Friday, May 25, 2012

Days 9-11: Sluggin It Out

     The Obronis (foreigners) have been pretty busy in Obodan the past few days. The latrines are coming along really well. We are putting the finishing touches on them: painting usage and maintenance instructions inside, completing the urine diversion pipes and connecting them to collection tanks, and bracing the ventilation pipes. We will definitely have the latrines up and running soon and hope to survey some of the villagers on their initial reactions to them before we leave.

     In terms of the water project, we have completed our surveying and calculations of the land elevation and piping distance and will soon send our data to send back to our team at home. Today we completed our first slug test on Borehole 1, the well we plan to pump from for the water distribution system. Planning to start at 8 in the morning, we closed the borehole to the community only to find that the man hired to remove the hand pump didn't show up. We made some calls and finally got someone else to help us out and began the testing around 4:30. That sums up Ghana time for you. Not only did we have our whole team watching and working on the test, but we also had quite a few families as well as a couple dozen kids observing too. We didn't have time today to do a test for Borehole 2, but plan to finish it on Monday. We were concerned about the yield of Borehole 1 because it is notoriously harder to pump and takes a long time to get going. The slug test alleviated our worries though because our results show that the borehole has a very high recharge rate and is probably pumping from a confined aquifer. We still need to do the calculations for our data, but at the moment it looks quite promising.

     Throughout the week we have been problem solving more than just latrines and borehole tests. Given the limited tools and supplies available to us, we have recently developed a knack for using things for unintended purposes to accomplish our goals. For example, after breaking our last hacksaw blade, we began using Christine's Swiss Army knife to cut our PVC pipes, which supposedly "cut like butter," though most of us prefer the new saw we got in Nsawam this morning. Other innovations include a rock for a hammer (there are only a few hammers to be found in all of Obodan) and benches for ladders (which are also limited), but most notable is our use of trenches. Alongside the main path of Obodan, is a fairly deep drainage trench to channel water from the top of the mountain to the road and to help prevent erosion. However, erosion is a huge problem in this part of Ghana, washing away over two feet of sediment in the past 30 years. As a result, the trenches are now elevated above the ground level and they can no longer serve their intended purpose. As we mentioned in our last post, we were having doubts about the proposed plan for our water distribution pipes, due to the rocky ground and erosion. However, we decided that the trench might be the perfect place to put our pipes. It takes something that is already in place and no longer used and makes it a hassle free and safe place for our pipes. Plus it's the perfect size! We surveyed this new route and hope to figure out appropriate spigot locations in the next couple of days.

     In other news, we are still being treated like celebrities here. We assumed that the novelty of our skin colors and language differences would wear off within a week, but the natives still call out to us wherever we go. It is impossible to go outside without hearing people calling out, "Obroni, how are you?" and having a swarm of children run to hug you and hold your hand. It can be difficult to deal with the kids at times because they constantly want to hang out with you on the work site and take you away to play and show you things. That being said, their cuteness and sweet temperaments make them a joy to be around, especially if you're Christine, who we are convinced might try to steal an African baby to bring home. The adults are quick to show off to us too, offering us fruit, porridge and banku, and marriage proposals. Yesterday, a pineapple farmer was passing through our work site and he stopped to explain to us how they determine when a crop is ready for harvest. They pour juice on a refractometer and then hold it up to the sun to read the sugar levels. All in all, it has been a productive week and we look forward to an equally productive weekend.

Until next time,
Mira, Mike, Christine, Kerri, Andrea, Caitlin & Kabir  

Our team performing the slug test on Borehole 1 

Pumping and cleaning

Surveying along the trench


Fellowship of the Latrines

Kerri measures while Andrea records


  1. Way to go,"less is more" sometimes with tools. I love to see mechanical ability combined with brains! Cool stuff, what a positive impact you all are making for those communities. I think customs might question a kid in your carry on......... :)

  2. Nice bandana, Christine..
    Happy birthday Andrea!! Time to break out the boxed winee

    Congrats on the slug test, that's really good news. And the weather looks awesome there! Yay

  3. Happy Birthday Andrea!

    Great to see your team's mechanical ingenuity. Good work.

  4. Nice! It is good to see your working strategy. The team work is really appreciable and both the mechanical ability and intelligence can make a hard work simple. The use of this bore hole tool will make your work more easy. I am happy to see your team work and I appreciate it. Thanks for sharing this post with us it will inspire us to work in a team.