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Update from the Kurugu Vohoyili Solar Pilot

Solar center in KV

It has been almost 3 weeks since the solar center opened in Kurugu Vohoyili. The solar center entrepreneurs, Ayi and Fuseina, report that business is going well. Community members say the lanterns are useful for cooking, studying, working at night and make them feel safe from scorpions lurking in dark corners.  The entrepreneurs say people have been coming to exchange their dead batteries for “fresh ones” and cell phone charging sales are high, especially at night.

Ayi and Fuseina
Water and Solar center entrepreneurs Ayi and Fuseina

Last week on April 2, CWS Assistant- Project Manager: Shak, and I had the privilege of visiting the solar center in Kurugu Vohoyili with the Burro team, Burro founder: Whit Alexander, Burro Country Director: Carol Brown and Business Development Manager: Caleb Darko. Burro is a bottom-up social business based out of Koforidua that markets high quality, life-improving products to low-income and rural populations. CWS has partnered with Burro to bring lanterns, gensets and solar panels to the solar center pilots.

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Huseini with his Burro lantern newly loaded with “fresh” batteries from the solar center on opening night
Burro Office
Burro headquarters in Koforidua

When we arrived at the center, Fuseina was there open for business! There were 34 batteries charging but no phones just yet. Fuseina said that some people still had charge in their phones but they would come. We checked out the solar panels, which had a layer of dust and some mud splotches. The Burro team was helpful in advising Ayi and Fuseina to clean the panels every morning with a cloth and water to remove all dust in order to get the most sunlight possible. Whit also advised the women to use alcohol to remove any residue build up on the AA batteries to make them more efficient. Burro’s mantra of “Do More” shined throughout the community visit.

Shak and I visited 6 households with the Burro staff. All 6 households still had charged batteries in their lanterns. 4 out of 6 households had charged cell phones at the solar center. The 2 households without charge still had charge remaining from before the solar center opened. These households have been conserving their cell phone battery to keep fuel costs down. They used to travel several miles to Tali to charge. I predict that cell phone charging demand will rise over time as the solar center is conveniently located in the center of Kurugu Vohoyili.

Abiba, Huseini and Osman
Abiba, Huseini and Osman with their household Burro lantern. They use it on the 3rd setting at night so the women can cook and people can chat or study

Burro Founder, Whit, started asking households about what they used to do for energy prior to the solar center. Most households used kerosene, spending 5-6 GHC on kerosene every 3 days. Now they no longer use kerosene, opting for the cleaner, cheaper energy offered at the solar center! KV community member Alimatu brought out her kerosene lamp to show us what she was using before. It was striking to see the kerosene lamp and Burro lantern side by side. Alimatu asked us if she could use the Burro lantern as a night-light to fall asleep, she had been using a kerosene lamp before. We said yes and her face lit up!

Alimatu of Kurugu Vohoyili
Alimatu of Kurugu Vohoyili

It was encouraging to monitor with the Burro team and to see the fruits of our labor after the pilot. A big thank you to Whit, Carol and Caleb for coming all the way to Tamale to check out the solar center and for all of their consulting.

Cheers,

Brianán

Oh Where Oh Where to Put the Polytank?

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Peter and Wahab monitor the water treatment center in Kpachiyili. This is a typical center placement. It’s located right next to the dugout. Look at how green it is! This picture was taken during the rainy season, as you can see not flooded!

The placement of the CWS water treatment center is key in running a successful water business. Fellows and CWS translators ask very specific questions when it comes to finding a spot for the polytank. The villagers select where they want their water treatment center based on what dugout or water source they use for the majority of the year and look for an area that does not flood during the rainy season.

But what happens to the water business when a dugout dries up or when people use multiple water sources throughout the year?

In some villages, the women entrepreneurs figure it out for themselves. Adamu and Salamatu in Gariezegu found a metal, moveable polytank stand that was used in the school, which allowed them to move the water treatment center to various wells in the village. After the rainy season, Lasinchi and Mariama in Tacpuli moved the center to a well that was closer to the village and placed the polytank on large branches, using a hose to fill safe storage containers. For the most part though, the women who run the centers have a hard time coping with seasonal transitions on their own.

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The chairman in Gariezegu posing with the metal polytank stand.

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The CWS policy for moving water businesses in the past has been that the women have the freedom to move the centers as long as they come up with the materials to build polytank stands themselves. CWS wants the centers to be as self-reliant as possible. If we continually help the water businesses to thrive off of our dime, then they will not be sustainable in the long run. But where is the line drawn? We’re realizing on the monitoring side that there is a monetary limit to what we can ask of the women. It costs roughly $38 to build a polytank stand in Ghana. This is more money than most women make in a month working at the water treatment center.

It’s time to start building polytank stands! We’ve decided that by building polytank stands for communities that use multiple water sources, this will take a large burden off of the women who run the water treatment centers. So far we’ve mapped out 11 communities that will need polytank stands built at another source in the next 6 months: Bogu, Djelo, Gbandu, Gbung, Kpalbusi, Kpanayili, Tacpuli, Tohinaayili, Yapalsi, Yipela and Zanzagu Yipela. The communities will still be responsible for moving the polytank and blue drums to the new location when they need to (and making decisions about when to move it) but CWS will fund the building.

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                                        Polytank Stand Building 101 with Shak

Our first stop is Djelo, as their water source situation poses the largest threat to the community. The dugout where the center was initially built is starting to dry. The women, Zelia and Fuseina, predict that the dugout will be dry within the month. Luckily, there is another dugout a little farther away that will not dry up. This weekend CWS field staff, Shak and Amin, went to Djelo to build a polytank stand at this second dugout. We wanted to get the stand built before the dugout dried, to make the transition as smooth as possible. This will not cause any behavioral disruption because the villagers of Djelo are going to start going to that second dugout very soon.

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                                        Djelo’s plentiful, second dugout.
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                                         The stand in Djelo is complete!

The CWS technology in Ghana will only work if there is water to treat. The water businesses will be most successful if they are located next to the water source that the villagers use the most. If that source changes throughout the year, then the center needs to change with it. More updates to come as we continue to build!

-Brianán

A Busy Week!

Peter and I have been very busy getting things set up in Jarigu this week. Here are some pictures from the past 7 days!

Monday and Tuesday: Building the polytank stand

One of the first steps in setting up a CWS water treatment center is building the polytank stand. We try to work with a local mason to build the stand, but since none of the men in Jarigu were experienced masons, Soufoo, our good friend from Nyamaliga, came to help!

Loading up the taxi with bricks, cement, and sand to bring to Jarigu
Loading up the taxi with bricks, cement, and sand to bring to Jarigu

Soufoo working away
Soufoo working away
Almost done with the first row
Almost done with the first row
Halfway done and finished for the day.  It may not look like much, but it took a lot of work! Thank you Soufoo!
Halfway done and finished for the day. It may not look like much, but it took a lot of work! Thank you Soufoo!
Filing the middle of the stand with gravel
Filling the middle of the stand with gravel
Last step! Covering the outside of the stand and building the stairs
Last step! Covering the outside of the stand and building the stairs
All finished!
All finished!

Wednesday: Delivering the polytank and the blue tubs

Since Kasaligu now has access to municipal water, we decided to move their water treatment center to Jarigu. This is something that we discussed in detail with the Kasaligu chairman and with Fati, the woman who works at the center. They were both happy to move their polytank to a new village that needed the treatment center (we will still be working with Kasaligu on safe water storage to prevent the re-contamination of the piped water in their homes, and Fati will be selling small Aquatabs that people can use to chlorinate their own water). Originally, Peter and I planned to rent a truck to move the polytank, but at the last minute Peter convinced me that we could use a taxi, which would be cheaper. A few hours and two runs-in with the police later, the polytank and the three blue tubs that make up the water treatment center arrived safely in Jarigu.

Loading a blue tub into the trunk outside of Fati's house
Loading a blue tub into the trunk outside of Fati's house
Having a little trouble fitting the polytank through the door at Fati's house...
Having a little trouble fitting the polytank through the door at Fati's house...
Loading the polytank onto the roof of the taxi - apparently the Tamale police didn't think that this was a funny as I did!
Loading the polytank onto the roof of the taxi - apparently the Tamale police didn't think that this was a funny as I did!
Ready to go!
Ready to go!
Some of the men from Jarigu who helped set up the water treatment center
Some of the men from Jarigu who helped set up the water treatment center
Filling the blue tubs with dugout water
Filling the blue tubs with dugout water

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Thursday: Distributing Safe Storage Containers and Water Treatment Training

On Wednesday, Peter and I visited each household in Jarigu to distribute the CWS safe storage containers. Although it takes a long time to pass out the containers to each family individually, its a great way to make sure everyone in the village understands the project and the connection between water and health, and learns the importance of safe water storage through the use of water storage containers. Water can be kept safe and clean when stored in one of these. There are various sized containers available, depending on the need and quantity of people. As there is not always running water, it is only best for numerous amounts of villages to have access to these containers. It makes life just a little bit easier for the residents. Just like with any job, it was a LONG but fun and rewarding day!

Peter explaining the different components of the CWS safe storage container
Peter explaining the different components of the CWS safe storage container
Attaching the tap to the safe storage container.
Attaching the tap to the safe storage container.
Checking out the safe storage container
Checking out the safe storage container

On Thursday we also started water treatment training. Usually, we will work with members of the community to select two women to be in charge of the water treatment center, who we then train to treat the dugout water. The village then decides what time of the day and how often they would like the center to be open. We like working with women because they are usually the ones in charge of all water-related household activities (collecting water, cooking, washing, etc) In Jarigu, however, we are doing things differently. This village already had a local man, Alhassan, “guarding” the dugout. He sits by the dugout all day long to make sure that no one walks too far into the water (this helps to prevent Guinea Worm contamination). Since Alhassan was already sitting right next to the water treatment center, the village thought that he should be the one in charge of it and we agreed. Since Alhassan will be at the dugout all day, everyday, the water treatment center can be open all of the time. While this makes it a little bit harder for us to monitor (instead of coming to the village for a few hours on the days the center is open, we will have to be there all day if we want to observe the center’s sales), it is much more convenient for our customers in Jarigu! Here are some pictures from our first night of water treatment training with Alhassan – he is a quick learner and very fun to work with!

Step 1: Particle removal.  We you alum- a locally available coagulant/flocculant for this step of the water treatment process
Step 1: Particle removal. We use alum- a locally available coagulant/flocculant for this step of the water treatment process.
We usually add alum to the water in the everning, and by the next morning, the particles in the water settle to the bottom and the water is clear.
We usually add alum to the water in the evening, and by the next morning, the particles in the water have settled to the bottom and the water is clear.

Friday: Water treatment training day 2

On Friday morning we returned to Jarigu for the second day of water treatment training with Alhassan. We transferred the water from the blue tubs (now “clear”) into the polytank and treated it with Aquatabs, a chlorine product that disinfects the water. Its now ready for opening day!

Step 2: transferring the water to the polytank
Step 2: transferring the water to the polytank
Once the polytank is full, we disinfect the water using chlorine.
Once the polytank is full, we disinfect the water using chlorine.

Saturday: Opening Day!

Opening day in Jarigu was a big success! 34 families came to buy water from Alhassan and a good time was had by all! Thank you again to Susan and Greg Gintoff at Volunteer Shredding, LLC for sponsoring this water treatment center!

Alhassan selling water on opening day at Jarigu
Alhassan selling water on opening day at Jarigu
Me with a happy customer is Jarigu
Me with a happy customer is Jarigu
Opening day at Jarigu
Opening day at Jarigu
Me, Alhassan and Peter at the water treatment center in Jarigu.  Thank you Volunteer Shredding, LLC!
Me, Alhassan and Peter at the water treatment center in Jarigu. Thank you Volunteer Shredding, LLC!
The CWS water treatment center at Jarigu.  Sponsored by Greg and Susan Gintoff at Volunteer Shredding, LLC
The CWS water treatment center at Jarigu. Sponsored by Greg and Susan Gintoff at Volunteer Shredding, LLC
Children hanging out at the CWS water treatment center on opening day.
Children hanging out at the CWS water treatment center on opening day.

Potential New Villages

For the past week and half Peter and I have been using the mornings to check out potential villages to work with. We’ve been to 13 villages so far and are going to see at least one more early next week. Although the rainy season is ending, it still storms about once a week, which can make our journeys to these villages in a taxi very exciting. Luckily, we found Joe, a great taxi driver who is willing to navigate the treacherous roads for us! Here are some pictures from our adventures.

typical road, a couple days after a rain storm
typical road, a couple days after a rain storm
Guys helping us decide the best way to get around the mud
Guys helping us decide the best way to get around the mud
All of our helpers
All of our helpers
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Peter chatting with the elders at FUU about their water sources

Checking out the Dugout at Wumbeiyili
Checking out the Dugout at Wumbeiyili

I am hoping to start implementing a new water treatment center in a week and have found a couple of communities that seem like a good fit!

Updates from the Field

I can’t believe that its already been a week since I left the U.S. It has been really fun being back in Tamale and visiting the CWS water treatment centers.  Unfortunately, I was totally fooled by the weather in Accra, it is NOT cool and breezy up north, in fact is is horribly hot!  It is nearing the end of the rainy season, all of the crops are fully grown and ready for harvest.  I have never been to Tamale in September before and it was quite a surprise to see Maize (corn) and other crops growing right in the middle of the village!

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Here are some updates on the two pilot villages!

Nyamaliga

Since the CWS team left Tamale last January, Hawa and Sanatu (the women running the water treatment center in Nyamaliga) have been opening it for business every Thursday morning. The women are happy with the number of people that are coming to the center and enjoy working there. A couple of months ago, the ladies finished their first batch Aquatabs (one of the products used to treat the water) and had to buy more. While this may not seem like a big deal, it was a very exciting event for the CWS team! This means the women were treating the water correctly (they ran out of Aquatabs at the right time) and that they had saved the right amount of money (they had enough funds put aside to buy more Aquatabs)!

Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago the path to the water treatment center flooded and people from Nyamaliga have not been able to get there to buy water. The chief thinks that the path should dry out in the next week or so, so hopefully we can get things up and running soon! Although the flood disappointing, I am glad that I am here to see how the village has reacted. It is very important that our CWS team learns how the water supply in this region changes throughout the year so we can be more prepared for situations like this as we expand to other villages.

I have started going around to households in Nyamaliga to see where people have been getting their drinking water since the center has been closed. So far I have been to just over ten households and have been very pleased with the results. Most of the families have continued to use their safe storage containers to store their drinking water! This means that the people in Nyamaliga understood the importance of safe storage to reduce the risk of re-contamination. Since the center has been closed, most of the families in Nyamaliga have been drinking rainwater, or water from a nearby well. Over the next week I am going to continue this monitoring and start testing the quality of the  rain/well water that people have collected. So stayed tuned for the results! I am also planning to work with Hawa, Sanatu, and the village elders to come up with a “rainy season plan” for the treatment center in case another flood like this happens in the future. Here are some pictures of people using their safe storage containers in Nyamaliga:

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In other news, Hawa recently had a baby boy! His name is Alhassan and he is precious! Pics to come soon!

Kasaligu

When our team was in Ghana last January, Kasaligu had just recently began receiving piped water a few days a week. The water flowed sporadically and members of the village never knew when the pipe would work or for how long. (At that time, Ghana was in the middle of an election, and the village leaders were convinced that once the election was over, the pipe would stop flowing). Fati (the women who works at the center) and the village leaders decided to keep the water treatment center open once a week to make sure that the community had access to safe drinking water when the pipe was not flowing.

Well the election has come and gone and Kasaligu is still getting municipal water! In fact, they now have access to piped water all day, everyday! It turns out that Kasaligu’s increased access to clean water is the result of the Biwater project in Tamale. This is very exciting news because it means that the city is improving and expanding their infrastructure to include more rural areas. While there has been some controversy about the project, our team is hopeful that it will be a success. Here are some pictures of one of the public standpipes in Kasaligu, providing piped municipal water to the village:

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Now that Kasaligu has consistent access to municipal water, CWS’s involvement in the village is going to change.  I have discussed the situation with the village chairman and with Fati, and we have decided to move the treatment center to a village that is outside the reach of the BiWater project (and therefore will not have access to piped water any time in the foreseeable future).  CWS will still work with Kasaligu by helping  promote safe water storage.  In the future, Fati may also help me teach the women in the new village how to treat water from the dugout (since she is a pro by now AND can speak Dagboni!)  Ill make sure to keep everyone posted on these changes over the next couple of months!

Some Pictures From My First Week in Ghana!

Fati and I outside of her house in Kasaligu
Fati and I outside of her house in Kasaligu
With the Chief of Nymaliga and his safe storage container!
With the Chief of Nyamaliga and his safe storage container!
Peter taking home a gift from Hawa (one of the women who work at the Nymaliga water treatment center) and her family - a big bag of groundnuts (peanuts!)
Peter taking home a gift from Hawa (one of the women who work at the Nyamaliga water treatment center) and her family - a big bag of groundnuts (peanuts!)
Kids goofing off outside the chief's house in Nymaliga
Kids goofing off outside the chief's house in Nyamaliga
Soufoo and I in Nymaliga!
Soufoo and I in Nyamaliga!

Arrived in Accra!

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2o hours, one forgotten passport, two flights, and one very long lay-over after arriving at Logan airport, I have arrived safely in Accra!  I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful weather here!  I am used to stepping off the plane and being immediately hit by either a painfully humid heat wave  (in the summer) or cloud of dusty, dry heat (in the winter).  But today was fabulous! About 75 degrees with a nice breeze!  I hope this is typical “fall” weather that stays for the next two months!

I’m staying at the wonderful Chez Lien guest house (with internet and AC!) for the night and heading up to Tamale (very) early tomorrow morning.  Although I do think Chez Lien is great, I’m not the biggest fan of Accra and can’t wait to get up North to see our CWS staff members and friends!

Sunset in Nymaliga, Northern Region Ghana
Sunset in Nyamaliga, Northern Region Ghana