Monday, September 28, 2009

ASD Travels to West Africa...A Glimpse at the WASH Conditions Encountered Along the Journey

In May I set out for West Africa to meet with our African Women and Water Conference participants from Ghana and Nigeria.

To begin with, a tour of the water resources found...

Rejoice, a resident of the Lotus Children's Home for orphaned girls in Ghana's capital city, Accra, collecting water from the storage tank in the compound to use for washing.

For the small ones here, they carry what they can at a time on their heads, working just as hard as their older sisters washing their clothes and cleaning their home and the day care and preschool supported by the organization.

This piped water source was found inside the chief's palace where Rebecca lives in a small town called Lawra. This type of access to water is not common, especially for those in the rural outskirts of the town, and of course it must be paid for.

The dried up indentation in the river bed is a hole that was dug to fetch water when the dry season began and the water table sank below the stream's surface. As the dry season progresses women have had to move farther and farther upstream to find the water, abandoning holes previously dug.

The hole seen above was one of many passed during this walk on a visit to the community Rebecca selected to be the beneficiaries of a training on the BioSand filter, the technology she learned at the Women and Water Conference and wrote a grant proposal for in order to implement a project in her community. The people of this village, called Kunyukuo, are leading the way to find the nearest water hole in the riverbed where water can be collected.

The tedious task of filling silver basins by the gourdful hoping that the water doesn't retreat down or upstream any further during this trip to the stream.

Not quite the same as turning on a spigot! This water is presumably not very safe for drinking and will require some measure of pasteurization or disinfection to be ensure it is safe for drinking, especially by the vulnerable population; the sick, elderly and children.

Basin is filled and the journey home begins. The women of Kunyukuo explained that in the rainy season when the stream waters are high and fast it is a daunting task to collect water here, having to descend it's unstable banks and maneuver the heavy water from the stream up onto their heads.

The path to get home from the water source, which for some means several kilometers.

For agriculture and livestock purposes, the local government sends trucks to the Black Volta River every day to transport water to the community.

The most common water carrying sight in modern Africa, the plastic jerrican container. Atop the heads of women and girls and children, sitting in a line of fellow jerricans waiting to be filled at water refilling stations or boreholes or wells, on carts pulled by donkeys or is the primary water container for millions of people.

A borehole in rural Ghana, with access for people on one end and livestock on the other end.

In the midday heat a woman fills her water containers. She is alone in her pumping but in the mornings and evenings-the morning queue starting most days at 3:00 a.m.-the line of women is impressively long and the wait can take a few hours.

These young ladies cheerfully help each other fill their families' water basins.

The majority of responsibility for fetching water is held by women and girls but young boys are often recruited to help out with the chore. The family relationships and roles, discipline and unquestioning obedience are amazing aspects of Ghanaian culture to behold.

The water that comes from the boreholes is generally considered to be "clean" and safe to drink because it was brought by people with money and technology from outside and it is normally clear.

A different type of pumping mechanism for a well. This particular well is not currently being used because there is no water.

A closer look at the wheel that turns the system and brings up water.

A mother and her child drinking out of the common gourd used in this region.

At community gatherings water is often shared in a calabash that is passed around.

An open well is yet another type of water source found in the Ghana's Upper West region. Water is retrieved using a container-anything from a plastic container to a metal bucket-attached to a long rope. The danger of contamination in open wells is great, from not having a cover like this one which allows wind to blow possible contaminants in, to having animals grazing and defecating around the well, to the unhygienic and uncontrolled conditions of the receiving container.

A look down the open well

Felicia taking me on a tour of her village's water resources. This open well is located next to the school and has a cover on top. This water source, like so many at this late stage in the dry season, is not being used because there is no longer water in the well (the water table has dropped).

Water used in homes also comes from the sky! This is a makeshift rainwater harvesting setup to channel the water from rains off the roof, but it can also be an important resource in this dry, often drought-plagued area. Less evidence of rainwater harvesting was seen here in Ghana than in travels across the continent in East Africa's Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Why rainwater harvesting is not as ubiquitous in the Upper West region as the country's East Africa counterparts is likely attributed to a number of factors (such as economic resources, climate and weather patterns, development efforts just to name a few) but here a regional NGO has installed a rainwater harvesting system at the elementary school.

Another rainwater harvesting/water draining example in Felicia's home compound.

A water tap stand in Lawra's town center shared by the neighboring residents, regulated and managed by the community's water management committee, and abundant throughout the year.

Rebecca told a story about the first time they attempted to drill down and tap the underground river that was flowing beneath the village - fish popped out of the first hole they drilled!

The other side of the water resource picture-underdeveloped sanitation practices are prevalent in Ghana. This stream of waste pours out the walls from the chief's palace in Lawra. Even though this town has a developed central water system there is still a disconnect about the need for improved access to water, improved health and disease reduction not being just about a piped and pumped water source but also about changes to sanitation infrastructure and attitude.

A community toilet facility with an entrance on one side for women and an entrance on the other side for men. Inside each stall there is nothing but a trough that directs waste out the hole you see in the picture at the base of the structure.

A VIP (ventilated improved pit) latrine at a local elementary school introduced and built by a regional NGO. This particular stall is not in use but there are others in the row, especially for the girls that have been very well received and used.

One problem with these advanced solutions for sanitation in the Upper West region is that they are not always well received, understood or ultimately used properly. Traditional practice allows for people to "go into the bush" when nature calls, and being confined inside a building, or worse allowing toilets inside a house or compund is uncomfortable, foreign, undesireable and to some people not fathomable. Culture and religion and education all play roles in the roadblocks to improved sanitation efforts in Ghana's northern regions.

Another challenge facing the VIP latrines at the elementary school, some elements were constructed from wood, which are now, a year later, not surviving the onslaught of destructive termites that are native to this area. Local knowledge, building techniques and input are important when choosing designs for appropriate technology implementation.

The VIP latrine (the vertical pipe is the ventilated portion of the design, complete with mesh that prevents insects from going in or out of the system) buildings were also outfitted with gutters for rainwater collection.

This is one way of washing clothes in the Upper West region; in the shade of a tree near a borehole.

Safe drinking water in Ghana is available in .5 liter plastic bags sold for pennies in every local shop and by vendors on the street. Rebecca and the woman below demonstrate how to buy it from a boy passing by, rip off the corner with your teeth, spit the plastic to the ground and enjoy (this one was ice cold)! Plastic bottles of water can be found but these bags are the common (and cheaper) product.

This indentation in the floor of a room in the palace is a storage space for water, although this design and practice is less common now, replaced by the widely used plastic jerrican.

Felicia (on the right) and fellow community leaders inspecting a borehole that is not working. The only borehole in this part of the village and it's failure has forced people to go to the river (which is almost completely dry) or walk a few kilometers to another part of the village to get water.

These natural ponds are seasonal and shrink by the day as the dry season progresses. In some places these are intentionally built reservoirs aimed at being a solution for both human and livestock access to an open water source.

A Single Drop

Sunday, March 15, 2009

AWWC Site Visit in Tanzania

The participants of a BioSand filter training organized by Anna Anatoli and Syoni Mnzava, two participants from the African Women and Water Conference, in Arusha, Tanzania, for members of ANEPO (Attration of Natural Resources and Environment We Protect and Organize) and Tanzania Girl Guides from March 2-6, 2009.

But before the BSF training began ASD spent two weeks with Anna and Syoni making preparations, visiting the communities they work in and learning about the work of the Tanzanian Girl Guides and ANEPO. February 22 was Thinking Day, an international day to celebrate the birthdays of the founders of Girl Guides/Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and the Arusha community of Girl Guides came together to sing and dance and talk about safe water. This sign says, "MAJI SAFI NA SALAMA," in Kiswahili which translates to say, "WATER CLEAN AND SAFE."

There were over 15 schools represented and each group of Girl Guides came had prepared a presentation-song, dance-drama-to present to their fellow Girl Guides and regional Girl Guide leaders.

Girl Guides queuing for water at a tap.

Anna demostrating the Solar CooKit during a skit about how to treat water so it is safe for drinking.

Syoni has been a Girl Guide since she was 9 years old! You can imagine with that kind of committment she has amazing respect from these girls and women.

Anna demostrates the 3M Petrifilm component of the Portable Microbiology Laboratory to the Tanzanian Girl Guides Association during Thinking Day.

Anna teaching the men who are trying to sell us rock and sand for the BioSand filter training about the importance of drinking safe water. But, she did not stop there, she proceeded to scold them all for pursuing a job doing the same thing as 20 other men. She encouraged them to do something different, to find something to distinguish themselves in business. She succeeded in perking the curiosity of one young man named Joshua who ran after her to inquire more about what project she was working on and Anna ended up inviting him to participate in the upcoming week's BSF training.

The future home of ANEPO which will serve as an office and training facility abe to accomodate 15-20 people.

This roadside puddle is the source of washing water for nearby vendors.

This woman washes her vegetables and fruits and reused plastic bags in this puddle before proceeding down the street to set up her goods to sell to people passing by. Anna and Syoni have passed this woman several times during their visits to this community, called Lemara, and each time reproached her for washing her goods in roadside standing water. But, where else will she wash and how will they make her understand the danger of what she is doing?

Anna helping a Tanzanian Girl Guide use the Portable Microbiology Laboratory to test water during the BioSand filter and WASH training.

Anna explaining the 4 mechanisms of the BioSand filter.

Anna inspecting the sieving process for the rock and sand to be used for the BioSand filter construction and installation.

The training venue was inside the Tanzanian Girl Guide's event tent which was set up in the yard of the District Commissioner's house.

Mama Syoni, who is 72 years old and a lifelong Tanzanian Girl Guide showing the younger women how real work is done!

Anna and a younger Girl Guide member lubricating the inside of the BioSand filter mold so concrete so will not stick to it when it's time to extract the filter.

First attemtps at using the Tippy Tap, a handless handwashing device, brought smiles and excitement as a transformed plastic bottle and some string became a simple solution for encouraging improved hygiene practices.

DO OVER! Picking up the crumbled mixture of concrete halfway through the pouring of a BioSand filter. This is what trainings are for-a safe place to make mistakes and learn best practices so when production starts there will be less time and resources lost.

Giving the BioSand filter a smooth finish, the final step in filter construction gives a Girl Guide leader a chance to practice her masonry skills.

Participants of the BioSand filter training surround the filter mold as they listen to instructions.

Anna and Mariah take a break from monitoring the BioSand filter construction to confer and share a smile.

Syoni picking greens from her garden in preparation for the solar cooking demonstration.

Syoni checking the status of the solar cooked dishes, squash and ugali (the East African staple made from maize flour).

The Solar CooKit, designed and distributed by Solar Cookers International, consists of a foldable cardboard cooking surface, a thin metal pot painted black with chalkboard paint, and a large plastic bag.

A training participant holding up his Portable Microbiology Laboratory water test; the water source he collected for this test is his family's main drinking water source-a borehole near his home-and and it was found to be at a high risk for disease associated with fecal contamination. The adage that "seeing is believing" has never felt so true when witnessing the realization of participants that the water they generally believed to be dirty is in fact proven to be unsafe.

Lubrication for the BioSand filter can be anything that is edible. Usually in trainings we use cooking oil, but here in Arusha lard from the local butcher is more cost effective, with the same effectiveness.

Hard physical work makes the BioSand filter training a demanding event. Here girl guides are pounding the concrete poured into the mold to remove air (which if trapped in the concrete could create leaks in the finished filter).

Anna pounding on the outside of the mold with a rubber mallet to force the concrete to settle and the air to move to the top.

The days work is finished! The concrete has been poured into the mold and will dry overnight. Syoni is seen here explaining how what she is touching is actually the bottom of the filter-for the filter is poured upside down and righted before it is extracted 18 to 24 hours from now.

One of only two male participants, Joshua was the one recruited to attend the training by Anna as she was lecturing the group of men selling sand and gravel on the need to diversify their occupations and search for more lucrative and productive employment. After completing the gravel order for the training and setting off for her car she was called back by this young man who wanted to know more about what she was doing and how he might become involved. If ANEPO's BioSand filter project develops into more full scale implementation he will surely have a position as a technician.

The concrete has set overnight and now it's time to extract the filter from its mold. One participant is reaching in the filter to pull out the bottom retainer as another unscrews the bolts on the nose of the filter.

With patience and perseverance the two male particpants are successful in pulling the inner mold out the top of the filter. This piece helped the filter keep its shape and not cave in as it was drying.

Mama Syoni standing next to a newly extracted BioSand filter.

The training participants working together to turn the filter upside down before taking the mold apart. Not an easy task as it is about 160 lbs and still a bit fragile!

Smiles and and cheers and pride swell as the training participants marvel at their first filter constructed!

The newly extracted BioSand filter will sit with water in it for 7 days in order for the concrete to cure, becoming hard and strong with no leaks.

Extraction of filter #2 is underway and cheers of encouragement rise as once again, Marco and Joshua complete the first step of pulling out the inner mold.

Tanzanian Girl Guide participants looking on as the review session for the week's training gets under way on the final day.

Anna conducting a practical review session about how the rock and sand are placed into the BioSand filter during installation.

Final training day presentations by the participants! It's always amazing to hear how much they have understood and learned in 5 days about a topic they previously had little or no experience with. And not just knowledge but practical hands-on skills and strategies for implemention.

Marco explaining to Arusha's chief engineer and matron of the Arusha Tanzania Girl Guides -who attended the training's final afternoon presentations and certificate awarding ceremony-the process of preparing the rock and sand for the construction and installation of the BioSand filter.

Anna elaborating on the methodology for the Portable Microbiology Laboratory for the Girl Guide matron guest of honor.

Arusha's chief engineer sticking his hand inside the plastic bag of the Solar CooKit to confirm that the pot is in fact hot and cooking the food.

A Girl Guide and a member of ANEPO explain the design and operating parameters of the BioSand filter.

Syoni and Anna demonstrating the simple Solar CooKit technology.

Arusha's chief engineer awarding certificates of participation to the members of the BioSand filter training during the final day's cmlosing ceremony.

The training group poses for a picture before parting ways. Most of these participants have made sacrifices with home and work to be here for the five day training. They were glad to have come, exhausted and ready to get back to their normal schedules!

The matron of the Arusha chapter of the Tanzanian Girl Guides admires the posters Anna and Syoni received at the end of the African Women and Water Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. These tarpaulin posters with the picture of each participant were hanging in the conference room and at the end of the week the participants, trainers and organizers took marker pens and wrote messages to each other and everyone took their posters home with them. During ASD's follow-up visits these posters were proudly on display in almost every woman's home or office!

Mama Syoni giving me a tour of Anna's garden and talking to me about her other aspirations and project ideas concerning her work as a community nurse and midwife.

Anna Anatoli's yard is an extension of the community work that she is so tirelessly involved with. This is an alternative small scale farming technique she is going to promote to women's groups she works with to encourage household gardening to positively affect nutrition.
Truly amazing work and inspirational living by Anna Anatoli and Syoni Mnzava, the Tanzanian participants of the 2008 African Women and Water Conference!