Jarayili: Results and Reflections from Abby

I’m contemplating my last two weeks in Tamale as I sip my favorite African cider, Savannah Dry, at Accra’s airport while waiting to board my flight to Johannesburg.  My time in Ghana was wonderful and I am really sad to leave. On Thursday, Peter and I went to Jarayili to present our results to the community. I was so excited! My lab tests showed that rainwater collected in Jarayili households is almost always contaminated with both total coliform and E.coli, which in turn makes rainwater entirely unsafe to drink.  In addition, my tests indicated that polytank water is very rarely contaminated, which is exciting because this means that Suayba and Awulatu are doing an excellent job as co-owners of Jarayili’s water business!

Abby in Jarayili
Abby and Peter hanging with community members in Jarayili

When I first began the project two weeks ago, I assumed rainwater would be the cleanest because it falls from the sky, whereas the polytank water comes from a muddy dugout infested with mosquitoes, total coliform, E.coli, and who knows what else.  I now realize that collected rainwater is unsafe to drink because it is highly susceptible to contamination.  For instance, one finger dipped into an entire 70-liter bucket of rainwater threatens the pureness of the water.  In addition, hygiene is poor in the village, which increases the likelihood of contaminating the rainwater.  Finally, the dugout water is treated with alum (to reduce turbidity) and chlorine (to kill contaminants), which is residual.  This means if if a single finger is dipped into a 70-liter bucket of polytank water, the residual chlorine will keep the water from being contaminated days after it was first treated.

Jarayili 3
Peter with Suayba’s twins!

My recommendation to the community was to always buy polytank water, even throughout the rainy season. I explained to the villagers that paying for clean water may not be their first choice now, but it will benefit them in the future because medical bills for diarrhea, typhoid, and cholera are high.  They understood.  In addition, Peter and I talked to the community about the relationship between clean water, health, and hygiene.  Jarayili’s chief, elders, women, and men engaged in a lively discussion at the end of our spiel, which made me think that Peter and I made a lasting impression.  I really believe Jarayili families will prioritize clean water in the future.

Jarayili 2
Abby and Peter doing an educational presentation using salt water to show that clear water like rainwater is not always safe for drinking.

I already miss seeing Suayba’s cheery smile every morning.  I really hope I can come back to check up on Jarayili in the future!

Until next time,


Update from the Field: Water Quality Testing Begins in Jarayili!

I cannot believe how fast these two weeks are blowing by! I am already halfway through my project in Jarayili, which has been interesting in both the field and the lab.  In addition, I have visited some awesome sites in Tamale thanks to my wonderful tour guide/ housemate, Brianan.

Peter and I woke up on Saturday morning to meet with Jarayili’s chief, elders, and community members to explain the reason behind our daily visits to their small and remote village.  Earlier, we met with Jarayili’s CWS entrepreneur, Suayba.  I was really excited about her enthusiasm for our project, which is testing whether or not water is contaminated when villagers use jerry cans and garrawas to move polytank water and rainwater into their 70-liter clean water storage buckets.  Suayba wanted to get involved and thus far, has helped us everyday as we visited Jarayili’s 18 households, interviewed women in the households about their safe water practices, and taken samples from each 70 liter container.  Some of her children have gotten involved as well!  I am really enjoying getting to know the community and talking with people individually.  Hearing personal stories about how clean water has improved the quality of life in Jarayili is extremely rewarding and motivates me to get out there everyday despite having to wake up at 5:30am.


From rainwater collected in a dry well to unwashed jerry cans and water taken from a dugout to not enough chlorine used in the polytank, I have now seen the whole gamut of methods of water contamination.  My lab results show that there is no E.coli or total coliform in the buckets of women who washed their jerry cans with soap and bought water from an adequately chlorinated polytank.  However, there is total coliform, and in some cases E.coli, in the water buckets of women who collected rainwater or did not properly wash their jerry cans.  I still have a few days to test and I am excited to see if my future results match up with my current findings!

Finally, Brianan showed me a nice restaurant in the city that is located on a rooftop! It was cool to see a bird’s eye view Tamale.  In addition, I am eagerly awaiting the completion of a shirt and dress I am having made by Martha, Brianan’s favorite tailor in town, from local Ghanaian fabric I picked out last week.



Welcome to Ghana Abby!

For the next two weeks, CWS will be working with an awesome volunteer, Abby, in Tamale! After being accepted into last summer’s fellowship program Abby later later found out about an opportunity in South Africa that she couldn’t pass up. The solution? Abby headed to South Africa this summer and is going to spend the next two weeks in Tamale helping CWS with a project in the village of Jarayili! Abby arrived in Tamale this week, just in time for the celebration of Eid al Adha!

Celebrating EID at the CWS Office! (L to R: TK, Abby, Amin, Yakabu, Shak, Brianan and Wahab)
Celebrating EID at the CWS Office! (L to R: TK, Abby, Amin, Yakabu, Shak, Brianan and Wahab)

After a couple days in the office learning about Community Water Solutions and meeting our staff, Abby headed out with Brianan for her first trip to the field this morning. Abby, Brianan and Peter visited Jerigu, Nymaliga and Libi so she could see how the CWS water businesses work in three, very different villages. Tomorrow, Abby and Peter will head out to visit some more communities and plan to head to Jarayili on Friday to start Abby’s project.

Abby monitoring with CWS Project Manager, Peter
CWS Project Manager, Peter, shows Abby how to check the level of water at a CWS water treatment center and collect and sample of dugout water to test in our lab

So, what exactly is Abby working on in Jarayili? Long-time blog readers may remember that before leaving Ghana, Kathryn had been working in this community to test out the efficacy of 70 L Safe Storage containers. Unfortunately, as our West Africa Regional Director, Kathryn had a lot on her plate did not end up having enough time to complete her analysis. Despite a few rounds of water testing, Kathryn was unable to draw any conclusions about whether or not the 70 L SS containers would work as well as 20 L containers to prevent water re-contamination.

Now, months later, we are so glad to have Abby’s help to work on this project! Abby will be working in Jarayilli every day for the next week and half to see how well these larger containers work! She’ll be posting more detailed updates on this blog so stay tuned to hear more from Jarayili!

Metal Polytank Stand Highs and Lows

The metal polytank stand CWS entrepreneurs are now using in a number of communities. The stand allows for the water treatment centers to be moved to different water sources. 

Back in June, I wrote a blog post about metal polytank stands and how CWS was going to test them in communities that use multiple water sources. You can read that post here.

Since then,  CWS has distributed metal polytank stands to 10 different communities: Gbandu, Jarayili, Kabache/Kasawuripe, Kindeng, Kpalbusi, Kpalbusi, Libi, Tacpuli, Tindan II and Tunga. These are villages that CWS targeted because of the challenges the entrepreneurs were facing in keeping their water businesses open year round. Most of the CWS water businesses are set up next to dugouts where community members already go to get their water. Center implementation next to the dugout is ideal because when women fetch water for household use, they can buy clean drinking water from the centers without disrupting their daily routines.

          Women fetch water from a typical dugout in Kadula.

But what happens when people go somewhere closer to fetch water? Well the entrepreneurs who sell water (usually) lose business. The community members living in these CWS villages are practical people with busy schedules. If the village women can save time by fetching water somewhere closer to home, they are going to make the switch and avoid the extra trek to buy clean water.

The CWS field staff observed this in a number of communities. In the transition from the dry season to the rainy season and vice versa, the level of the water sources can drastically fluctuate. In the Northern Region villages, the rains determine how much water is available. New dugouts form for short periods of time, a river can become more accessible or even hand dug wells are used to collect rainwater. With the low-tech nature of the CWS model, the women can move the location of their water businesses as long as there is water to treat.

Children pose by a hand dug well in Kabache/Kasawuripe, where the entrepreneurs decided to move their center to treat water. 

With the help of a welder, CWS created the metal polytank stand and modified the CWS model to the changing of seasons and water levels. Some of the water businesses easily adapted to the metal polytank stands. For example, in Kpanayili, Affilua, Anatu, Fati and Zilifau used their metal polytank stand to move the center to a closer dugout that only has water in the rainy season. Their sales drastically increased when they switched water sources. In Tacpuli, Lasinche moved the water business from the dugout to a smaller dugout closer to the community. Kpanayili and Tacpuli have been operating with the new stands just as the CWS field staff envisioned. And the entrepreneurs have reaped the benefits.

The water business owners in Kpanayili from left to right: Zilifau, Affilua, Fati and Anatu.

ImageThe smaller dugout in Tacpuli.

The entrepreneurs have lower sales during the rainy season because community members have the option to collect free, clean rainwater instead of buying water from the centers. In Libi and Kpalbusi, the rains delayed their transition to using the metal polytank stands. In Libi, the water business entrepreneur, Cheriba, banked on her community collecting rainwater in July and August because she was busy on her farm. As a result, the water business was left empty at the river where nobody goes to get water this time of year. The CWS field staff is working with her to bring the center to a closer source, so people will have the option to buy clean water when the rains stop. In Kpalbusi, Huseifa, Zilifau and Maria moved their water business from the dugout to the center of town to treat rainwater. The problem was they were not receiving enough rain to treat. Their center was empty all of July. As of the beginning of August, the entrepreneurs have moved the business to a nearby stream where they will be able to keep the center up and running until the dry season.

An example of how water levels can change in the Northern Region. Here is a road flooded by a stream in Tamale after a heavy rain.

With the drastic change in water levels throughout the year, the CWS entrepreneurs have to alter the way they do business. This could mean treating rainwater, dealing with the change in sales from the dry season peaks to the rainy season lows, or even moving location. In the past, CWS has found that it can take a year of dealing with these challenges for the entrepreneurs to become familiar with the way their individual businesses operate. The metal polytank stands are going to be added to this equation of business operations. The entrepreneurs are going to have to ask themselves: When should we move the centers? Where are people going to fetch water? What location will bring in the highest sales? Who can I find to help us move the centers? This will take some getting used to. But the metal polytank stands should help in keeping these businesses open year round, which is the end goal after all.


Implementation Envy and Jarayili Jams

I love monitoring. It’s “sort of my jam”, as Director of US Operations Sam Reilley would say (I’m sure Brianán Kiernan, Peter Biyam, Shakun Ibrahim and the rest of our full-time Tamale staff can relate). But every so often I get a sense of Implementation Envy. Watching the fellows roll back in their taxis from dusty days distributing safe storage containers or organizing community meetings makes me jealous! DSC_3667(Think you could Azonto with a Ghanain P1 class or assemble a safe storage container with the speed and efficiency of a NASCAR team? Maybe the CWS fellowship is the thing for you!) But fortunately for me I’ve had the opportunity these past few weeks to get in on the center set-up action once again. That’s right, the alum training, the stand building, the opening day anticipation, the taxi breakdowns, it all happened for the 49th time this January in …

The Newest CWS Partner Community, Jarayili!!

DSC_3801Jarayili is a really tiny community about an hour outside of Tamale. I had stopped in here a few times before to chat water, but unfortunately the village didn’t seem to be a good fellowship match for one daunting reason: the walk to the dugout is actually a DSC_3815mile long. In villages where the water source is incredibly far away like this, our current method does not make much sense – each safe storage container only holds 20 liters, and garawas (metal buckets traditionally used to move water) hold up to double this amount. Could we really ask women to double their usual walking time and distance to buy treated water? Would they even be interested in doing it?

DSC_3807To see if we can deal with all this we coupled with UNICEF, the East Gonja District Assembly, and the village of Jarayili to try out another option. We distributed 70 liter safe storage containers to each of the 17 houses in the community. We set up the treatment center by the dugout in the usual way. And we told people they could use whatever they liked to transport the clean water to their houses, as long as the water is stored in the safe storage container in the house (to prevent recontamination) and is transported in something clean. Opening day found nine jerrycans (yellow  buckets with twist on lids that are transported by bike), six garawas and two metal washing tins lined up for clean water. People seemed ready to go the distance to bring home clean water now that larger transporting options were on the table! So exciting!

But now the second test. Will the water stay clean between the time it leaves the polytank and the time it enters the drinking cup? Only time and further water tests will tell, but if so we might well be able to roll out water businesses in communities we previously thought we could not help, which is obviously huge! Enough big picture talk. Getting the chance to work with the wonderful Suayba and Awulatu, seeing them own the opening of their business (and pocket the hard-earned peswas), hanging out with the Jarayili chief and son, and providing endless unintentional entertainment for Mohammed, Rashid, Fushi and the rest of the Jarayili kids was awesome in and of itself. It was so great to get my center start-up fix, and now… More Monitoring!