Community Water Solutions

To implement community-level water treatment businesses in communities of the developing world that: - are run by members of the community - provide clean water for residents of that community - generate economic growth and - empower women in the community
May 3, 2012

Updates from the field: March Madness!

For this project report, we decided to share a recent blog post written by CWS' Ghana Country Director, Kathryn. In this post she gives us a glimpse of what working in the field with CWS on a day-to-day basis is really like!

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.

Peter poses with "fresh twins" during household visits in Libi

Mohammed, a huge help to CWS staff in Libi, clowns around for the camera.

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”!

Sharatu and Awabu pose by their new treatment center stand in Laligu - right in the center of town!

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.

Ladies fetch water from Kagburashe's dugout.

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!

Shak teaches a lesson to Zanzugu Yipela primary students about water contamination and health.
Which bottle would YOU like to drink?

No matter how many times we visit, kids still crowd around for pictures. Somethings never change.

Kids at Iddrisuyili pose for a picture in Kpalguni

- Kathryn

Jan 26, 2012

The 2012 Winter Fellowship Program

This winter, CWS hosted 33 students and young professionals in Ghana who took part in our largest-ever CWS Fellowship Program. Thanks to this amazing group of people (and the family and friends that supported their fundraising efforts!!), 4,500 people in rural Ghana now have access to safe drinking water. Before the Fellows’ arrival, every single one of these people were fetching their drinking water from highly contaminated, very turbid, surface water sources called  ”dugouts”, which are shared with the community’s livestock. These dugouts are man-made ponds that fill with rainwater during the rainy season, and sit stagnant during the dry months, getting more and more contaminated as time passed.  Now these 9 new villages have permanent access to safe drinking water and 18 new women also have a new source of income – their CWS water business!

This session of Fellows were such a joy to work with! From day 1 it was clear to me and the rest of the CWS staff that they were a really special group. They were inquisitive and interested; passionate about their projects; extremely caring and compassionate when working in their villages; and, most importantly, SUCH a blast!!

In order for our supporters to understand the Fellowship Experience a little better, I thought that I would share an excerpt from one of our Fellowship Team's blogs. Here is a small glimpse into Team D's everyday lives in Ghana:

Today was one of the most exciting days so far for Team D because it was the first day of building! As we pulled into the village, Kpachiyili, the children were all together near the entrance, Peter, our translator, told us that they were there waiting for us. All of the villagers were smiling, waving and genuinely happy to see us. We greeted the chief and then got right down to business. In our past meeting, we decided to build the polytank stand in an area near the dugout that does not flood in the rainy season. Some men came with us in the truck to help build the stand and the children surrounded us as we began to work. Peter wanted music, so we brought the speakers outside and all of the kids sat down right next to where the music was playing. We unloaded all of the supplies from the truck and Peter drew a design in the sand for where the bricks would go. He made the design in the shape of what looked to be something like an igloo. The men laid the bricks and mixed the cement. Then Peter showed us how to use to the trowels to put the cement in between the bricks. He let all of us help. With the help of the villagers, we built the initial part of the polytank stand. The process did not take as long as I expected and we were done within an hour. It was awesome getting to see the fruits of our labor! Before we could move on in the building process, we have to wait for the cement to dry. Tomorrow we are going to fill the base of the stand with gravel and then plaster the entire thing so that the polystand will be able to sit on top.

After, we went back to the chief to tell him what we had accomplished and that we would be back tomorrow. We sat on a bench facing him and he gave us some chief wisdom. He told us that you must live your life through goodness and try to pass on good to others. Although we must live through goodness, he said that this goodness is the work of God. The chief always likes to relate everything back to God and the will of God. He said that he hopes that someday the children of his village will be so educated that they will get to leave the village, travel and develop their skills so as to eventually better the village. The chief puts much emphasis on education and the welfare of the children. He is awesome!

When the chief was done sharing his wisdom with us, something unexpected happened. A boy brought a live chicken to our meeting with the chief.  Peter said that the chief and villagers wanted to prepare us some food but they were unsure of what we ate. So instead of preparing something, they decided to give us this chicken. The chief thanked us and the boy gave the chicken to Mark. The chief continued by saying that we must all eat this chicken and it will give us the strength to finish our work in the village. He also said that before we eat this chicken, we must thank our parents for helping us get to where we are today. If we do all of us this, he said that all of us will someday find wives and husbands. Peter nicknamed the chicken, Mr. Coq. We were all so excited and shocked to receive such a gift. We asked the chief to take pictures with us and the chicken and he agreed. After, we showed the chief the picture and he shrieked with excitement. He said, “Oh this makes me too happy”. What an unforgettable day. Finally it was time for us to go and Mark held the chicken on his lap (which later pooped on him, ha!). All of the children chased the truck down the road as we left the village. This has been the best day of the trip so far. Peter’s mom is going to prepare Mr. Coq for us tomorrow for Mark’s birthday; it will be quite the feast!

Sep 24, 2011

The Importance of Monitoring

The rainy season in Ghana has arrived, which for CWS means a halt in new village implementations and a change of focus to monitoring. Traditionally during the rainy season, many villagers switch over to rainwater collection. In CWS villages that have houses with 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 CWS water treatment centers for drinking water. Needless to say, the say the dry-to-rainy-season-transition can be tricky 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), which is why we switch our focus away from expansion to monitoring during this season. CWS' new Ghana Country Director, Kathryn, recently wrote an article for the CWS blog about the importance of monitoring which we would like to share with our network of globalgiving donors so you can each gain some insight into her work on the ground. So with out further ado, here's what Kathryn:

Monitoring and evaluation can often seem like the less glamorous younger sister of exciting implementation, who comes first, steals the show, is effortlessly photographable and charms everyone around her. As a CWS staff member whose job starts when the implementers go home, however, I’m here to tell you that monitoring ensures that implementation becomes something more than superficial AND has a certain charm of her own!

Kpalung center operator, Zaratu, and her son pose for a picture during a check-up conversation. Kpalung continues to impress follow-up staff (and hopefully visa versa)!


I recently read that, disturbingly, 50,000 rural water points representing $215-360 million in investments are in disuse or disrepair across the continent of Africa. This trend holds in the context of Northern Ghana, where we operate. In 2009, IIED surveys reported that 58% of established water points needed repair in this region. ABSURD!! While it is awesome to take pictures on opening day, it is even more awesome to take pictures 5 or 10 or 20 years down the line, with projects that continue work in the communities they were intended to serve.

CWS’ dedication to monitoring and evaluation led me to participate this week in a webinar titled “Test of Time: Practical Tools and Methods for Post-Implementation Monitoring”. I joined 90 other water and sanitation practitioners who listened to a panel discussion from sector leaders and innovators, moderated by Water for People’s CEO (and my long time celebrity crush… too lame?) Ned Breslin. The discussion was interesting in many ways, but what struck me most was how many cutting-edge monitoring “innovations” are already engrained in CWS daily operations! Routine project follow up? CHECK. Customer satisfaction surveys? DAILY. Use and publicizing of crowd-sourcing technologies like SMS, mapping, and data collection? Our new monitoring platform, has all these capabilities! I gotta say I was pretty proud of our commitment to follow-up that day. That’s not to say we don’t have ways to grow. Cool opportunities for continued follow-up include continuing an emphasis on behavior change and health education, continuing “capacity building” (NGO-ish for helping people become more competent and confident in relevant skill sets), and incorporating supplies like extra buckets and chlorine into the village market scene. But, with the help of some intensive initial monitoring (which allows us to DETECT problems, SOLVE problems, and SCALE UP solutions), 10 and 20 years down the line I envision CWS partner villages being functioning, self-sufficient and satisfied customers.

Here’s to bucking the trend!



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