Voices from the Field: The Solar Fellows! (Linda, Lucas, Nick & Sarah)

Hi Everyone! It’s the Solar Fellows here again with an update from Yapalsi!

With the help of the community, we finished building and painting the solar charging center in Yapalsi. It was really inspirational to see everyone excited about the center and working with us. Each time we left the village for the day, we would return the next day to find that the community had completed yet another section of the center. Their enthusiasm became our source of motivation.

The community helps us add the last cement bricks to the foundation.
The community helps us add the last cement bricks to the foundation.
Lucas and the masons plaster the solar center.
Lucas and the masons plaster the solar center.
 Nick paints those hard to reach spots on the solar center
Nick paints those hard to reach spots on the solar center
Lucas and Linda paint the door of the solar center
Lucas and Linda paint the door of the solar center

Over the past few days, we have been working with Sana, Shetu, and Rahina, the three entrepreneurs who are have been running the water center and now the solar charging center. After we taught them how to connect the solar panels to the microcontroller, battery, and inverter, the women connected the components of the system together and the solar center works!

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Rahina connects the wiring of the solar panels.
Sana learns to connect the solar panels wires to the microcontroller.
Sana learns to connect the solar panels wires to the microcontroller.

We then explained how to calculate the maximum wattage that they could connect to the center.  Prior to teaching them that each cell phone uses 5 Watts while a full battery charger uses 14 Watts, we worried that the women would have trouble with the math, as they had never gone to school before. However, Sana, Shetu, and Rahina completely surpassed our expectations with their exceptional mental math ability.

Linda explains to the women how to connect the batteries and chargers.
Linda explains to the women how to connect the batteries and chargers.

During training, many people from Yapalsi were curious about how to connect the system and how the solar center would work.  A large crowd gathered outside during training, but after the Friday rain, most Yapalsians began farming, and the final day of training proved to be much quieter and more efficient.
After the solar center construction and training, we went to each and every household to distribute Burro lanterns and explain how to use them. We also explained how they would be able to buy fully charged batteries at the solar center to light their lantern and drop them off when they were out of charge. They were also extremely excited to be able to charge their cell phones for the first time in their village. Previously, they had been travelling to Savelugu a few kilometers away to pay someone to charge their phone. Picking them up usually meant returning to a swapped battery, missing SIM card, or worse a stolen phone. We really hope that the solar center will prove to be a major convenience and improvement for their lives. We finished our last day of distribution today with Linda and Sarah painting CWS’ logo onto the solar center! Tomorrow night is the grand opening of the solar center and we cannot wait! We shall update you soon!

-Linda, Lucas, Nick, and Sarah

Nick demonstrates how to open and close the Burro lantern
Nick demonstrates how to open and close the Burro lantern
Lucas visits a household to explain the rechargeable lantern program.
Lucas visits a household to explain the rechargeable lantern program.


Rain, Rain Won’t You Stay?

While it may be summer where you are, the rainy season is in full swing. There are two seasons in most of the areas– the rainy season and the dry season. So the terms “winter, spring, summer, fall” don’t mean much here. The rainy season usually lasts from June until October and August is the month when the rainy season is in full force. This year places are not getting the rainfall that they normally do in August. It has been raining about once or twice a week at most in comparison to last year where it rained heavily almost every other day. Rain is crucial for several reasons. Most farmers plant their crops (yams, cassava, groundnuts, corn, rice) at the beginning of the rainy season and rely upon the rain so that their harvest will grow. Irrigation systems are not common among these rural, subsistent farmers. The rainy season is also a nice break from the brutally hot sun that people endure for most of the year.

The flooded road. Amin contemplating– to cross or not to cross? After talking to the boys on the road, we opted for the latter when they told us that a moto had just stopped working after being submerged in mud and water. Until next time!
This woman keeps tally marks on the wall behind her safe storage container to track how many times she has gone to buy water since opening day!

For CWS villages, the rain is very much in line with drinking water. All of the 38 CWS communities rely upon surface water (usually in the form of dugouts) in order for their water treatment centers to function. When it rains, their dugouts fill with water and when it does not rain, this increases their chances of their dugout drying up during the dry season. A dry dugout means no water to treat, which means a closed water treatment center. For example, in Kpachiyili, a village that was implemented in during the winter 2012 fellowship program, they have not been getting much rain. The water level of their dugout is much lower than it usually is this time of year. And their dugout is not the only one. Rain dance anyone?

Sana, the lady who runs the water treatment center, gives Amin fresh milk to bring home.
Corn harvesting has just begun!
A donkey businessman— this boy carries water from the dugout for Azaratu to treat at the water treatment center that is now in town. In June, this businessman was charging 60 pesawas to fill one 200 L drum of water, an obscene amount considering what Azaratu rakes in! After holding a village meeting, this donkey man is now filling free of charge in exchange for his family to use the center for free.

Many of the villages (but not all) also have households that have at least one tin roof that they use to harvest rainwater. So many of the villages will collect rainwater with their safe storage containers to drink and rainwater with their pots for cooking, cleaning and washing. At this time of year, the rainfall is usually so frequent that people can rely upon this system to harvest drinking water. In fact, even in cities, many people purposefully build their homes in the same manner. That’s because it looks classy, and it’s also useful in areas prone to heavy rains and snowfall. They simply install an eavestrough to remove any water or snow that might get accumulated on the roofs. It can help to reduce the amount of extra cleaning that is required. Furthermore, they only need to visit the website like to get it cleaned on a regular basis and get it over with.

Homeowners in cities use a variety of methods to protect their properties from damage caused by rain. For example, they frequently install siding outside their homes to keep water out. The sidings can keep dampness away from the walls and ceilings. That is why so many people contact Greensboro siding contractors or those in their immediate vicinity to obtain these services. The siding can also rescue the homes from wild weather like rain, snow, and wind while also assisting in proper insulation. However, villages may not be able to incorporate these services into their homes (mud homes) because of a lack of facilities and cemented houses.

Anyway, now that it is not raining as often, their 20 L buckets of clean rainwater run out before the next rain comes. In several CWS partnership communities, such as Jerigu, Chani, Nyamaliga, Kpalung, Laligu, Libi, Kagburashe and Kpanayili, the CWS field staff has encountered households that transfer rainwater collected from their pots (that they also use to hold dugout water) into their safe storage containers. This is a big red flag –contamination alert!! And the water samples taken from these containers almost always come back positive for e-coli.

Wahab posing with Fuseina, the lady that runs the water treatment center, and some of the women making Shea butter!

The CWS field staff has been upping the household visits, encouraging people to buy drinking water from the water treatment centers rather than wait for a rain that may or may not come. The households that do this are usually unaware that their water is contaminated. If the rainwater looks clear, then how can it be contaminated? To address this issue head on, CWS field staff, Peter, Shak, Wahab and Amin, have proposed starting short, simple educational presentations to hold in classrooms and in village meetings, to promote germ theory awareness in villages where this has become a problem. As of now, we are all praying for rain, more updates to come.


Peter fixing a leaky bucket

Ramadan: Fasting All Day Means Every Drop of Clean Water Counts

Today marks the 14th day of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, going without food or water for 30 days. The only people who do not fast are nursing or pregnant mothers, children under the age of 18, the elderly and the sick. While Ghana is a predominantly Christian country, the Northern Region has a large Muslim presence. The majority of CWS villages are also Muslim and therefore fast during the month of Ramadan.

CWS field staff, Amin, Wahab, Shak, pose with the chief of Kadula and Azaratu, the lady who runs the water treatment center, after a long morning of household visits to promote rainwater harvesting in Kadula.

In the last 2 weeks, CWS field staff members have encountered many safe storage containers full to the brim with clean water. Storage containers usually are small drums containing safe, clean water; however, some humanitarian companies find that using storage container rental companies could aid with the transportation of safe drums and delegate to areas in need. This is something that we love to see because it usually means that the household has just recently filled from the water treatment center. However, this month we have found that it does not always mean just that. When CWS conducts household visits in our implemented villages, we always ask a member of each household: “When was the last time you filled your safe storage container with clean water?” –translated in Dagbani – “Ka bon dali kayi tougi?”. The average response that we get is that someone in the household filled 2-3 days ago. Lately, we have had people tell us that they filled their safe storage containers over a week ago! Now how is it that a household of 8-10 people can go over a week without drinking 20 L of water? Well because of Ramadan people are drinking much less water. Also, since it is the rainy season, it has not been as hot in Tamale. I’ve asked a few fasting Ghanaians if it is hard to fast during Ramadan. The responses have been the same, “With this weather? Oh no, it’s easy to fast when the clouds are in the sky.”

Rainwater harvesting in Baramini’s compound in Gidanturu
Peter chats with Kukuna, the lady that runs the water treatment center in Cheko, as she makes the “local maggi”

Since most people are fasting, they are drinking less water during the day. This means that when people are drinking water before sunrise or after sunset, they have to make every drop count! In our household visits, CWS staff members have been emphasizing the importance of drinking clean water once the fast is broken. Even though most parents are fasting, it’s essential that the children still have access to the safe storage containers throughout the day. It is so important that everyone has access to clean water all of the time as it can massively benefit your health. If you are interested in filtering your own water, you may want to contact Water Filter Advisors for further information.

A Family in Yapalsi keeps 4 clean cups on their safe storage container, ready for drinking clean water!
Amina pours water for a customer at the second opening day in the village of Galinzegu. 25 households came to fill their buckets!

One household that Wahab and I spoke to in Kpalguni explained to us that they had just run out of water that morning because the family had gathered together to drink water to ensure strength for a day of fasting. The community members of Jagberin have agreed to help Fulera and Aisha, the ladies that run the center, fill their blue drums with water from the dugout during Ramadan. Since many of the women who run the CWS water businesses are fasting, they are weaker than usual during this month. In Yapalsi, Amin and I came across one household that has four clean cups sitting on top of their safe storage container, so that eager family members can break their fast with clean water at sunset. It seems that Ramadan is bringing people together to share clean water in many of the CWS villages this month!


A woman secures her safe storage container to her bike after filling at the second opening day in Galinzegu!

A Week of Monitoring

I have officially been in Tamale for a week now, and what a week it has been! After spending a few days getting the office all ready for the Summer Fellows, I headed out to the field to help Shak, Peter, Wahab and Amin monitor some of the newer villages that I had never been to before (crazy!)  It was so much fun to be back in the field and to see how awesome the water businesses are doing in these new communities! Over the past four days I visited Yapalsi, Laligu, Kpalung, Kagburashe, Libi, Gbung (an oldie but goodie), Sakpalua, Buja, Kadula, Kpaniyilli, Kurugu Vohoyilli, and Kpachiyilli!


Everyone in Laligu was asking about the 2012 Winter Fellows!


Shak monitoring water sales in Yapalsi


Amin conducting household visits in Kplung


Peter and I hanging with some of our favorite kiddos in Gbung
Rainy season clouds…


Peter and Wahab checking out the water level in Kagburashe’s polytank


Me and Wahab with the ninos in Gbung






Voices from the Field: Team H


Yesterday was OPENING DAY in Yapalsi! After a week of arduous work setting up the facility and distributing safe storage containers, we finally got to see our work pay off. It was fulfilling to watch our women—Sinatu and Irisyatu—becoming supreme rulers of the center. Throughout the day, we heard our women discussing with the other villagers about how the center will operate which made us feel jubilant. All the women in the village showed up to collect water for their families including the Fulani people from outside the village, which we weren’t expecting. In fact, so many people showed up that the center ran out of clean water before everyone’s buckets were filled. Luckily, our women were on top of the problem and were refilling the blue drums with new water to be treated before we left. Towards the end of the day, the chief came out to express his appreciation for all of our work. He loved it so much that he bought 4 extra buckets for his family, and many other families followed suit. Finally, we took pictures to commemorate the event. All in all the day was a success in epitomizing the goals of CWS and we look forward to monitoring and witnessing the growth and development of the village!

-Team Hawesome (Tim, Janna, Boyd and Caitlin)