking and working time at night. His life hasn’t been radically altered: his family remains beset by many of poverty’s harshest challenges. But this family now has a few extra hours of productivity each night without the adverse health effects of using a kerosene lamp. And those few hours matter.


My experiences in Yakura and, more broadly, the Saha business model have taught me something about how best to enable communities to develop. Whether you’re distributing batteries or billion-dollar aid packages, it’s best to empower rather than instruct, to collaborate rather than chastise.

Cassie: The monitoring process these past few days taught me so much in my design thought process. As a future engineer, much of the work I will do will involve products for others. Following up on your product is a really important aspect of the process I had never given too much thought to until now. Working with the women multiple days after opening night to see how sales are going and work through any problems they have encountered was both encouraging to me, to see how well they have taken the business, and to them as they have continued support for the next few years. Ending our time with the the Yakura community with some dancing was the perfect way to conclude such an incredible experience. There was one moment when I was dancing with the women and all of the sudden they all got to the ground dancing so I joined, but they all stood up as I stayed. I’m pretty sure they were making fun of me, but it was all in good fun. I greatly enjoyed learning some of their dancing, a trade off of sorts, for the solar business we shared with them. I look forward to continued success in the women’s solar business and hopefully a dance with them again sometime soon!


Dannie: Leading up to this trip I had learned numerous pieces of information about poverty and the various methods by which people look to aid those in need. However, despite all the knowledge I had accumulated there is, and always will be, vast amounts that I will never know. When I walked into Yakura for the first time, in fact, when I walked into the village of Takpili (our first village visit: part of training in which we monitor a previously established business) for the first time, I was nervous. It’s funny because you wake up every day and you want to change something, make someone’s life better, make the world a better place then you had seen it the day before; but when I walked into these villages everything I had learned became real and the people , although always willing to throw a joke your way and a smile to follow, they are suffering. I didn’t know how to cope with everything and it never fully came together until opening night and today when we left our village for the last time. We watched as people brought their lanterns to the charging center for the first time, it wasn’t as if anything different had happened in the village, and that was the beautiful part. Paul, Cassie, Sharifa (our translator), and I with the help and support from Yakura and our incredible entrepreneurs, successfully implemented a new business that did not change day to day life in the community. This is crucial to the success of the business as well as the consistent monitoring that Saha will continue to do in the future. Today we were able to dance with the community and joke with not a worry in the world about the success of the business in the future. Not only are the women extremely intelligent but Saha will be there every step in the way. If I could tell the girl who walked into Yakura on the first day, nervous if waking up everyday hoping to make a difference was enough, what I know today, I wouldn’t, because I thoroughly enjoyed calling Kate every single day annoying her with questions :)…thank you to everyone who has helped us through donations and support, you were crucial in establishing a solar charging center in Yakura.


Voices from the Field: Nardos, Sita, Dawnelle & Kristely

Many of the Warivi families are out of the community attending a funeral in a nearby village. But we are two days into monitoring and have reached 41 of our 48 households. In between household visits we’ve had many opportunities to play with the kids and talk to them about clean water.

photo 3

Zeinab, the granddaughter of the Warivi chief and affectionately known as Queen Z, is the leader of the pack.
Zeinab, the granddaughter of the Warivi chief and affectionately known as Queen Z, is the leader of the pack.

Along with the other children of the village, Queen Z accompanies us on our household visits where we check in with the families about the use of their Safe Storage Containers (SSC). We ask about the last time they refilled their SSC, the taste of the water and the business hours of the water center. We ask whether or not they continue to use dug out water, reinforce the benefits of clean water, and inquiry about any problems they might have.


The women and men of the households share stories from the difference in taste of their teas with the clean water to their vows to only drink clean water–all highlights of our household visits. We say our “M bos” (That’s great!) and our Tipayas (Thank you) and give out a clean water bottle for the household.

photo 2

The business ladies are proud of their center and it is always a joy to hear them talk of their sales and share news that people from nearby villages (who are in the process of moving their own water center) are buying clean water from them. They are grateful that they can provide this service to their communities and it shows in their dedication to the water center!

– Kristely, Nardos & Dawnelle

Voices from the Field: Rachel, Sol, Val and Andrew

“Despa” from Team Shak! After two weeks of implementing our solar business and distributing lanterns to the village of Namdu 2, we had our opening night on June 23rd! Every household had received lanterns and had been trained on how to best use them earlier this week, but no batteries were available to be rented until opening night. In accordance with the Saha Motto, “Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong” we
arrived half an hour late to our village after losing Andrew while searching for coins; but we were on time according to Ghanaian time. And don’t worry, we found Andrew!


After four days of training, Wumbe, Rabi, and Fuseina were well equipped to run the business. Rabi and Fuseina are the water entrepreneurs, while Wumbe was chosen by the village because of her enthusiasm in helping to build the center. The women rented the batteries for 10 pesowas each, after changing the price to match the pricing in Namdu 1 so that one village does not lose business to the other.

People from the village were already lined up with their lanterns waiting for us so that they could rent their batteries. 41 of the 44 households in our village showed up to receive batteries. As soon as the window was opened, a steady stream of lanterns were shoved through by the eager community members. It took a small amount of time for the women to establish a rhythm of giving batteries, recording in the sales book, and exchanging money. However, the business was on fire, and in the end the women “killed it.” Everyone was super excited about their lanterns and wanted their pictures taken with the light illuminating their faces. All the customers who stopped by the charging station that night ended up walking away satisfied.




-Team Shak: Rachel, Val, Andrew, Sol and Shak

Voices from the Field: Mekleet, Britt, Phoebe & Jessica


Several years ago, you didn’t have to travel too far outside of Tamale to find a community without access to clean drinking water or electricity. Now, thanks to the work of previous Saha fellows, we are going further and further outside of the town center to find new communities to work with. As a newer project, there are nearby opportunities for solar implementation. Even so, Belampuso (formerly known as Balamposo!) is about an hour away by car, so our team spends a lot of time in the cab to and from GILLBT guest house, our home base in Tamale.


Tejani (affectionately known as TJ or Teej) is at once translator, taxi driver, and friend. He usually arrives early, making fun of us, delayed as always, as we rush to gather our things and scarf down a carb-heavy breakfast. Recently, as we have entered the more rigorous building and training portions of our project, and out of consideration for the members of our communities who are fasting for Ramadan, we have been leaving at 5:30am!

Some mornings, when we aren’t falling back to sleep against the backseat cushions, we use the ride out to Belampuso to make final preparations for the day ahead, comparing notes and rehearsing prepared remarks for a community meeting or a training session or a monitoring routine. On the way home we reflect on the work that we did, or the interactions we had, and ways that we can improve the next day. Some afternoons we are quiet, looking out the window as Ghana unfolds around us. We have made the same round trip each day for more than two weeks now, but the beauty of this country and its people still amazes us.


The drive to and from Belampuso is also a great time to get to know our team better. We are a very diverse group, with our own interests, backgrounds, and origins. We come from different schools and jobs, each bringing something unique to a project that requires a variety of skills and perspectives. Mekleet’s family is from Ethiopia. Phoebe’s family is from Hong Kong. Jessica is from Peru, while Britt hails from Boston and TJ from just outside Tamale. We have not yet met TJ’s mother, the famous baker of the soft fresh bread that, on the days we are lucky, greets us from the dashboard as TJ rolls into the parking lot. But we have met his cat, and a chicken with a new flock of chicks following behind her. Just this past week, one of the Fulani (nomadic cattle herders living on the outskirts of town, known for their milk and cheese) gave us a live chicken who we affectionately named Wagashi (the fried Fulani cheese we have grown so fond of!). Anticipating some push back if we tried to reserve a room for our new friend at GILLBT, TJ took it home with him. That day we were 6 driving back from Belampuso!


In the car, we all have our idiosyncrasies.

Mekleet rides in the front where most of the dirt from the road whips up through the open window, so she has started wrapping her scarf around her face and securing her glasses over her pink nose, patterned eyes peeking out through the frames. It may seem like she can’t see, but she can, so beware of taking discrete selfies! Jessica can sleep anywhere, and the rocking of the moving car immediately lulls her to sleep as we make our way to and from town. Phoebe wears her safari style wide brimmed hat, despite the shade of the roof as she jots down project related notes. Britt gazes out the window, camera in hand, poised for the next kodak moment, of which there are too many to count. And TJ bobs his head and sings along to the music emanating from his cell phone, perched on the dash. The phone only holds two songs, but we have learned that he has many more favorites, and that he was in a band growing up. He promises to write a Saha rap before our time in Tamale is through!


Monday afternoon, after a full day of distributing lanterns in anticipation of our opening night, we drove away from Belampuso, waving to the children who have gathered to say goodbye. “Tinya Taba” we call, and also, “Nawumni Labsena,” Britt throws in. The men laugh and wave. We think they are impressed by our Dagbani, but later Britt learns that she has said, “God grant you safe travels” which of course makes no sense when we are the ones heading out of town. Oh well. They laugh when we attempt the right greetings too!

A few minutes on the road and we run into a road block. Most days it is the Police stopping to ask us what our business is, but this day it is a full herd of cattle! We stop and get out to examine them up close before TJ informs us that they do in fact charge without warning. Back in the car we go. As the cows part and we make our way through we see several Fulani, sticks in hand, ushering the beasts to the side of the road. TJ yells something to the men. We have grown accustomed to what sounds like anger, but is often light hearted banter between drivers and pedestrians on the road in Ghana.

Tuesday night was the opening night of Belampuso’s solar charging center and as such we made our way home in the dark. The faint glow of the moon and the light from our highbeams guide our way through absolute darkness. We drive in silence, each gazing out through the windows as lights turn on for the first in Belampuso.

Usually, we keep the windows open, welcoming the breeze into the sun baked cab, even though the wind brings with it clay colored gusts of dust from the dirt road, coating everything in a layer of red. By the time we arrive back at GILLBT, often as much as 10 hours after we left, we are tired but satisfied, dirt clinging to the sweat on our brows, a new surge of energy carrying us quickly to the filtered water tanks and then to the welcoming cool of a cleansing shower.

Voices from the Field: Robert, Katie, Morganne and Lauren

The lighting in the room flickered between light and dark as many faces took turns crowding the doorway.  The excitement was palpable.  We sat with Fati and Sowda inside our newly constructed solar center, huddled around the Genset. We soon mirrored the smiles surrounding us as our two women entrepreneurs reassembled the equipment from memory without prompting.  Having just concluded our meeting with the chief, elders, and entire community of Namdu One, it was clear that everyone knew this new clean energy business was “Ghana be a success.”

When we arrived, the chief and elders had congregated around Namdu’s emblematic big tree.  Slowly, community members of all ages (yes, even the Fulani) joined the expansive circle in expectation for a big announcement. We sat tentatively as the audience expanded.  We, dressed in freshly tailored Ghanaian fabric, and the elders well dressed in colorful smocks and tunics, set the mood.  Despite our nerves, we began to officially present what we had been working on for the last week.

Highlights included the dangers of kerosene and lead acid batteries as well as the benefits of solar energy and an outline of the solar business. Attempting to showcase the awesome durability of the Burro brand waterproof lanterns, our hearts collectively stopped: our showy toss of the plastic light to the ground took a turn for the worse, and the batteries and backing popped out.  The crowd was unimpressed to day the least. But we recovered our demonstration when we plunged the lit buoyant lantern into a murky bucket of dugout water.  Still lit, we walked it around the chief and elders who then regained confidence in the product. IMG_5284
Whether it’s due to the newly installed solar panels or the anticipation of our opening night, there is electricity in the air of Namdu one.  And when we did not think the day could get any brighter, Katie fulfilled her dream of riding a donkey.


Team Khadijah: Robert, Lauren, Katie, Morganne

Voices from the Field: Kelsey, Kelly, Wahab, Bria & Jessie

Just two days ago we were thrown a curveball when our women entrepreneurs, Abiba and Amina, requested that we move our opening day from Monday to Sunday. Team Wahab collectively decided that we were up to the challenge! After two long, hot days of distributing Safe Storage Containers to all 54 families in our community, and working with our women entrepreneurs to fill a whole polytank with clean water, we were ready for opening day.


While Wahab, our translator, made a last minute fix on one of the three blue drums, Kelly and Kelsey pumped up the mood with an impromptu dance party. Since the discovery that jump-rope in Dagbani, the local language, is “Tsamina mina”, “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)” by Shakira has become our team jam. The kids in our community are also very familiar with the song and often sing along with us. It’s amazing that Shakira has been able to transcend language barriers and help us build relationships with the kids in our community  All the while, women were starting to arrive with their Safe Storage Containers, excited to provide their families with their first supply of clean water.


Amina and Abiba were treated as celebrities upon arrival; and so the wild rumpus began!    In efforts to stay organized amidst this wild crowd, Jessie marked off containers on the household list, Bria labeled containers— since our Sharpie from yesterday turned out to be a dry-erase marker—Kelly and Kelsey rationed soap, and Wahab checked for leaky buckets. Our super-star women entrepreneurs collected money and put smiles on the faces of all their friends with their newly treated, safe drinking-water! Over 40 households sent a representative to fetch polytank water!

Our only bump in the road was when we ran out of water in the polytank. Unfortunately, last night’s alum treatment was a little too conservative— if you use too much alum, it can affect the taste of the water—  so a quick refill was not in the cards. Amina and Abiba optimistically retreated the dugout water in the blue drums, announcing to the few remaining customers that they would re-open for business in the evening. As it turns out, because most of the community is fasting for Ramadan, they can’t actually drink water until sundown. Everyone will have delicious drinking-water in no time!


When asked about their plans for business hours later in the week, Amina and Abiba did not have to discuss their schedules. Instead, they excitedly announced that they hope to open for business everyday!

– Kelsey, Bria, Wahab, Kelly & Jessie

Voices from the Field: Camille, Josh & Hallie

Today Team Nestor hits up the blog with details in building the solar charging center and their time in the community of Vohyili.

We have now spent a long and rewarding 11 days in Ghana. Our journey began with a gust of hot, humid air as we unloaded the plane and got our first taste of Ghana. Once we all had arrived safely in Accra, the team of 40 Saha field reps boarded a bus and drove on a meandering two-lane road primarily made of uneven cement with the occasional stretch of dirt and ditches. The ride took us from the southern capitol city of Accra to Kumasi (the 2nd largest city) for a lunch break and then to our final destination, the northern city of Tamale. This was the only “highway” connecting these 3 major cities, so it was a very popular route. We passed through cities, villages, and expansive forests. Many of the communities seemed to be centered around this main road – using it as a way to attract outside customers. In each town, people watched and sometimes waved to our bus as we rolled through the middle of their marketplace.

Ghana lies 6 degrees latitude north of the equator, so the sun sets punctually at 6:30pm all year round. The view from the bus window shifted from vibrant, bustling markets to dark, quiet shacks lit only by a couple flashlights. Many rural villages are not electrified and people must rely on generators and batteries. Even in electrified cities, energy is expensive. Tamale is the fastest growing city in the region of Northern Ghana and its increasing population leads to a higher demand for electricity. Drive just 15 minutes outside of Tamale’s urban landscape and it becomes apparent that electricity and basic resources are beyond the purchasing power of families in rural villages.
The representatives in Saha’s solar program are tasked to establish a solar power station designed and built with the help of community members. In order to construct the station, we are utilizing local building materials and techniques to build a watertight mud hut for the electrical equipment. From the outside, a mud hut appears to be an easily built structure, however, the technicalities involved in its construction surprised us. Each step in the construction process has been passed down for generations, even down to assembling mortar and plaster used to glue bricks together. The villagers we have met and bonded with take pride in their skills and the artistry they use in assembling buildings. Seeing this has shed light on the immense amount of skill involved in building seemingly simple structures. The hut building process exemplified the idea that simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.IMG_2876IMG_2874 IMG_2878 With scarcity of resources constantly in mind, villagers must understand how to effectively use their land and maximize available resources. For those of you haven’t built a mud hut, here’s what you need to know:

Recipe for “Mud Hut”
200 Blocks— made of cement, clay soil, and dugout water
Mortar— made of clay soil and dugout water
Plaster— made of cement and dugout water
Tin Roof— 10 zinc sheets
Nails— 2 types: cement nails and wood nails
Carpenter + tools— local carpenter, buddy of our translator
Wawa Boards— AKA planks of wood
MotoKing— a motorbike with a trailer attached to transport material from the market

Step1The Dagomba people have established a way of life based around a closed loop resource system. The mortar used for all buildings is mixed together in a pit with clay-laden soil and water carried from a dugout a mile away. The villagers stomp the mix with their feet, carefully adding water until the perfect consistency is reached. Mortar is used not only to secure layers of bricks, but is added as a coating around the entire structure with a throwing technique requiring grace so as not to splatter others around you, but ensure the mortar stays firm to the wall. The mortar and brick is then left to dry for a day. After this, fine sand is sifted and mixed with cement and water to create a smooth plaster bolstering the hut walls. These processes were basic community knowledge and everyone had a role to play in the hut construction.


After 3 days of enthusiastically joining the village in this process by carrying blocks on our heads, accidentally getting mortar in our eyes, and marching knee-deep in mud (to mix the mortar), we could never look at a mud hut the same way again. As Americans, it is easy to see the mud hut as an icon of the “African village.” But it is much more challenging to convey its underlying complex processes and beautifully simple design. Someone asked us if we built our own homes in America and we had to admit that we knew far more about the homes of Ghanaian villagers than our own. It dawned on us that we sincerely wished we had constructed our own homes out of local materials with the help of our entire community. The efficiency with which the community members of Vogyili used their available resources amazed and humbled us. Through the process of constructing a mud hut, we ended up deconstructing our own perception of rural Ghanaian life.Step3