For a year now at Saha, we’ve been using remote calling to water business entrepreneurs and customers to enable Saha to keep in touch while avoid direct contact due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This technique gives Saha opportunity to listen to success stories, learn about problems that need immediate attention and continue education on COVID-19. During a routine phone call, field officer Amin Bangaham learned that Mr. Muda has been an active customer and strong advocate for the Saha water business in his community of Zowu.
Entrepreneurs in Zowu (most closely pronounced “Zoh”), in Central Gonja, opened their water business in 2018. Since day one, Mr. Muda was glad to have an option other than the dugout water for his family to drink. He lives with with wife and children as well as his elderly father. His wife, Mrs. Muda, refills the family’s safe storage containers whenever they are empty. Mr. Muda said that at first, the children and his wife were reluctant to drink the new water, but over time they’ve come to enjoy it even more than he does! He told Bangaham that they used to go to the community health center every month to get drugs due to someone in his household experiencing diarrhea, but since they’ve been drinking the clean water from the Saha business, it has been almost an entire year since he’s had to visit the hospital. He attributes this change to the drinking water, since he learned in the very first community meeting before the business opened that drinking the dugout water causes diarrhea.
Mr. Muda is the head of one of 62 households in his community, and Zowu is one of 246 Saha water businesses. Saha water businesses are impacting over 100,000 people just like Mr. Muda every day.
Saha Global announces it will extend its Emergency Water Fund program in response to President Nana Akufo-Addo’s January 3, 2021 proclamation that free water be extended for “lifeline customers.” These customers consume less than 5 cubic liters each month, so all communities served by Saha community water business qualify for the initiative. This extension of the free water program directly responds to the government’s efforts to support the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The original Emergency Water Fund, which was originally set to expire at the end of 2020, supported clean water businesses active in 225 rural communities in Northern and Savannah Regions of Ghana. In a statement from Tamale, Director of Ghana Operations Theo Boateng says, “as an organization, we are glad we are able to continue supporting our community partners and the Government of Ghana so we can all make it through this pandemic together.”
Clean water is a basic human right, necessary for health. Saha works in small rural communities that do not have pipe systems or other options for clean water. Since 2008, Saha has trained over 700 women entrepreneurs to treat their surface water to make it safe to drink. After businesses open, Saha continues to provide business training and support for at least 10 years.
When COVID-19 was first confirmed in Ghana this March, we knew we needed a good plan to change our operations, keep the team safe, and fulfill our mission. During those first few weeks, we developed our remote customer calling and other remote work structures. We’ve since developed safety protocols such that we feel confident to have our team in the field, doing what we do best – getting clean water to people who need it!
COVID-19 safety measures changed several things: day-to-day operations for our Saha teammates, things we ask of our entrepreneurs and businesses, and changes to how we operate in the communities. Managers and other office-based staff who can work from home are encouraged to as much as possible, and have extra data packages so they can get their work done without the office internet. In the office, you wash your hands outside before entering, and must wear a face mask at all times. We miss all the handshakes, hugs, and high-fives, but we know if we stay safe, we’ll be able to enjoy those expressions of friendship and camaraderie again!
In the field, front-line teammates wear masks and gloves, and carry hand sanitizer with them. Each teammate has either several cloth, washable masks, or is supplied with disposable ones depending upon their preference. After all, the best mask is the one you wear!
When we are in the field, we’ve changed how we communicate to stay outdoors and avoid entering the interior of any structure. If we need to do a small group meeting, like with some village VIPs and the entrepreneurs, we do them outside, safely distanced, under a tree. Community meetings and household visits, always a great way to spread information, are also on hold for now as we avoid large gatherings or going door to door and being in contact with lots of people. The great thing is that because everyone knows about COVID-19, it’s easy to explain why we’ve changed our procedures. It’s gratifying to know that the people in the villages understand we are doing these things in order to keep them safe! At first, it was awkward to not shake hands and wear masks while talking, or to ask to meet the elders outside rather than in the chief palace. But as the pandemic continues, more and more we hear from our partners that they are happy we are trying our best to protect their health.
Our entrepreneurs have also changed the way they run their business, beyond the free water. They all wear face masks while selling water – in fact, our front-line team reports that when they show up in a community and sales are happening, 100% of the time, the entrepreneurs have their masks! To date, we’ve distributed over 600 masks – 1 for each entrepreneur, and starting this month we will be distributing enough so that each entrepreneur has 5 so she can wash them between uses. They are also enforcing social distancing at their businesses during sales. It’s so hard to remember to do, so we are really proud that 96% of the time, we can observe social distancing during sales! For those familiar with our usual opening day photos with plenty of crowded people and buckets, this is a huge change.
With safety as the first priority, we adapt to each new piece of information as the world learns more about COVID. The protocols we have make us feel confident that we are protecting our team and our partners.
The coronavirus pandemic has continued to affect everyone’s life all across the globe. Here at Saha, we are pleased to announce a new effort to help promote hygiene and clean water consumption in the fight against this virus.
Saha’s Board of Directors approved an exciting new initiative in our COVID-19 response. In alignment with the Ghanaian government’s efforts to provide free water access for as many Ghanaians as possible for 3 months, Saha created Coronavirus Emergency Water Funds for each of our partner communities. These funds will allow all people living in Saha partner communities to access free water from their Saha business for the months of June, July and August. While this is different than our typical social enterprise model, this emergency effort strongly aligns with our organization’s mission as well as the overall goals of our COVID-19 response. Our leadership team has done extensive risk analysis and mitigation planning and we feel confident that this short term, emergency relief effort, will not have a negative impact on our entrepreneurs’ ability to charge for water in the long-run. Instead, we believe this initiative will contribute to a positive relationship with both the government and our community partners while also providing Saha with a lot of opportunities to learn about demand, price and business logistics.
We are dedicated to our mission – getting the cleanest water to the people who need it most, now more than ever. We’re grateful to have this story covered by several Ghanaian news sources, including Citi Newsroom, story linked here.
The response from our partner communities has been overwhelmingly positive. We are so proud at Saha that we keep showing up, month after month, year after year, even during a crisis, for nearly 100,000 people. Stories from the field to come over the next days and weeks.
Team Kamil here, or as he likes to call us, Team Crazy! This is Maggie, Grace, Shannon, and Leslieann, and we have been working in the small village of Kpegunaayili for the past ten days or so. Before our arrival, the villagers were drinking water the color of chocolate milk, full of E. coli and other harmful bacteria. They knew this water was detrimental to their health, but were not sure why. Not to mention, they had no other option. It has been amazing seeing the villagers learn about the impact water has on their health and how easily they adapt to the Saha method.
Today was our opening day, and our turnout was awesome! Samata, Fegima, Azumie, and Amna, our four entrepreneurs, worked diligently in their spare time to make their business successful. They are incredibly fast learners, needing only one example from us to successfully complete every task. In the past two days, we distributed 29 Safe Storage Containers (SSC’s) to our tiny village, and the entrepreneurs sold 27 buckets worth of the newly cleaned water this morning! The two women who were unable to make it this morning were busy picking Shea nuts, and we are very confident they will stop by the center later today, as everyone was very excited about their newly purified water.
Working in the small village has definitely had its benefits! Everyone has been super involved through every step of the process, from the kids helping us distribute the SSC’s, to nearly the entire village showing up at the center for its opening day. Even though all the children were shy at first, they have become used to us throughout our time at the village, and now when we leave they run after our car smiling and waving. The language barrier was initially intimidating, but we have all grown as a whole, field reps and entrepreneurs alike. All of us have learned that you do not need to speak the same language in order to feel the same emotions. Putting this aside, Kamil, our translator, has definitely been an integral part of our team, making this experience fun and interactive for everyone involved. We are so grateful to have him, and he has provided so much guidance for us and the women. Plus, he has great style!!
As four privileged students, this experience has opened our eyes to a part of the world that we do not normally see. Amenities that we view as staples in our daily lives can be commodities for others. We are forever grateful to the community of Kpegunaayili for welcoming us into their lives with open arms, and to Saha for providing us with this amazing opportunity. We will take what we have learned with us for the rest of our lives, and never take another sip of clean water for granted.
A maraba to the Summer 2019 Field Representatives! We have a great team of 20 jet-lagged yet excited young people who have arrived safely in Ghana to begin their experience!
The first day was spent in Accra, having an orientation to Ghana, introduction to Ghanaian transportation (tro-tros and taxi negotiations!) Dagbani language lessons, and getting to know their group. Tomorrow we will be on the STC bus: next stop, Tamale!
Today on the blog, we are taking some time to highlight and bid a fond farewell to Saha’s first full-time Ghana team member, Peter. Peter has worked with us since 2008, when Saha Global was just an idea, and we implemented the second water business in Nymaliga. In many ways, Peter is co-founder of Saha Global and we would not be where we are today without him. We are so excited to see what the future has in store for him, and today we want to revisit some of our favorite memories of Peter’s time with Saha.
Over the years, Peter worked on every project under the hot Tamale sun! He implemented clean water businesses in countless villages, and went above and beyond to fulfil the Saha mission. He even made Saha’s first radio appearance!
It is through Peter that we met many of our current full-time staff, translators, and taxi drivers, including Wahab, Eric, Nestor, Simply, and Taufik (to name a few!) Many of our teammates fondly refer to him as “Father Peter.”
In addition to our work together in the villages, Peter has gone on many traveling adventures as a member of Saha’s leadership team. The first, and one of the most notable, was Kate and Peter’s trip to Kumasi in 2010 to buy a truck for Saha. This story was made famous (or infamous?) in Kate’s 2013 Tedx talk. It was certainly a trip to remember!
A few years later, Peter joined Kate and Kathryn on scouting missions to our neighboring countries Burkina Faso and Togo, while we were searching for new areas for Saha to work. While none of us spoke French well, Kate and Kathryn remembered a few words from high school French class and it was fun to turn the tables and have to translate for Peter after years of having him translate Dagbani for us! We will always remember the delicious roadside salads, long days in the truck, and hilarious French conversations on that trip!
After that trip, Peter was charged with setting up our office in Salaga, and piloted the first Salaga Saha business in Tunga with Kate and Kathryn in 2012. Peter also led all of the preparations for two Global Leadership Programs based in Salaga during 2013.
Since then, Peter has split his time between Tamale and Salaga, holding down the fort at our Salaga office: monitoring our seven Salaga villages and scouting for many more communities to be implemented in the future.
We’ve experienced so much together over the past 10 years. Exciting opportunities for Saha, growing friendships, expanding families, and so much more!
We are so grateful for Peter’s 10-plus years of hard work and service, and can’t wait to see what the future holds! Ti pagya pom, Peter!
“Chew and Pour” refers to the teaching method typical in most Ghanaian school systems that focuses on repetition and memorization. It is the difference between a lecture versus a hands-on activity. In the past year, we have been trying to focus our interactions with the community away from lectures and towards conversations. Instead of lecturing about the importance of clean water, we have been emphasizing more on the conversation around clean water and allowing our communities to come to the same conclusions. “You should ____ ” and “Stop doing that” have turned into “Why do you ____?” and “Do you think ____? ” . We’ve learned that it is a more effective way of sharing an idea or concept if they are able to draw their own conclusions through participating in an active engaged dialog. This month, we tried to take this technique of conversation and curiosity and apply it to the way we talk about children’s education. So, this year is the start of our Children’s Education Month!
This years Children’s Education Month ran from June 20th to July 26th which is the last day before kids (kindergarten, primary, and junior high) children go on break. We kicked off the month by introducing a Children’s Education and Parent Discussion Handbooks to our staff to start trying out in the field. It included key concepts to go over and suggestions for types of questions to help encourage participation in the conversation. The goals of these conversations was to learn about the challenges that parents and children face in having clean water available for children/getting children to drink clean water, how to promote good WASH habits, and ways Saha could help support the effort to have children drink clean water. The children are the future of all our communities, so it is important for us to help encourage these good habits and understanding at an early age, so they could continue to on to a strong adulthood.
This year we were able to do Children’s Education for 16 Villages: Nekpegu, Tohinayili, Kalinka, Baiyili, Dawunyili, Sagbarigu, Lambo, Juni, Yendanyili, Jagberin, Tijo, Tindan, Bamvim, Wambong, and Warivi. In the classrooms, we printed out “Commitment to Clean Water” posters where students pledged their commitment to clean water.Some of the Children’s Educations happened in schools some were done informally with a collection of kids in a village. Education can happen anywhere, not just in the classroom! (I would argue that most learning happens outside of the classroom anyway.)
In addition to the formal gathering of children, we also encouraged monitors to talk to kids and parents in their households while they conduct their normal monitoring visits. When I went with Nestor to Sahanaayili, we talked to each household about children having access to clean water. Every household we visited had a clean water cup/container just for their kids. The parents would watch over the children to make sure they were taking care of their cup/container properly and not recontaminating the water. It was so great to see! The children were also excited about it. We talked about one of the challenges that many households face: Children playing with the tap. The households in Sahanaayili each said that they would serve the children what until they were old enough to learn how to use the tap properly, then they would be shown what to do and what not to do. The older kids were helpful in making sure the younger ones used it properly. This hope is to help communities who are struggle with advice from those who have been doing well.
One of the challenges we learned that children face with regards to drinking clean water is that sometimes they have a hard time telling their parents that they should have clean water in the household for fear of it becoming disrespectful. So, even if they knew that they should be drinking water, they couldn’t always because their parents wouldn’t get the water. This insight reinforces our efforts to talk to parents more and frame more conversations around the children and their health. Additionally, Wahab (who was the one who had this conversation with the kids) also made a great point saying if your parents were to walk on a hole and potentially break their foot. It is okay to bring up things that are good for their health. Approaching children’s education from both angles (parents and kids) has been a great tool to encourage children to drink clean water.
Several Saha staff signed up for an online course called Prototyping 201 hosted by Acumen which overlapped with Children’s Education Month. We used this coincidence as an opportunity! For our first practice of prototyping, we took an idea and made physical prototype out of it and our inspiration was Children’s Education Month. So, we brainstormed ideas on how to talk about drinking clean water with children in 3 situations: at home, in school, and in the community. The team was able to come up with fantastic ideas! For the conversations at home, Seidu, Rhiana, and Kathryn prototype stickers for children to indicate good and bad WASH habits. In the schools, Simply and I prototype a coloring book called “Healthy Hadija helps Silly Sana” where a little girl helps her friend learn how to keep clean water clean in the home. For the community conversation, Theo and Sita developed prototype for a microscope to help kids, parents, and everyone see what is really in their water so they can learn that clear does not mean clean. It was an incredibly fun exercise and amazing to see the creativity of the team! Hopefully these creative ideas keep going and eventually turn into new (fun!) ways of communicating our ideas to our communities.
The biggest thing we’ve learned this year is to just talk about it! Incorporate these questions about clean water for children in our everyday interactions in the villages. Engage with the children. Engage with the parents. There is a lot to learn from them when we get them involved in the conversation. The hope is not just to have these conversations one a month, but every day!
Oh what a month! I would like to thank the team for their input on the handbooks an going out and having these school educations and these conversations. Thanks for all your hard work this month.
I’ll end with a quote from my favorite song in preschool, why this was my favorite song as a preschool is beyond me, but young Heidi was very wise “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”- “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston
2018 has been incredibly busy, but in all the best ways! We are more than mid-way through this year, so it is the perfect time to look back and assess our accomplishments. Amidst the busy pace of the Global Leadership Program, our full time staff continued business as usual in our Ghana office (where business as usual is working extremely hard and doing amazing things). The skies have become cloudier, the days cooler, and the roads wetter as rainy season starts to pick up here in Tamale. This is a perfect time to pause and reflect on the year so far and the incredible things the team has been able to do.
During this time of muddy shoes, wet roads, and once-dry dugouts brimming with water, we have decided to put implementations and scouting on hiatus until the start of the dry season. Businesses during rainy season are understandably very slow in many communities because any family with a tin roof is collecting rainwater at this time and doesn’t need to buy additional drinking water as frequently. We found that it is best for new businesses to start off strong during the dry season, when demand for clean water is much higher. Additionally, during the rainy season the roads can be difficult or impossible to traverse (especially the unfamiliar ones that our scouters venture on)! For scouting new villages, the rainy season makes it a challenge to accurately assess access to clean water, since there is an abundance of water right now. So it makes the most sense to take a little break from implementation and scouting. Fret not, we still have plenty of other activities for our staff to work on during this time: Annual Surveys, Updated Household Lists, Children’s Educations, Research & Development, etc. There is never a dull day in the Saha world and there is always more to be done! Continuous improvement!
First, I’d like to have a shout out to the Scouting Team. Without them, we wouldn’t have found the villages we implemented in this past year. Our goal was to scout 100 potential villages this year and we are at 93 already! We’ve scouted and mapped nearly every village within a 3-hour moto-drive-radius from Tamale. Incredible! Coming out of the rainy season, we will see if there are any ‘hidden’ villages out there yet to discover!
With our Implementation Team we are able to implement new businesses in more villages at a faster rate outside of the Global Leadership Program. Our slogan for this year is “18 for 18!”, or in other words, 18 Saha team-led implementations for the 2018. For anyone keeping track, with 10 GLP villages that will bring us to 28 new villages this year! In the first half of the year, this mighty team has implemented 9 new water businesses, half of our goal!. Since this is our first time having an Implementation Team, we are still working out many details and it can only get better with each iteration. We developed an Implementation Handbook for the team to reference during their implementations. There is a lot to remember, especially for just one person.
Some lessons learned so far in our first year of implementation team:
Having someone come to help during distributions helps a lot! The days can be long and we want to make sure that Implementers continue to have the same energy and enthusiasm in household 1 as they do in household 101.
The implementation book is helpful to remember all the little details that goes into implementing. Always check at the end of the day if there was anything you’ve forgotten to do. The larger pictures in the handbook are a favorite feature for pitching the idea to the community, and the laminated pages make them more durable.
We can take our time training the women. If we don’t think they understood it the first time, it is okay to go over it again, and again if needed. We aren’t in the time constraints of the GLP, so we have the freedom of a more flexible schedule.
For larger communities it is okay to have more than one opening days! It’s better to plan ahead for them, so people don’t show up and leave with empty buckets.
Below is a summary of all the new communities implemented by our team this year and the women entrepreneurs we’ve introduced to the Saha Family!
Who are the entrepreneurs?
1 Feb 4, 2018
Naana and Asana
2 Mar 12, 2018
Salamatu, Mariama & Nafidah
2 Mar 12, 2018
Rukaya, Zenabu, Ayishetu, Abibata, & Sadia
3 Apr 12, 2018
Samata, Arahanatu, Barikisu and Zenab
3 Apr 23, 2018
3 Apr 27, 2018
Fusseini Fusseina,Issahaku Asiya,Mohammed Zainabu and Sulemana Fatima
4 May 25, 2018
Samata, Adishetu, Fatima and Asana
4 May 28, 2018
Rashida,Ayisha,Asana,Rabi and Maina.
5 Jun 19, 2018
Memunatu1 , Memunatu 2,Rahama,Adija and Mariam.
5 Jun 2, 2018
Ibrahim Atika,Haruna Salamatu, Sulemana Amatu,Baba Fatima,Abdulai Agatha,Kpanalan Awabu, Yussif Sanatu,Aku Amina, Mohammed Hawabu.
Here are some photos from the past 7 months of work by our Implementation team:
Now these communities are being monitored weekly by our Monitoring team who is helping to provide additional support and training for the women entrepreneurs and communities. There have been small but impactful improvements from the Office that has made managing all three teams more, for lack of a better word, manageable! To updated expense reports to gas cards, all these little things add up to big changes and allowed us to be able to have the capacity to do more. We are currently preparing different workshops to help build our team’s knowledge and skills sets: Financial Training, Human-Centered Design, and Lab Training. These are the ones we’ve already gotten started, and there are still more in the pipeline.
I am so impressed by the hard work of the team and how much we’ve been able to accomplish in this half year alone and I look forward to even more we can do in the second half of 2018!
A lot has been happening with Saha Global. We started off the year by opening our 100th water business in Ghana with the help of the 2017 Winter Field Reps. Since then, we’ve opened 10 other businesses, and are now serving clean drinking water to a total of 51,798 people in rural Ghana. Read on for more exciting updates from our team!
A Renewed Focus on Water: It’s Time to Grow!
Preparing to open our 100th water business was very exciting and also provided some time for reflection. While we are so proud to be providing clean drinking water for over 50,000 people in Ghana, there are approximately 800,000 people in the Northern Region of Ghana alone who are still drinking unsafe water. We know that the Saha water businesses are the best solution for rural villages in this area and we have the track record to prove it: once a Saha business is open, it stays open and provides clean water that stays clean, even when its stored in peoples’ homes. So now we want to grow, quickly.
This renewed focus on expanding our impact in water means that Saha will not be opening any new solar businesses for the foreseeable future. This change is bittersweet. On the one hand, we know that access to electricity is something that people in our partner communities value and our solar businesses see a lot of success in the early years. On the other hand, we have been having issues with maintenance in a lot of our communities once they reach the 2 year mark. The good news is, there are a lot of really amazing organizations doing innovative work in off-grid solar solutions. For now, we will continue to provide monitoring support to our 26 solar businesses and our hope is that another organization, which focuses only on solar, will want to partner with our Saha villages soon!
Simply and Nestor Join Our Team
This summer, two of our best translators, Simply (3rd from left) and Nestor (1st on the left), joined Saha’s monitoring team! They both provided part-time help this rainy season and have officially joined our full-time monitoring team this month to offer support as we transition into the dry season and start to ramp up new village implementations.New Board Members
With expansion in mind, Saha welcomed four new members to our Board of Directors this year to help Saha reach our goals for scale: Bill Ambrose, Mark Ferrari, Greg Garvin and Bennett Grassano. Each one of our new directors brings unique skills and experiences that have already proven to be tremendously helpful to the Saha team. Read more about their backgrounds here!
New Funding Partners
Over the past year, we have been very grateful to receive support from a number of new funding partners who believe that Saha can achieve impact at scale and are excited to support our growth. Kevin Starr, from the Mulago Foundation, even wrote this great article featuring Saha after a visit to Ghana last February!
We are looking for a dynamic leader with operational experience to lead our team in Ghana as we prepare for rapid growth. Please share this job description with anyone that may be a good fit. We are looking for someone who is excited about living and working in Tamale for a minimum of 3 years.
As some of you know already, our goal to reach everyone in Northern Ghana that needs clean water also means that we will not be expanding our work to Nicaragua just yet. At first, we delayed this expansion due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, but it later became clear that Saha can have the biggest impact for every dollar that we raise, if we focus 100% of our work in Ghana until every village that needs a Saha water business has one.