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!


Back to Tamale and it feels so good!

After two weeks of training and saying farewell to some pretty awesome fellows, I have officially started as Ghana Country Director. It feels so good to be back with CWS! With the 6 newly implemented villages, CWS now has 38 villages in its monitoring rotation. Once the fellows leave, CWS continues to monitor its villages. This includes checking in with the wonderful ladies that run the water treatment centers, as well as doing household visits and taking water samples. Post-implementation, each new village is monitored once a week for the first 6 months and then less and less as the villages become self-sustainable.

It is the start of the rainy season here in the Northern Region of Ghana, which means that many of the villages (that have tin roofs) are transitioning into using rainwater collection techniques to harvest water with their safe storage containers. This is because some villages (like Gbung and Zanzugu Yipela) do not use their dugouts during the rainy season. While sales at the water treatment centers have been low in many of these communities that harvest rainwater, they will pick right back up when the dry season comes underway. As for now, the CWS staff in Ghana is just trying to stay dry with all the rain!


Shak cheesin’ with some kiddos in Wambong & Wahab keeping dry during a storm!Image
Happy 4th of July! — a boy in the village of Cheko shows off his American and clean water pride!
The children in Nyamaliga can’t get enough camera action!
Rainy season, means rice harvesting! A family in Tacpuli poses with their full bucket of clean water.

Updates from the Field: Rainy Season Has Begun!

The rainy season has begun here in Northern Ghana! This means a lot of things for village life:

Villager’s days, (storms permitting), are comparatively busier than during the dry season.

Maize farm outside Kushini

Shea Butter!
Shea nuts were collected and dried before the rains started, and now many afternoons are spent churning this delicious-smelling paste by hand.

Mariam makes shea butter in Tacpuli

Green Growth!
It is incredible how fast things grow now, and the villages are almost unrecognizable for those of us who remember them from January. TJ and I actually got lost on the way to Kushini’s dugout because the grasses had grown so much since our last visit. Good thing we were able to snag Nash here as a guide!

Nyamaliga is GREEEN
We made it! Thank you Nash! He was much happier in person!

Rain! (obviously)
Traditionally during the rainy season, many villagers switch over to rainwater collection so they don’t have to mess with turbid dugout water. In villages with lots of tin roofs, like Yipela, Cheko, Kpalbusi, Gidanturu, and even Tacpuli or Kushini, this means that people are able to use their safe storage containers to capture funneled rainwater. However, in other villages, like Zanzugu-Yipela, Gbateni or Kpalguni, there aren’t enough tin roofs to go around, so many people still rely on the center for drinking water. Needless to say this is a difficult time for monitoring, as some centers remain almost empty (settled blue drums standing by should scooping be necessary) while others deal with even higher demands (Wambong villagers seem to drink even more when it rains). It is also the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, so people aren’t drinking during the day anyway. Lastly, CWS suggestions about healthy rainwater collection take a while to reach every house, so we often find a few empty buckets whose owners weren’t aware that they could use their containers for saa khom (rainwater). This all sounds a bit complicated, but household visits help us feel out village patterns and make it easier to go with the flow. To see how the rain impacted center operations in your favorite villages, check out at the end of the month!

New rainwater catchment arrangement at Zanzugu Yipela's treatment center

As for Shak, TJ, Peter, Wahab and myself, we are just happy when we wake up to roads dry enough to get out of town and into the field!

– Kathryn

2011 Summer Fellowship Program Day 2

Today we have a guest post from Fellowship Leader Annie McBride! Here’s what Annie had to say about the second day of the Summer Fellowship Program:

Today all seven teams got one step closer to bringing clean water to seven new villages around Tamale!  We started the day with a brief icebreaker activity that took a little longer than expected.

The first group quickly unwinded limbs,

While the second group seemed to struggle a bit…

Feeling a little closer to each other and I think a little more wary of partaking in future icebreaker activities, we continued on with orientation.  Each group learned how to roll alum balls and the proper swirling technique from their translators.

Ianthe, Hudson and Chris with Shak.
Peter, Ben, Nathan, Annie and Christine
Steph, Abena and Wahab.
Christy, Karina, Lukeman and Matt watching the particles in the dugout water floc together
Heather, Christina, Xi and Cassie with Amin.

And then roll played to practice household visits…

Jess, Kelsey, Kendra, Javier and TJ.

After lunch, each team headed out to visit past CWS villages to practice household monitoring and to get a better understanding of the water treatment center they will soon be implementing in their own villages.

Will, Alyssa, Abigail and Meaghan take a break in the shade with translator Ayesha, while entertaining all the kids in Nyamaliga.

All in all, it seemed that every team had a great initial experience in the villages and are looking forward to beginning their own projects.  We are very excited to see each of their projects develop over the next three weeks!


Session 2: Days 3 and 4

The Session 2 fellows started off their third day in Tamale with a great presentation by Foster Soley from unicef, who spoke about the work his organization is doing both here in Ghana and around the world. Foster is a WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) officer at unicef, who we have been working with in our unicef-cws partner villages in Central Gonja. His presentation was interesting and relevant, and the fellows asked some great questions!


Unicef presentation

After lunch, the teams headed out on their first trip to the field to visits some CWS sites! Team 5 went to went to Zanzugu and Gilanzegu; Team 6 checked out Chani and Nymaliga, while Team 7 when to Yipela and Nyanguripe. The fellows had a great time seeing our water treatment centers in person for the first time, and (as the pictures below show) seemed to assimilate with the villagers quite well!


Fabiola, TJ, Eleanor and Rachel on the bridge by Yipela - we have been experiencing the Hamattan this past week (sand blows down from the Sahara causing a dusty haze)
Annie with her new friends in the village


Lina in the village
Sarah peeling some cassava
Most of the fellows enjoyed playing with the children in the village, Fabiola, however, had fun hanging out with a different kind of "kid"

The next day, the teams hit the the road bright and early so they could be at the villages in time to see people buying water. After an hour or so at the water treatment centers, they then performed random household visits where they could see how the water we provide is actually stored and used in the home. They took water samples at each house, which they brought back and tested in the lab to make sure the water wasn’t being re-contaminated.


Catherine (ses. 1) and Karla with some Fulani women at Kpallibisi's water treatment center
Catherine , Hannah and Nate (ses. 1) monitoring water sales in Kpallibisi
Pranav getting a taste of water from polytank at Gilanzegu
Sam and Barihama, our great taxi driver, after a long day in the field!
Eleanor and some new friends in Yipela!
Rachel taking a break from household visits to pound some FuFu
Pranav and Shak at the the Gilzengu water treatment center

After a long day in the field, the fellows and I were definitely ready for a good meal. Annie’s family friend invited all 17 of us (12 Session 2 fellows, 4 Session 1 fellows and me!) over to their house for dinner and dancing. The meal was delicious (and of course the dancing was a blast!) It was an amazing experience that none of us will forget!


Some of our big group at dinner
Dance party!

Day 2: New Year’s Eve!

The second day of the fellowship began with a brief classroom review of the CWS approach to water treatment followed by a more hands on lesson.  The fellows practiced rolling alum balls and using it on samples of dugout water.  After seeing for themselves the magical filtering ability of alum, the fellows split up into their teams and practiced simulations of random household monitoring with their translators.

Luke practicing using alum with dugout water
The fellows learned many new skills. 🙂
Kathryn practices a household monitoring visit with her translator. Lauren played the part of the village woman and then they switched roles.


Luke practiced the household visit with Jim playing the villager. Wahab translated.
Luke checks inside the container and inquires about the level of water and the last time the villager (Jim) filled the container at the treatment center.
Hannah practices while Nate (who just arrived this morning!) plays the villager and TJ translates.
"Do you mind if I take a look inside your container?"
"Aha! This is not water from the treatment center!" -Every fellow practiced any type of situation the may encounter in their visits and how to deal with each.
Kevin enjoying a New Year's Eve treat for lunch, guinea fowl with ground nut soup and rice balls. A delicious traditional Ghanaian dish.

The fellows then made their first trip out into the field to visit existing CWS villages!!  Teams 1 and 4 went to Jarigu, Team 2 Cheko, and Team 3 Nyamaliga.  The fellows got to see the treatment centers first hand and further visualize the end goal of their projects.  They also got to practice their Dagbani with the villagers!

Jim, Elsie and Kathryn visiting their first dugout in Nyamaliga with some new friends.
Lauren and Kathryn see their first treatment center and make even more new friends! 🙂
Lauren adopted a baby goat in Jerigu.
Kevin, Allie, Luke and Jim getting acquainted with Jerigu. Jim made one child so incredibly happy simply by giving him his hat. He and the fellows were touched that it took so little to make someone so happy.
New Year's Eve Dinner! The menu: Chicken & Rice! 🙂
Jim and the fellows celebrate New Year's Eve by learning some new Ghanaian dance moves!
Happy New Year!!! 🙂



World Water Day!

Yesterday was World Water Day, and we made sure to celebrate this special day with our entire CWS Family here in Ghana!

We started our celebration bright and early by opening our fifth water business in Gbong! It was so much fun to open a CWS water business ON World Water Day, even though most of the people in Gbong did not understand what we were talking about when Shak and I kept cheering for WWD! We had an amazing turnout, with 94% of the village showing up to buy water. Fati and Amina, the CWS ladies in Gbong did a great job selling and treating the water! Here are some pics from the morning:

Shak recording which households came to buy water

Selling water on World Water Day at Gbong
Safe storage container filled with safe drinking water!

The one hiccup was a few dozen leaky taps – but Shak and I were able to fix them all by the end of the morning.  Thank you iContact for sponsoring the water business at Gbong!

Later that afternoon, we had a party for the entire CWS family here at the office. Shak and I cooked (well, I chopped veggies while Shak cooked!) while Peter went to pick up everyone. Everyone except Fati from Kasaligu was able to make it to the party. The ladies were a little shy at first, but once they got to know each other, they started to share stories and offer each other advice. It was such a great experience. For example, the ladies in Cheko mentioned that some people in their village don’t like the smell of chlorine in the water. Alhassan, from Jarigu, explained to them that the chlorine was the most important step in the water treatment center, and that in a few weeks, people won’t even notice the smell. He went on to explain his experience in Jarigu, and how the chlorine smell is the smell of “clean water” so of course it is going to smell different than the “dirty water” from the dugout. This entire conversation happened while I was in the kitchen helping Shak, and when I came back, Soufoo (who can speak a little english) told me about it. I was thrilled! We missed you Mike, Chuck, Vanessa and Peter A!

World Water Day Celebration!

Of course we had to serve water from a CWS Safe Storage Container!

Everyone was dressed to the nines! (sorry that the picture is blurry!)

Back to Work

Meeting with Alhassan, Soufoo and Sanatu to discuss the monthly payment plan in Nyamaliga

Today was my first official day back in the field.  I spent the morning checking up on Nyamaliga and Jarigu and was so excited to see everyone again!

Nyamaliga had recently decided to switch from a daily to a monthly payment system at their water treatment center. This was the village elders’ idea and it seems to be working well. I was excited that leaders in the community took the initiative to devise this payment plan and put it in action! Each family pays 50 peswas (~50 cents) each month and then can collect water from the treatment center as much as they like. Big families seem to be collecting everyday or every other day while smaller families are going about twice a week. The first month using this payment method ends on Monday. I am planning to meet with Sanatu and Hawa (the women who run this center) to review the revenue and make sure that 50 peswas is enough to cover the cost of treatment while still leaving some left over for their wages. Based on the sales that Peter has observed so far, we expect the 50 peswas to be fine.

While I was gone, the Nyamaliga men got together and built a shade for the treatment center. It looks great and keeps the water in the polytank nice and cool! It was exciting to see that the village came together and worked on something for the water treatment center. Like their new payment method, it shows that Nyamaliga really feels ownership over the water business-which is one of our main goals!

The Nyamaliga water business. Check out the new shade!

After visiting Nyamaliga, I spent some time with Alhassan at the Jarigu water business.  He is doing great, but for the past two weeks, water sales have slowed down a bit. This was a little confusing because Jarigu has had consistent sales ever since we opened the water business last October. Tomorrow, Peter and I are going to visit some households in the community to see if we can get to the bottom of the drop in sales and may suggest the monthly payment method for Jarigu as well.  I’ll keep you posted on what we find!

Last Day in Ghana!

Today is my last official day in Ghana!  I can’t believe how quickly these two months went by.  I have spent the last week preparing Peter for my departure.  We put together new monitoring forms for him, and then had a practice run- where he went to the villages without me and filled out his monitoring forms which we then reviewed.  He did a great job and I am confident that he will be able to handle anything that may come up while I am gone.  Right now, the plan is for me to be in the States for the holidays where I will work on fundraising with the rest of the CWS team.  If the fundraising goes well, then I will hopefully be back in Ghana in late winter/early spring.  We’ll be sure to keep everyone posted! If you are interested in supporting our work please visit to learn more about donating to our cause!

Monitoring at Jarigu and Nyamaliga


Since opening day at Jarigu on October 17th, 98% of the households in the village have visited the water treatment center at least once, while 74% have come a second time and almost 50% have come three times.  These are some of the best uptake and sustained use results that we have seen in any CWS village!


Alhassan selling water at the Jarigu Water Treatment Center


The rain has finally stopped in Northern Region Ghana and the path to the water treatment center at Nyamaliga is FINALLY dry enough to open the center.  Sanatu (the woman who runs the center in Nyamaliga) officially re-opened for business last week and has been very busy.  Right now she is opening the center about 5 times a week and plans to be open everyday once the dry season officially gets underway.  Currently,about 5 to 20 people are buying water each day and we expect this to increase as we move into the dry season. Here are some pictures from the re-opening at Nyamaliga:

Sanatu treating dugout water with alum
Getting some clean, healthy water at the Nyamaliga water treatment center!
The new sign at Nyamaliga
Happy customers on their way home with healthy drinking water