Support safe water micro-enterprises in Ghana

 
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Damu from Balampuso
Damu from Balampuso

When we launched the new Saha Global brand, one thing that we were really excited about was the new "Meet Our Entreprenuers" section on our new website. To date, we have empowered 168 women entreprenuers in Ghana who earn an income while providing clean water and electricity to their communities. These ladies are incredible and we really wanted a space where our supporters in the US could learn more about their strength, skills, and lives! Below are the ladies that we have featured on our site since August. Check back each month at www.sahaglobal.org to meet more of these rockstar women!

 

Abiba from Wambong

Abiba, or as she is affectionately called, Chang Chang, runs both the water and solar businesses in the village of Wambong. She is a wife, farmer, and mother of 8. Chang Chang joined the Saha Global team in June 2010 when she partnered with a team of Summer Field Reps to open her water business. After successfully running her water business for three years, Chang Chang was nominated by her community to also run Wambong’s solar business. The solar charging center opened in November of 2013 and since then, Chang Chang and her business partner, Salima, have more than tripled their annual income. These amazing women were even the first women in their village to open their own bank account!

 

Damu from Balampuso

Damu is one of our newest water entrepreneurs! She opened her business this past June after working with 2014 Summer Field Reps Haley, Hannah, Julia and Caroline. She is 48 years old and is the mother to six children. In addition to running her water business, Damu is also a farmer. Her favorite crop to grow is groundnuts (known to many of us as peanuts)! So far, Damu has really enjoyed her work and says that she is very happy to be providing clean drinking water to her community.

Ayi from Kurgu Vohoyili

Ayi is one of the water and solar entrepreneurs in KuruguVohoyili. She is 60 years old and has 7 children. Ayi was born and raised in Tibogo before moving to KuruguVohoyili to marry her husband. She has been running the water business with her partner Fuseina since January 2012, when she worked with Saha Field Reps Zander, Michelle, Peter and Janelle to open the water treatment center. Ayi and Fuseina were later selected by their community to also run the solar business when it opened in March 2014. Ayi says that she enjoys working at the water business because she is proud to be giving clean water to her community. Her favorite part of running the solar business is that the community now has less scorpion bites because their lanterns allow them to see at night!

 

Fulera from Kalinka

ulera is one of the three women who run the water business in Kalinka. She has been working to treat and sell water to her community since January 2013 – almost two years now! In addition to running the water business, Fulera is busy farming maize and groundnuts while also taking care of her many children and grandchildren. She has seven daughters and two sons and all but two of them have children of their own! Ten of Fulera’s grandchildren live with her in her home and they enjoy accompanying her to the water business in the morning.

Fulera says that she enjoys working at the water business because is gives her community good health. She would also like to pass along her greetings to Uroj, Ty, and Casey — her team of 2013 Winter Field Reps!

 

Zenabu from Changyili

Zenabu is one of Saha Global’s newest entrepreneurs. She has been working alongside two other women from her community, Damu and Fuseini, to run the water business in Changyilli since June 2014. Before working with Saha, Zenabu was a farmer. Her favorite crop to grow is groundnuts (peanuts). She still finds the time to work on the farm for most of the day, opening the water treatment center in the early mornings and evenings.

Zenabu is a mother to eight children but sadly, two of them passed away when they were very young. She really enjoys being able to provide clean drinking water to the village of Changyili and thinks that it is very important for children to drink healthy water. Zenabu had a great time working with Field Reps Jeremy, Cara, Selana and Brielle last summer and frequently asks Shak, who monitors Changyili, to send her greetings to them!

Zenabu from Changyili
Zenabu from Changyili
Abiba from Wambong
Abiba from Wambong
Fulera from Kalinka
Fulera from Kalinka
Ayi from Kurugu Vohoyili
Ayi from Kurugu Vohoyili

Links:

We are thrilled to share some exciting news: In August, Community Water Solutions changed our name to Saha Global! The new Saha identity is a reflection of our tremendous growth over the past six years. In November 2013, with the help of Ben Powell and Mark Moeremans, we piloted our new solar electricity program in the village of Wambong. This pilot was a huge success and lead to a new partnership with Boston-based company Next Step Living. Thanks to funding from their philanthropic program, Next Step Giving, we have been able to rapidly grow our solar program and have now launched five solar businesses that provide access to electricity to 2,500 people. We have also continued to expand our impact in water and are currently serving 38,108 people in rural Ghana with our 71 water businesses.

As Saha Global continues to grow our water and solar businesses, we remain committed to long-term monitoring in our current partner-communities, which we believe is the key to our 100% sustainability rate.

I am also very excited to share our new video, which you can view above. When you watch this video, I hope that you feel as proud as I do about  Saha’s impact, which would not have been possible with your generous support.

Links:

This is my first official post as Ghana Country Director and what an exciting time it is to be updating everyone following the CWS blog on what we’ve been up to since the 2014 Summer fellows left.

Thanks to the fellows, CWS has opened water treatment businesses in eleven more communities: Original Kabache, Sabonjida, Janakpam, Manguli II, Wuvogu, Wuvogumani, Changyili, Jangbarayili, Balamposo, Kagbal, and Sagbarigu, as well as set up a solar business in Yapalsi. This brings the total number of communities we are working in to 71! In addition to the newly established water and solar businesses, nine villages are now independent: Tijo, Tindun, Libi, Changashi, Kpenchila, Nyamaliga, Buja, Kushini, and Zanzugu. At Community Water Solutions, self-sufficiency is our end goal in the communities where we work. Data collected over the years of household visits we have done since the inception of these businesses has shown that the centers have been up and running and community members have purchased water at the center on consistent bases. The staff at CWS will still monitor and assist the women entrepreneurs to ensure the centers continue to run successfully, but we are proud to add them to our list of 23 total independent villages!

On the monitoring side of operations, going to the field this week with Amin, Shak, Wahab, and Eric has been a lot of fun. Figuring out the logistics of integrating our new communities into our existing monitoring schedules was challenging, but the guys have done an amazing job with handling the extra responsibility. Having heard so much from the fellows about the women and community members, I was really eager to go and see the new centers for myself! On Monday, Amin and I went to Jakapam, Manguli II, Wuvogu, and Wuvogumani. While the fellows were still here monitoring in their villages after opening day, community members of Janakpam had made it known during household visits that they felt the water tasted too strongly of alum, the chemical the women use in the first stage of treatment. This is typically a learning process when centers are first established; it is not an easy task to ensure an appropriate amount of alum is used to treat the turbidity of the water while also meeting the taste preferences of consumers. When the women heard of this, they wasted no time coming up with a creative solution: adding water from the polytank to the dugout water in the blue drums so that the alum would settle, then adding one chlorine tablet per blue drum scooped in to the polytank. This worked for the water they sold during the first days after the center opened and by the time Amin and I came to speak with the women on Monday, the problem had been completely fixed and community members no longer had any complaints about the taste of the water.

While monitoring with Eric on Wednesday, Arasheitu, one of the entrepreneurs running the business in Kagbal, joined us for household visits. As a way to gauge our efforts to educate community members on the health benefits of drinking clean water, one of the questions we ask households when monitoring is, “Do you know why dugout water is unsafe to drink?” Anytime we asked this question and a community member would respond with, “No,” Arasheitu stepped in to explain why dugout water was unsafe to drink and the negative implications it has for health. Community members also told Eric and I that Arasheitu and her colleagues at the center, Adamu and Sanatu, were teaching people how to collect rainwater properly and reminding people to come and refill at the center with their safety storage containers on a regular basis. It was really amazing to see the level of Arasheitu’s initiative and her enthusiasm for helping her community. Eric and I also lucked out because one of the women in Kagbal had recently given birth to a baby boy and community members were celebrating the naming ceremony. Thanks to the CWS fellows and the women of Kagbal hard at work running the treatment center, this new addition to the community, Abrahim, will always have the option of clean drinking water. That is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job as Ghana Country Director.

I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and interacting with the entrepreneurs and community members of the newly established treatment centers. As with all of the entrepreneurs we work with, these women are creative, kind, and devoted to improving the lives and health of the members of their communities. Their level of enthusiasm for running the treatment centers and the amount of hard work they put in to make sure their community has the option of clean drinking water never ceases to amaze me. I look forward to working with them during my time as Ghana Country Director.

Mark and Ben getting support from the CWS team in
Mark and Ben getting support from the CWS team in

It has been a very busy quarter for Community Water Solutions for one very exciting reason: we have officially launched our new solar program! Around this time last year, CWS announced the kick-off of a Social Enterprise Competition at our annual benefit; an opportunity to bring new and innovative solutions to rural communities in Ghana and to expand the CWS model and brand to more than clean water.

After interactive workshops and valuable mentorship sessions, two of our Fellow Alumni, Ben Powell and Mark Moeremans decided to team up, bringing together a diverse set of skills and knowledge. And while there are a plethora of challenges and opportunities facing the people of Northern Ghana, the duo decided they could make a difference in the region’s lack of electric power, which results in poor health, limited education, decreased productivity, and traps the region’s people in poverty.

The team – also known as InnovaSun, proposed an entrepreneurial solar power business that leverages several of the ideas of CWS’s successful water business model – providing demand to a community in the form of rechargeable lanterns and charging individuals to recharge their appliances. The team went on to win the competition and the $10,000 prize as seed money to turn their idea into reality.

This October, the InnovaSun team travelled back to Ghana to pilot their idea in the village of Wambong. After weeks of building, training, and testing the solar business officially opened on Halloween! Below is the blog post that Ben and Mark wrote for the CWS blog about opening day. So far the solar business has been a huge success and we are excited to pilot the system in more villages this spring!

With the women trained and the solar equipment in place, it was almost time to open our Solar Center. Before the big opening party could take place, we just needed to distribute the rechargeable lanterns to all of the households and add some finishing touches to the façade of our solar center.

When we had first arrived in the community we asked the village elders to provide us with a list of households in the village so we could have an exact count for lantern distribution. Each household is basically a small compound with about 6 or 7 separate huts all in an enclosed wall. Compounds consist of a man, his wives, and their children, and sometimes their elderly parents. We had been planning on approximately 60 households based on Ben’s water implementation in Wambong three year ago, so we decided to be prudent and order 75 lanterns for the village. When we finally received the new household list we realized that Wambong had grown to over 120 households, more than double what we had planned for. Luckily, when we went to pick up our shipment of lanterns the store had more than enough in stock. We were definitely relieved to know that we would have enough lanterns for everyone and excited and humbled by the idea that we would be providing access to electricity for over 1000 people.

Distributing lanterns was exhilarating. The town assemblyman had already gathered a large group in the town center in anticipation of our arrival and when we pulled up in our taxi they started making announcements via the Mosque loud speaker which is usually used to broadcast prayers. Before long we were surrounded by people and we felt confident that we had representatives from all the households present. We took the opportunity to speak to the community at large about the solar center and how it important it was that the community work together to keep it safe. We discussed prices for charging, and taught them how to take care of the lanterns. Once we were confident that the community understood the importance of the center we began listing off household names and handing out lamps. The look of excitement and gratitude on people’s faces when they received their lantern had me grinning from ear to ear and just got me all the more excited for the opening party that night. Once all the lanterns were passed out, we returned our attention to the solar center and gave it a face-lift. Ben and I used what little artistic ability we had between us to give the building a paint job that Picasso would have been proud of.

With everything set and ready to go we headed back to the CWS office to catch a breather before the opening that night. We had decided to break from the CWS tradition of having an Opening “Day” and traded it for the first ever Opening “Night” hoping that the addition of lanterns and electricity to the village would make for a lively and well-lit party. So we set off around 6:30 with no idea what to expect, fingers crossed and holding our breath in anticipation.

We were anxious but quickly put at ease thanks to the support and company of the full CWS team including Brianan, Peter, Amin, Wahab, Eric, and of course Shak as they decided to come out and partake in InnovaSun’s first ever launch party.

As we pulled into the village we were mesmerized, the whole village had a soft glow to it, or as one our translators suggested, “the village is blinking!” From the center of every household a soft light was floating up into the pitch-black sky, we knew something was working. We headed toward the town center and made our way to the Solar Center, connecting several power strips to allow for mass charging, hitting the on switch, and officially declaring the center open for business! Slowly people started making their way toward the center, first in the dark, then with flashlights, and finally carrying the lanterns we had distributed that morning. What was a trickle quickly turned into a flood of people as the center was surrounded by people wanting to get a first hand look and start charging their electronics.

Within minutes all 48 sockets were in use and charging a combination of cell phone and lanterns. Salima and Chang Chang were rockstars, quickly connecting all the appliances, adding up the total watts being used to make sure the system wasn’t overloaded, and most importantly keeping their cool among hoards of people – something I was struggling with.

More and more people continued to materialize each face more excited than the last. Some were holding lanterns and some just basking in the glow of their neighbors. I felt elated and totally overwhelmed, trying to make sure the center was working (it was), that people were having fun (they were) and that we were getting awesome pictures (we did). The community was enthralled, asking for photos, passing around lanterns, and pushing to the front of the crowd to see the solar center in action. They even organized most of the community in the center of town for a group photo, an unheard of accomplishment that took 5 different translators to coordinate.

As if lights and cell phones weren’t enough it wasn’t long before a pair of massive speakers appeared and started blasting some serious club music. Don’t ask me how or why this village, which previously had no electricity, has speakers taller than I am (clocking in at 6’3) but Wambong was bumping.

I kept wondering if we were going to get a noise complaint from the neighbors and then quickly laughed at my own stupidity. Ben and I had been wondering this whole week how quickly people would start making the electricity their own and branching out from lanterns and phones, well once the speakers were plugged in, it wasn’t long before someone else was siphoning off electricity and had plugged in a black light above the “DJ” booth. Seriously I felt like I was in a New York nightclub.

After 3 hours of pure euphoria, we decided to start winding things down. We took a ton of photos, made sure the center was in good hands and locked up, and started to head out. The village spokesperson continued to thank us, praising God for our help. It was one of the most unbelievable nights.

Seeing all of our planning, preparation, and hard work pay off, seeing the joy on everyone’s face, feeling accomplished and successful, and realizing what an impact we had had on this community. Indescribable. Ben and I couldn’t sleep last night, because we were too wired (pun intended) and even this morning I’m having trouble comprehending the magnitude of the moment and what it even means to me. All I know is I can’t wait to get back to Wambong and see how it’s going. I feel like a parent after their last child has grown up and gone off to college – empty nest syndrome for sure. I’ll just have to be patient and wait till tomorrow when we begin monitoring. I’m sure there is still lots of work to do, but I’ll be enjoying this day for a long long time.

-Mark

Boy in Wambong with his new latern
Boy in Wambong with his new latern
Group photo of the village with their new laterns
Group photo of the village with their new laterns
The solar center in action!
The solar center in action!

Links:

This Summer, CWS hosted 24 Fellows in Ghana, including 5 Fellows in our new office in Salaga! Both programs were extremely successful. In all, the Summer Fellows launched 7 new water treatment centers which now serve clean drinking water to 3,664 people! We are so lucky to work along side such amazing fellows!

 

DSC_0250

Carole Anne, Lilly & Taylor pose with the proud ladies of Kideng!

caroline and brigid

Caroline & Brigid pose with the excited kids of Kasawuripe!

Team Shak (Victoria, Eda, Jacob & Hailey) peacesigning with their lady entrepeneurs, Mary & Fushiena on their opening day in Vogyili

Victoria, Eda, Jacob & Hailey peacesigning with their lady entrepeneurs, Mary & Fushiena on their opening day in Vogyili

Team Sharifa (Katie, Lucas, Stephanie & Sandra) post with their women entrepenuers and some kiddos in front of Namdu's up and running water treatment center

Katie, Lucas, Stephanie & Sandra with their women entrepenuers and some kiddos in front of Namdu’s up and running water treatment center

Team TJ (Maxine, Casey, Jhanel & Bryan) pose with their grateful chief!

TJ, Maxine, Casey, Jhanel & Bryan with their oh-so-grateful Chief of Kpali!IMG_2556
IMG_2484
DSCN0219Kirsten, Sarah, Ethan, Angie & Nestor with the women as they fill their very first safe storage container of clean water in Gundaa

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Project Leader

Kate Clopeck

Director
Medfield, MA United States

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Map of Support safe water micro-enterprises in Ghana