ACCRA, Ghana — In many remote villages, water is a scarce resource, but Saha Global has been facilitating safe water access in Northern Ghana for 10 years.
The challenges are great. Rural communities in Northern Ghana often rely upon man-made dugouts for their water needs as groundwater is difficult to extract. Unfortunately, dugout water is often turbid—heavy in dangerous minerals as well as microbial and parasitic contamination. Also, dugouts are only seasonal resources, limited during the dry season. In some locations, industrials uses—farming and chemical mining, oil, and other water-dependent industries—pollute the water as well. Competition with industry further limits what is available. The infrastructure necessary to reach tiny villages is prohibitively expensive.
Saha Global is a 10-year-old NGO facilitating clean water for small, rural Northern Ghana communities. The organization began with the founders’ deep understanding that the technical solutions available were sufficient, but the method of distribution warranted examination and improvement. As MIT engineering and development students, founders Vanessa Green and Kate Cincotta understood the array of solutions available was sufficient, so they selected sustainable water treatment plan focused their intervention on a durable, community-scale, low-technology, social-enterprise model of implementation.
Although progress has been made, the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals continue to emphasize the importance of expanding safe water access. By 2015, 88.7 percent of people in Ghana had access to improved water as compared to 1990 when only 55.5 percent had access. Yet, 25 percent of deaths among children under age 5 are still attributed to water-borne illnesses. Still, 29 percent of all rural and peri-urban hand pumps are broken, and an additional 49 percent are partially functional. Filtration stations are often built in remote areas, but without a maintenance budget, they quickly fall into disrepair.
Focusing on Female Empowerment
Saha Global model works to get clean water to the smallest villages in the most remote parts of Northern Region Ghana—those of 400-1,200 people. Using inexpensive and readily-available materials: chlorine and alum, a large, village jerrycan and buckets for every family, Saha Global facilitates training to start a clean-water business and then monitors the village efforts and water quality for 10 years.
It is the long-term commitment that significantly differentiates their efforts. Saha Global has trained 378 women-entrepreneurs who have launched 134 clean water businesses that serve approximately 62,458 people. It costs Saha Global just $13 to bring clean water to one person. Of that amount, “$2 is the initial donation and the remainder is the cost of serving a site for 10 years,” Kate Cincotta, CEO of Saha Global told The Borgen Project.
With this unwavering focus on problem-solving and program analysis, Saha Global has been facilitating safe water to Northern Ghana for 10 years.
Now in their 11th year, Saha Global has set an ambitious goal of serving all of the 800,000 people in Northern Ghana. Toward that goal, they have scaled up their work, hiring 30 local field coordinators, making major fund-raising goals and carefully evaluating the sites they have served the longest for hints at what practices are most enduring.
“While we want everyone to have water pumped in their homes [someday], our approach is to stop people from dying right now from contaminated water,” said Cincotta.
– Heather Hughes