Hey everyone! It’s team Peter here today. We are Josh, Camille, Brandee, and Claire. We’ve been braving the “road” to Sabonjida for four days, picking up pedestrians and hoping we don’t get a flat. The journey is about an hour and fifteen minutes each way, and despite the quotation marks around road, not too bad of a trip except a stretch where rain runoff exposed the bedrock.
Once we get in to Sabonjida the view of the lake and surrounding countryside is well worth braving the road. Sabonjida is a fishing community of about 70 households on the northern coast of Lake Volta. The majority of the people speak Ewe as their first language, but we communicate with them through Peter in Twi. On our first day in the village we met Clint and Haley of Mercy Project. They first called CWS’s attention to Sabonjida as a village in need of clean water. They have been working in Sabonjida to address the root causes of child slavery on Lake Volta. You can read more about their approach and what they’re all about on their website.
The first person we met when we got into the village was Mercy. She has shown us abundant hospitality each time we visit, offering food, bringing us chairs and being helpful in any way she can. In addition, she has had a very strong presence in all the meetings with community leaders. This makes us very optimistic for the future of Sabonjida, as she will be one of the four women running the water treatment center there. The other three women the community selected are Florence, Mary, and Elizabeth. We look forward to getting to know them better when we train them over the next few days. One thing that was disconcerting to see was during the community meeting when a woman had a question she initially addressed one of the men. Since they were speaking Ewe, a language Peter does not understand, it was hard for us to know whether it was legitimate question or if they were simply asking for clarification from a man sitting near them. After a little encouragement they began to speak up directly and we hope this trend continues as they see their friends in roles of power and respect within the community.
The concerns raised in the community meeting were largely centered on the nuances that come with living in a fishing community. One major concern was the mobility of the center given that Lake Volta is prone to flooding at the combined discretion of Mother Nature and the people in charge of regulating the dam that maintains it. We explained to them that their polytank would be lifted up on a metal stand that can be moved according to their needs. Another concern was the irregularity of their income. Since most of the community fishes they might not have cash on hand, even though they have plenty of fish in net. To address this concern we explained to them that the ladies running the center had the liberty to run the business whichever way is most conducive to getting everyone clean water. In Tunga, a community we monitored on Wednesday, the woman entrepreneur had a system of giving out interest free credit or accepting payments in advance in order to give everyone access to clean water, and we relayed this idea along to them.
There was another unfortunate yet encouraging issue that came to light during the community meeting. There happened to be an old man from a neighboring community at the meeting who wanted to know why we were doing this project only for Sabonjida when the lake water is unhealthy for all the communities who drink it. We had to explain to him that although CWS aims to continue implementing clean water businesses all around Lake Volta, we unfortunately can only reach one community at a time. However, we were excited by his approval of our project and excitement for when CWS might reach his village. We were also very encouraged by the community’s questions about how they would access clean water while traveling, which preliminarily implies that they accept the idea of always drinking clean water when they are at home.
Our plan for the next two days is to train our four women to treat the water and become the entrepreneurs of the water center!