"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Day 7 – 29 May 2012

Matt took a little break from blogging, so this is from our assistant lead, Jeseth:

Hey Everyone,

Today was the pump changeover day! Early in the morning we went to Kumasi to get some missing equipment, specifically the part which connected the pump to the piping we have and filter housing for the sachet machine. We got Ofori to drive us with Francis early in the morning. We ended up taking more time than expected trying to find the pump connector of the correct size. This trip made it very evident to me that we would never have been able to successfully make this purchase without our in-country partners and contractors. We ended up going from store to store trying to find this part. At one point, two stores kept sending us back and forth to one another. Though frustrating, without Francis being there, we probably would have never been able to find the right store. Eventually we managed to find the right part and we were back in Patriensa by 10:30 AM.

When we arrived at the PPE lot we made the trenches deeper. Yesterday we had removed the soil that was on top of the trenches. We were hoping that by the time we got back from Kumasi the community would have dug them deeper, but as it was not a community work day this did not happen. We worked really hard to make these deeper, and sure enough as soon as we picked up shovels and pick-axes young boys were eager to help us. Francis continued to tie up loose ends until he could get the electrician and welder to the PPE lot to do the pump changeover.

A quick overview of the design of the hydraulic system will give context for today. We are converting the manual hand pump to an electrical submersible pump. The water will be pumped to a tank and the tank will gravity feed a community tap stand and also feed the sachet business. One reoccurring challenge throughout this implementation has been our technical expectations not being met. Such was the case with the shallow trenches for the piping. When we chose to redo this, we had no buy-in from our community or contractors and thus repaired it ourselves. The pump changeover was no different. Throughout the semester we have been working with our advisors and professors to create a very sophisticated, technically sound system to ensure the community and the business maintain their water supply.  One factor which was important to this design was automatic control switches. This switches, when correctly installed, would ensure the well would not be drawn down while maintaining a community water supply in the tank. It also optimized the time the pump was in operation. Once we arrived in country and talked to Francis we realized the system as we designed it is not available in Ghana. When it has been implemented it has failed primarily because of the unreliable power grid. Because of this, we ended up scraping our intended design on site. We primarily relied on our in-country partners to implement the system. This is good because they will be familiar with the maintenance of the system and it is a proven technology. At the same time, as the team member that worked on the designs, it was very frustrating to feel like my engineering knowledge was not being used.  In completely relying on our in-country experts we made the following assumptions:
·         We took on faith that well draw-down was not a concern for our system. Given the ease of our community tap (versus the hand pump which was there) and that there are 3 taps instead of one, more community members may begin to utilize this water source. We are also installing a very water intensive business. Well- draw down may be a concern in the future.
·         We are relying on local practices to clean the tank. I was very concerned about doing the pump conversion before cleaning the tank because the community water supply will probably need to be turned off when the tank is cleaned. We felt rushed by our contractors because they were just anxious to leave the job site. Getting them to clean the tank before the changeover seemed like a battle we were going to lose.

Even though our contractors do not seem concerned we feel it very important to have a way of knowing the level of water in the tank. This way community members that use the tap stand can even inform operators the tank is running low and that the well pump needs to be turned on.  We will be likely installing this system ourselves after our cultural excursion.

Another challenging aspect of today was feeling uncomfortable about the length of time the well was inoperable as a community water supply. When we first talked to Francis we suggested letting the community know of the day the well wasn’t going to be working. He assured and reassured us that the pump conversion would take 20 minutes, maximum. We once again experienced what I’ve begun to think of as “Ghana time.” It is not necessarily a bad thing but things in this country take a long time. We average about 1.25 hour waits for food at restaurants, for example. Francis had incorrectly estimated the amount of electrical wire attached to the pump. We removed the hand pump and then he realized the wire was too short. The most frustrating thing was that Kristina had asked him about this earlier in the day and he said it was enough wire.  The community did not have water while someone went to Konongo and back to buy the wire connect it. The community ended up not having water from this well for 4 hours. Needless to say, no one seemed particularly angry or frustrated with us; there are plenty of community water sources around that they could use. We, however, were frustrated because we knew we should have trusted our own judgment and insisted  upon a community-wide announcement about the changeover (moreover, we probably should have insisted upon measuring the wire before removing the hand pump.) The lesson we learned from this was that we need to have better community-wide communication about our project. We have a lot of communication with leaders in the community, but we want to ensure everyone knows about our project. Moreover we do not want to alienate people because we are removing their water supply of choice for 4 hours without communicating the reason for doing so. Because of this when we return from our cultural excursion we are going to request some meetings with the community so we can communicate who we are, what our project goals are, and ask for interested parties to apply with the Board of Directors as sachet workers.

By the end of the day we had 18 inch deep trenches, a community water supply that was working (which was a huge sigh of relief for everyone involved) and all we had left was water in a bag tomorrow! While the day was quite challenging and eventful, we learned how to improve our project moving forward.

Sorry for the delay in getting this posted!

Akousia Jeseth (I’m born on Sunday which determines names in Ghana, therefore my Ghanian name is Akousia, spelling may be completely off)

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