Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Electric Well

It’s been one week since we arrived in Ghana, and we were joined today by the last member of the travel team, Heather Morriss, coming to us from Germany. It already feels like so much longer, and we have been truly adopted as members of the community.

On Thursday, the drilling rig arrived in Amanfrom and drilled both wells. The rig showed up early, at 7:50 am, and began drilling the Primary School Well. The drillers were using an air rotary drill, in which compressed air blows the cuttings to the top of the borehole as the drill stem advances to greater depths. As a result, the drilling process is very dusty initially, but stops once water is encountered. The drillers provided us with a shovelful of drill cuttings representing each meter that the drill stem had advanced, so that we could make observations about the geology. The children gathered to watch the drill, and screamed in excitement when the water began shooting out once the drill reached a depth of 21 meters. Water seemed to be primarily in the deeper crystalline geologic formation (most likely fractured granite or gneiss), rather than the overlying shale formation. We continued to drill until 60 meters, which was the minimum in our designs. The well was briefly developed by shooting compressed air into the bottom of the borehole, causing the formation water to rush to the surface and create a fountain of water 10 meters into the air. “Development” in the context of well construction means removing any fine particles which may have been introduced into the subsurface by the drilling process, as these particles can clog the water-bearing fractures and the well screen. Even the adults, including the EWB team, were excited to see the geyser we had created! To keep the children away from the built well, Sammy told the kids that the drillers poured electricity into the borehole, and they must stay away so they don't get shocked. This worked at first, as no one was spotted anywhere near the well while we were relocating to the second drill site.

Drilling at the Primary School Premises 

The full array of Primary School well rock

We moved to the Borzey House to start drilling immediately after developing the first well. Drilling 11:30 am. Unlike the Primary School well, we did not find much evidence of water, as the shale formation extended the full depth, and the crystalline formation was not encountered. We drilled to our maximum designed depth – 100 meters – and the borehole still had not produced flowing water, only moist intervals which could indicate the presence of water bearing fractures which have been blocked by drill cuttings. We then had to decide if we wanted to drill deeper, hoping we could get to more water, or do hydro-fracking (which was recommended to us by the contractor). We gave the borehole 1 hour to recharge, and some water did come up. We decided to drill an additional 20 meters, at additional cost, in hopes that more fractures would be intersected by the boring.

Drilling at the Borzey House

Unfortunately, following this decision, the contractor proceeded to change the screen in our design to an open borehole without consulting us.  This caused some tension between the team and the contractor, as they decided on their own to change the design of the well. The contractor failed to communicate effectively to us the reason for the design change or how it worked.  They also were rushing to complete both wells in a single day, without adequate time for communication and consideration of options.  We believe this was because they didn't want to return with the full drilling crew the second day. Luckily our technical mentor, Joelle Freeman, is a professional hydrogeologist with well drilling experience, so we stopped the construction of the well until we were all in agreement on the design. We ended up with a approving a modification to an “open borehole” below 42 meters of unslotted PVC. The end of the pipe is “fanned” out to keep washed gravel from going down to the end of the borehole. The bedrock that is exposed from 42 meters to 120 meters should have minimal fine sediments after the well is developed, allowing the water to enter the borehole and remain clear. 

In the evening, the children who had been watching the slow progress of drilling the Borzey House well, proudly announced that they had tested to see if the Primary School Well had electricity!  They all laughed so hard and said, no one was shocked, we are not afraid! So, since we were caught trying to trick them, we told them the truth, that there is no electricity, but they must not disturb the well until it is complete. We were still working after the light had gone, so the constructor left before developing the well. The Borzey House well will be developed within the next few days, most likely using the same submersible pump that will be used to conduct the yield test. We are waiting for the yield test results to finalize the design of each well.

On Friday we also ventured out to Aburi to meet with the South Akwapim District Assembly. After a long and somewhat overwhelming Ghanaian government structure crash course, we presented our designs. The District Assembly was very interested in our designs and asked insightful questions. They ensured us that they will supervise the villagers and the Amanfrom Unit Committee to make sure the system is up and running even after we are long gone. The Assembly also was very interested in forming a partnership between Columbia University and the district for further projects.

The team in Aburi

We have also briefly visited Obodan, to monitor and study the water system that the Chapter previously constructed. We were pleasantly surprised at the condition of the water system. Three years later, all parts are functioning, and vegetation has grown back to protect the pipes from erosion. We also saw that the villagers modified the spigots so they can fill their heavy buckets with water, while it is already on their heads! This eliminates the need for a second person to assist with lifting the heavy bucket from the ground.  We were very impressed that the Obodan Water and Sanitation Committee took initiative and derived such a clever solution to the problem! Engineering for the win! We also learned that the income from the fees for water from the Obodan water system (10 pesewas per bucket) has provided a reliable source of income for the Unit Committee to use towards other projects. Particularly impressive is that the money was used to raise a 5% contribution for the construction of a new Junior High School by the Blue Skies Foundation. The new Obodan J.H.S. is now one of the nicest schools in the entire Eastern Region. We hope our water distribution project in Amanfrom will be as successful, and that the income from the system can be used for future community development projects as it has in Obodan.

Thank you for reading our update,
EWB Columbia University Ghana Travel Team 2016

P.S. Ghanaian Bars are called Drinking Spots...not that I would know.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Greetings from Ghana!

Ete sen! (Hello!)
EWB Ghana Travel Team 2016

The first travel team (Anna Libey, Sejal Jain, Juliet Kirk, Paulina Babiak, and our wonderful mentor Joelle Freeman) has arrived this Saturday. The last few days have been very productive and we would like to share our discoveries!

For the unfamiliar with the project, the main goal for our trip is to implement two wells in Amanfrom, which will be located by the Amanfrom Primary School and at "Borzey's House," a point near the center of the village, that is easily accessible to the villagers. We are also on a mission to Obodan, the site of our previous project, to monitor the latrines built on the previous trips. Additionally, we are surveying Amanfrom for future projects.

From the start, Anna and Sejal (who coming from Mumbai arrived about 10 hours before the rest of the team) met with the Multi-Hydro Technique Ltd. in Accra to speak with them for the first time in person about drilling the boreholes for the well. They have informed us that while the hand pump is feasible, if the borehole becomes too deep, it might become too heavy to pump for children and women (the ones usually burdened with the task of retrieving water). They suggested using Submersible Pump (electrical pump which pumps all the water to the tank so people could access the water straight from the tank).

The next day, after the rest stragglers arrived, we have surveyed the sites obtained by a geologist on the previous trip, to make sure our coordinates match up, as well as show the sites to the new members who have not traveled here before. We have encountered an issue with the GPS coordinates, as the well that would be build on the Primary School premises did not match up. Immediately, we have checked the reports and contacted the constructor who performed the original survey to make sure the spot is correct (even 10 meters could make a huge difference in the well yield!).

The future borehole sites:

The "Borzey House" Site

Amanfrom School Premises Site

After the initial survey and sightseeing of the village, we had a meeting with the Council of Elders who officially welcomed us to Amanfrom. After renaming Anna to the Anan, we have presented them with our project, and insighted them with their responsibilities and the responsibilities of the community to preserve the well and make it last as long as possible. The Elders ensured us of their cooperation, and ensured us that the Water Committee will this time work to make the project possible. The meeting concluded with us taking some stylish pictures with the Elders. We plan to meet with them again next Sunday to update them on the wells, and hopefully to receive a Ghanaian names (I want one too!).

Officially handing over the project to the Village!

The Council of Elders, the Chief of the Village, and the Team.

The next day, we ventured out to Accra, to meet with Multi-Hydro Drilling Company, to drill out (haha) final details of the contract. They have agreed to just drill the boreholes for the well first, before signing a contract for pump. This allowed us to have more time to research the pumps, and contact EWB about change in our design. Our mentor, Joelle, our in country contact, Sammy, and the Multi-Hydro project managers headed to the sites to survey them for the feasibility of the track with the drill to come through. We were ordered to remove one tree branch to clear the pathway.

After the survey, we came back to Multi-Hydro and we signed the contract. MAY THE PROJECT OFFICIALLY PROCEED!

We are awaiting for the last wire transfer from EWB to start drilling.

All the best,

EWB Ghana Travel Team 2016

Friday, September 11, 2015

Latrine Photos

As promised, here are some pictures of the latrine in progress! 

Standing on top of the formwork to lay rebar for the concrete slab over the pits

 The concrete slab has been poured and cured, with six holes - one for each latrine.

The latrine stalls in progress!

 Latrine stalls with doors and PVC pipes to serve as ventilation

A side view of the latrine

Back view of the latrine, featuring Christine

A look at the inside of the pit!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wrapping Up!

Hello everybody!

Christine here! The first travel team (Adam, Anna, David, Wing-Sum) left us last week to head back to New York, and our mentor Alexi left Ghana last night as well. Leerang, Becca and I are in Accra for the last few days before we leave on Thursday evening, and we have a lot to talk about!

With regards to the KVIP, we left Kwasi Doi on Saturday with high hopes for the completion of the latrine. We had a few setbacks with time and materials, but we are confident that by the time we visit one last time on Thursday before our flight, the latrine will be finished and ready for us to help paint it (pictures of that later)! We had one more maintenance meeting with the community members of Kwasi Doi, and there was a great turnout - everybody is extremely excited to have a new, working latrine. Of course, we stressed the importance of constant maintenance for the success of the latrine, and the community members agreed.  We hope that the implementation of this latrine will not only improve sanitation in Kwasi Doi, but that it will inspire the community to continue with development in the future.

We continued to work on surveying in the Amanfrom area and had several meetings with the community, where we discussed bookkeeping and reliability within the newly elected unit committee, which is the main governing body of the area. We most likely won't be building anything in Amanfrom in the near future, but we are looking forward to building a stronger partnership over the coming years!

All right, time for us to go eat dinner - we'll check in one last time before we leave New York! Thanks to everybody who has been following our trip and supported us over the last few months - your encouragement has been wonderful for all of us.

All the best,
Becca, Christine, and Leerang

Saturday, August 22, 2015

New Discoveries

Greetings from Ghana!!! The second travel team (Leerang, Becca, and Christine) arrived last Monday, and the first team (Anna, Wing-Sum, Adam, and David) left this morning. Our mentor, Alexi, is here for both travel team times.

There's been a few new discoveries about Amanfrom's current water systems. Community members told us of a borehole built in the 1990s that had worked for a few weeks but then was believed to have gone dry. To see why the borehole stopped working, we hired a specialist to open up the borehole and examine the piping. It turns out that the borehole has water in it, but that a crack in the bottom of the piping has prevented it from being able to pump water. We were really surprised that this borehole has been here the whole time unused when a simple repair (costing 650 cedis) would fix it. We've informed community leaders of our discovery and will meet with them soon to discuss plans to fix it.

We also learned of a private pump and an extension of a water source on the outskirts of the village. A nice girl named Celestina helped show us these and is excited to help us learn more. Her whole family even came by our place to pay us a formal visit. It was great to talk to them about their school and life in the village. Celestina is fourteen years old, so she has applied for high schools and will find out where she is accepted in a few weeks.

On the latrine side, construction is going well and the masons have adapted to the design changes we made to their usual latrine construction. Our community contact, Sammy, has been great about overseeing the latrine work and ensuring the construction occurs efficiently. We are excited about the technical process of building the latrine, and plan to meet more will community leaders and members to ensure that there are systems in place to maintain the latrine at a high quality.

We're looking forward to the completion of the latrine and learning more about Amanfrom's water sources, and will continue to update when we can reach internet access.

2015 EWB Ghana Travel Team

Friday, August 14, 2015

Ete sen! (Eh ya!) - Travel Team 2015 Week 1

After a variety of air travel mishaps, we’ve all arrived in Ghana! At this point we’ve been here for almost a week, so this post will include a brief summary of several days worth of work.

For those of you who are not familiar with our projects, here’s a quick summary:

This trip we are hoping to accomplish two goals. The first is to implement a latrine for the community of Kwasi Doi. Our other goal is to gather information about water usage and availability in the neighboring community of Amanfrom.

We expected there to already be a hole for the pit of the latrine so that we could begin working right away. Unfortunately it’s always difficult to communicate overseas, and when we arrived in Kwasi Doi we found that the community had not started digging yet. Because of time constraints, our community contact, Sammy, had to hire a backhoe. Luckily, the backhoe was finished digging in just one day.

While the backhoe was working, we met with leaders in Amanfrom. The leaders emphasized that their first priority is water for their community, but also mentioned that in the future they’d like to have a latrine as well. We told them a little about how EWB functions, and our expectations for the community to contribute to the project as well.

One of the biggest challenges we’ve had this trip has been reaching design agreements with the workers, especially with the language barrier and because we did not communicate as well while we were still in the U.S. Additionally, we found that some of the measurements for materials such as the cement blocks are not the same as we had anticipated. We eventually came to an agreement after talking with the district engineer, and now we’re back on track for latrine construction. On the bright side, many of our larger quantity building materials cost less than we budgeted for.

Before making cement, we had to gather a bunch of water to mix into the cement powder and sand. The community’s water pump is down the hill from the latrine, and the villagers carried water from the pump to the latrine site on their heads. We wanted to help out, so each of us carried a few as well. Balancing the buckets on our head was tricky at first, but we caught on quickly. The kids and women watching thought it was hilarious that the “obroni”s (foreigners) were carrying water the way they do. They are better at it than us, but at least we were some help and it was amusing for them. We are now done with cement pouring, and will let the cement cure over a few days before beginning on the walls.

We’ve learned a lot just by interacting with the different people who live here. Our neighbor, Abraham, told us about his experiences living in Amanfrom. He told us about his job at a hotel, and also about the blackouts that they experience in Ghana. We also learned about what TV shows he likes to watch, and he taught us a few useful words and phrases in Twi (the language spoken here). He and his family have been extremely hospitable to us during our stay.

This afternoon we met with the district assembly man of Amanfrom. His name is Michael, and he also happens to be Abraham's brother. From him, we learned about the three regions of Amanfrom and how they currently get water. He also told us a lot about what the government looks like within the community, and how families are structured. Tomorrow morning, he's going to show us around a little, since we haven't really gotten a chance to see Amanfrom yet.

Our next travel team begins arriving on Monday, and we look forward to seeing them soon! For now, we hope you enjoyed our little update, and we'll try to update again in the near future.

All the best,

EWB Ghana Travel Team 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

You've been SURVEYED!

Afwee Shepa! (still relevant, we think)

We've finally made it to the internet cafe! After navigating through a maze of Nsawam's busy streets of taxis, fruit stands (without fruit), and market hustle and becoming completely lost, we've finally collected our wits about us and used our resourceful teamwork to locate familiar territory once again to bring you this run on sentence. What a triumph!

The past few days have been full of meetings and surveys and we are brimming with new information, ideas, and motivation to begin the next stages of our projects. On the side, we've also completed the plumbing on the Central and Western latrines (2 of the main latrines in Obodan), that was not finished from last winter's travel trip. It's been a busy few days.

Our first community meeting was with Kwasi Doi on Saturday, in which we responded to the community's feedback that their latrine is low functioning with water often filling the pits. We have been faced with this issue for the past 2.5 years and cannot locate the source of the water. Thus, we've decided in keeping with our end of the bargain, it is our responsibility to provide a new, functional latrine that meets the need of the community. During the meeting, we discussed the latrine options and design criteria with the attendees for the future toilet plans. The conclusion was that the community prefers a KVIP with more seats to meet the demand of the community members.

The second community meeting held over this weekend was with Akwakupom on Sunday (nice and early at 630am). At this session, we deliberated the future of their current latrine system, which had been converted from a source-separating latrine into a lined pit latrine (similar to a KVIP) since our last travel trip. The pits on both sides of the latrine were opened a month ago due to the great demand during a funeral. The key intention of this meeting was to make the community members aware that the original functionality of the latrine was lost since the design was modified. The meeting was concluded with responsibility for the latrine's maintenance being handed over to the community.

Our final meeting was our Latrine Education Workshop with the greater community of Obodan. Here, all the posters and shoeboxes we lugged to Ghana came to use. These materials were used to explain the components of the latrine that caused the most confusion as highlighted by our surveys. We also passed around a bag of compost from the pilot latrine to show the end goal and results of source-separating latrines (beautiful black soil). The community members actively participated with questions and discussions and we are more confident than ever that the latrines are in capable hands and will be well maintained in our absence.

Today we switched gears (and communities) and headed to Amanfrom. Mike, the assemblyman from Amanfrom previously introduced, was waiting for us as we showed up at 830AM Ghana time. Mike's punctuality will definitely take some getting used to! We spent the entire day with Mike and Emmanuel, another member of the community, talking and surveying the different households through Amanfrom to gain a better understanding of how our skills can best help. Some of the problems that the different households brought up included lack of water access, lack of a secondary school in the region, and a low supply of public latrines to meet the demand of the community. We will be taking this information back to Columbia and can't wait to share it with everyone at home (who are all reading this, we're sure).

For the comic relief part of this blog post, the team decided to cook Faustina a meal to show our appreciation for all her assistance with translation work over the past week. Moral of this saga, never try new recipes with guests and Mexican-American Ghanaian fusion will not catch on anytime in the near future. However, if you don't like to see or taste your onions or tomatoes, you can hide them quite well in a stew of black beans, casava, and taco seasoning. Faustina was a delightful dinner guest and when asked her opinoin of our meal, could only muster laughter.

We'll be eating out tonight; until next time!