Last week, I returned from Ghana.
If you are a monthly Collective Member or have joined our Water Campaign over the years, you need to know how transformative you are. Your generosity is making a profound difference.
Because in my 15 years of doing this work, I have never seen anything more holistic, thoughtful, and effective than what Saha Global is doing to bring water to people in need.
If you're new here, I hope you'll give me a few minutes to read this post (I tried my best to make it short and easy to skim).
Here are 5 intentional ways your generosity is doing more to give people clean water.
1. Blue Buckets - Personalized.
Before the community gets clean water, Saha Global's Customer Care Team goes door-to-door. They introduce themselves, educate the family about clean water and give them a blue bucket (free swag!). This takes time (sometimes a few days to reach every household).
They gather family info and write the name of the household on the bucket with sharpie.
The name on the bucket serves two purposes:
- While in line, you always know which bucket is yours.
- On opening day of the water kiosk, Saha takes roll call. If there's a bucket missing, they visit the household the next day to understand why they didn't attend.
Their goal is 100% clean water. So, they want to ensure EVERY household understands the value of clean water.
My take: This is the first time I've seen an organization give free new buckets. I LOVE it. After all, water isn't clean if people drink from dirty jerry cans. (FYI - the bucket holds 20 liters, the same as a traditional jerry can).
2. Entrepreneurial Approach.
The community elects three women to run the kiosk. Working together, they treat the water, collect money and earn a little income for their work. The money generated pays for the water treatment expenses and incentivizes them to do their jobs well.
My take: Your gifts are radiating to empower women with the agency over their income - often for the first time. The community feels ownership and costs are self-sustaining. Do I need to say more?!
3. Effective, low-cost water treatment.
Most water organizations drill wells. Saha is different.
Instead, they have created an innovative method of establishing water treatment kiosks.
- Women gather water from the river and pour it into three drums.
- Water is then treated with alum to kill germs and reduce turbidity. Water sits for 12 hours while the alum kills germs and the dirt settles to the bottom.
- After 12 hours, water is scooped out of the three drums and poured over a sieve and into the tank. As a final step, they add 3 Aquatabs (chlorine tablets). Most bacteria was removed with the alum, but the chlorine ensures water is 100% e-coli free. 30 minutes later, the tap can start flowing again.
My take: I love the innovation behind this process. Alum and Aquatabs are both available in the local market. Kate Cincotta, the founder of Saha Global, attended MIT. She leveraged her degree to design a water treatment system that is low-cost, appropriate and effective. So many orgs love to drill wells (it's fun!). But in Northern Ghana, the water table is low (deep) so drilling is expensive. And hand pumps break down all the time. It's easier to maintain these water kiosks.
4. Monthly E-coli Sample Checks.
Each month, the Customer Care Team collects water samples at the water kiosk and at randomly selected households. Samples are then sent to their lab for e-coli testing. If the samples detect e-coli, their team mobilizes to do more training and fix the issue.
My take. What? You want to give everyone clean water. And then you ENSURE it's actually clean. Again, Saha sets the bar high. I have never seen anything so holistic and smart.
5. Ten years of check-ins.
Basically, they do these monthly check-ins for the next ten years.
My take: A decade might not seem like a long time to people who don't work in international development. I can get that. Here's my honest take (and I understand if I make some orgs mad by sharing this).
Many/most organizations and local governments show up at communities. Drill a well. Take a photo celebrating and then NEVER return. They never check if the community still has water.
Since they rarely/never monitor or evaluate their work, they use vanity metrics, such as, "We have drilled 1,000 wells!" Then they assume the entire population must be drinking that glorious clean water.
But that isn't success. Especially when 1 in 4 hand pumps in Sub-Saharan Africa are currently broken.
The real metric should be, "Here's how many water points we installed that are still working today."
"We know the water is clean."
"We know how many people are drinking from it daily."
For those that know me personally, you know that I have worked "in water" for a long time. And you know I have felt such anguish about the lack of transparency in our sector. And the role international development orgs play in drilling wells, celebrating with cheering crowds and walking away... Or doing a shoddy job, "but whose watching?"
I don't pretend to have all the answers.
But oh my gosh.
I'm excited about this.
I knew it was good.
But seeing it firsthand made all the difference.
If you choose to give alongside us, here's what you should know.
The cost to bring water to one community is the same as traditional charities who are drilling wells.
- Every $50 donation is enough to help one person gain clean water.
- Every $10,000 is enough to help an entire community gain clean water.
But the budget is flipped from traditional water programs. Traditional charities have expensive hardware costs and light "soft" costs.
Hardware costs are usually items you can see, such as pipes, parts, drill rigs, etc.
Soft costs are items you can't see such as, trainings, coaching and meetings with the village chief, for example.
For this water program, the hardware isn't pricey (three drums, one tank, etc). But the soft costs are higher:
- The Customer Care Team Salaries (all local staff, by the way)
- Fuel for the monthly e-coli testing,
- Regular meetings with the women entrepreneurs on how to budget their incomes, etc.
The costs are comparable, but I'd argue you are giving much more.
Because here's the thread woven through this work. You're also aligning your values about how we see people.
It's "customers" not "beneficiaries."
It's sitting with a mom and helping her budget her new income.
It's ensuring EVERY child has clean water. And proving it.
It's leaving no person behind.
In fact, on the back of their pickup truck it reads, "bringing the cleanest water to the hardest to reach places."
And that's the truth.
They are doing it. Every day.
Because of you.
And it's an honor to bear witness.
World Water Day Update:
Last week we kicked off our World Water Day campaign to help Saha Global install water kiosks in six communities.
So far, 471 people have given to help 4 communities get clean water for the first time!
We need help to "bring it home"
If you have already given, could you tell a friend?
If you can do more, would you consider joining us in giving?
Your gift is matched this month, until March 31st at midnight. This means just $25 will give one person clean water (and so much more).
Here is the campaign page to learn more: https://www.theadventureproject.org/givewater