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!
March has been an exciting month for all of us here in Tamale. Monitoring continues in our new villages, and its been fun to get to know 9 new communities better! Staff spent a “lazy” Sunday in Libi, fishing with some of the village men there. We brought home a rice bag full of Talapia and some hilarious memories from our day in the river.
In Laligu, the treatment center has undergone a few changes. Residents decided to construct a new center platform in a more central location, so that water would be more accessible to everyone. The ladies now pay a donkey cart from near-by Sevelugu to fill up their blue drums. They are very happy with the increase in sales they have seen already after “bringing the center home”!
In Kagburashe, Amina and Mayama have really taken charge of center operations, making some changes to the way the business runs. Staff have been happy to work along side these two enterprising ladies to make the treatment center here unique to Kagburashe’s needs.
Monitoring also continues in our older villages, but with some twists. Household visits have been extremely helpful for project evaluation and educational purposes, but we’re experimenting with some new approaches as well! This month, Shak began a water, health and hygiene educational program in Zanzugu, Zanzugu Yipela and Yipela. With a little work we will be able to expand this to other classrooms too!
No matter how many times we visit, kids still crowd around for pictures. Somethings never change.
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.
Shea nuts were collected and dried before the rains started, and now many afternoons are spent churning this delicious-smelling paste by hand.
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!
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 ghanawaters.crowdmap.com at the end of the month!
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!
Its hard to believe that its been two whole weeks without the fellows here! Shak, Peter, Wahab, TJ and I really miss their help and insight and entertainment. Luckily all groups did a wonderful job implementing, so monitoring the new seven has been a breeze.
We’ve also spent a lot of time back in the older villages, which we didn’t get to see much of during the fellowship period. In Zanzugu-Yipela, we constructed a rainwater catchment center that will help the village with its first rainy season (pictures to follow as soon as camera malfunctions are dealt with), and everybody is really excited about the new addition! Gbong’s rain catchment center is also up and running – just in time for the big storms that blow through now. We have also been having community meetings in many of the older villages, to talk about everything from rainwater collection to group problem solving, and it has been great to get to know familiar faces from the villages a little bit better.
In my first couple weeks on the job, I’ve really been struck by the profound impact the fellows in particular have on their adopted villages. Kids in newer villages are still doing the handshakes and back-flips the Summer 2011 Fellows taught them, and the people I meet doing household visits in older ones still can remember the excitement of opening day and tell me the importance of a special drinking water cup. Many of the older fellowship villages have asked about fellows by name and have hilarious stories to tell us about implementation. As a fellowship alumnus myself, its good to know that the tremendous energy fellows and locals alike put into passing out buckets and transcending language barriers and problem-solving in traditional committees has been channeled into something that seems to be lasting.
If you have been reading our “voices from the field” series, than you have gotten a small glimpse of the everyday work that our 2011 Winter Fellows completed during their time here in Ghana. You’ve seen how they built polytank stands, danced with the children in their villages, distributed safe storage containers, held village meetings, performed water quality testing in the lab, trained local women how to make water from their local sources safe to drink, and even sampled some traditional Ghanaian food!
The day-to-day work is fun, but sometimes slow; exciting, but often exhausting, and sometimes, its easy to get lost in all of the small details of the project. Looking back over the past 5 weeks, the bottom line is this: the 2011 Winter Fellows provided permanent sources of safe drinking water for over 4,200 people! That is pretty amazing!
Of course none of the Fellows’ work could have been possible without your support! We’d like to thank all of the parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, churches, community groups, local businesses and everyone else who supported the 2011 Winter Fellows – without all of you, the fellowship teams could not have made such an amazing impact during their time in Ghana! THANK YOU!
On Saturday, Team 4 opened the new water treatment center at the village of Zanzugu. The team was led by its trusty translator, Shak, and was prepared for hectic day after hearing the tale of Team 1’s opening day. Upon arriving at Zanzugu after their daily 45-minute ride in Shak’s trusty Nissan Suzuki, the team had their daily meeting with the chief. The chief promptly expressed his excitement over opening and quickly mobilized the community to meet the treatment center. The team was assured that once the drums sounded, the village would flock to the shiny new Rambo 100 Polytank to fill their safe storage buckets and to quench their thirst.
Upon the team’s arrival at the treatment center, the two women chosen to run the center were already scooping the alum-treated dugout water from the glistening blue drums into the polytank. Three Aquatabs completed the simple but powerful recipe for clean water and the tap started flowing. Bucket after bucket arrived. The chief and the elders of the village overlooked as family after family approached the tap, paid their 10 pesawas and collected their clean drinking water. All of a sudden, a band of drummers gathered villagers by the central tree and organically a dance circle came to fruition. Even a few leaky buckets could disrupt the rhythm of the line as the team efficiently monitored the opening sales and fixed any minor mishaps. A controlled chaos swarmed the polytank as about 58 families fetched their water.
Though unforeseen circumstances kept a handful of families from receiving clean water, the women were more than happy to reopen the treatment center the following day, excited to fully own and run the sustainable clean water business. The team would like to thank their excellent translator Shak, who skillfully led them through each step of the process and made implementation in Zanzugu a success. Additionally, the team is grateful for all those donors who made this treatment center possible through their support and generosity.
Team 4, Marlene, Kevin, Chris and Allie with our trusty translator Shak!