Raise the Bar Series: Working with Water4 in Ghana

"I love it when I hear about an innovative and ambitious social project, and Water4’s NUMA Water approach was just that. Water4’s goal is to provide 90% of the population of 100,000 people in the Wassa East District of Ghana with safe water and, in my opinion, more importantly, to do this in a financially sustainable way. 

I thought, “I’ve got to see this!” 

That’s why, in January 2020, I managed to move some things around on a business trip in order to be in Wassa East District with Water4’s enterprise partner, Access Development. Water4 works at eradicating the world's water crisis by putting the solutions in the hands of the men, women, and children it affects most. 

"Pacha Soap Co. is working with Water4 and Access Development to fund the capital costs of bringing the NUMA Water system into 30 schools in 2020."

I’ve spent many years in Ghana. I travelled there in 2005 on a volunteering project and when I left, I honestly thought I would never return. 

Fast forward 15 years and I’ve been in Ghana more times than I can count: Spending 8 years working with a Ghana focused NGO where I ultimately became a Director, being the Deputy CEO of an agricultural social business, and consulting on a mix of for-profit and non-profit projects. 

I’m a signed up Ghana lover! 

In my 15 years in Ghana, I have never drunk water from a borehole (a narrow hole dug into the ground to source water, normally with a hand pump attached)! You just don’t do it as a foreigner; the quality is always suspect, you might be lucky and be fine but odds are that you will have a bad stomach or potentially much worse. 

However, when Samuel Edusei, the Access Development  COO, finished explaining their NUMA Water system to me (walking me through the benefits of using a deep borehole, multiple filtration systems, chlorination, and UV treatment), I was convinced that the water was safe to drink and took my first swig of NUMA Water straight from the faucet. 

And it tasted...well, just like any other safe, freshwater I would get in the US. 

There was no chemical taste (which, I confess, I was expecting) and no plastic taste, which is what you normally get when you drink the main alternative source of treated drinking water in Ghana, ‘sachet water’. 

Sachet water comes in half-liter plastic bags, sold widely for $0.04 a bag. With NUMA, you get a better quality of water, rigorously tested and for the same price of $0.04 but for an entire bucket [18 liters]!. 

So NUMA wins on price and quality, but where they really excel is with the delivery model. 

In the US, we take for granted being able to open the faucet and have safe, clean water. Just because the majority of Ghanaians don’t have such a facility doesn’t mean that there is not a demand for piped water directly to their homes. 

This is where the NUMA model gets clever. 

By meeting the needs of those in the community who can afford water piped directly into their homes on a smart meter (a meter that can be read and managed remotely), Access Development can cross-subsidize the provision of water to the rest of the community through sales kiosks, strategically placed throughout the community, all fed from one top quality borehole and filtration system. 

This leads me to the thing that impressed me the most about the NUMA model: the financial sustainability. 

Water4 and Access Development are committed to being able to provide 90% of the Wassa East District’s population with safe  NUMA Water and to run this provision into the future without donor funds. 

The cross-subsidization model enables this to become reality, and although the model is not 100% self-sustaining yet, they are well on their way, managing their progress towards this goal with determination and efficiency. 

In my mind, this is a critical goal. Projects that rely on donor funds long term are doomed to failure. Water4 knows this and has built the NUMA Water approach with sustainability at its core. 

Pacha Soap Co. is working with Water4 and Access Development to fund the capital costs of bringing the NUMA Water system into 30 schools in 2020. 

Currently, pupils have to take time out from their school day to walk to fetch untreated borehole water from other points in town, carrying the water back in buckets balanced on their heads. 

By bringing NUMA Water directly into the schools, children get direct access to quality water and more time in the classroom, with the on-going costs of the water being funded through partnerships between local communities and local government. 

Here at Pacha, we are hugely excited to be a small part of Water4’s successful and innovative NUMA Water approach to district-wide coverage. 

The team at Pacha wishes everyone at Water4 and Access Development a hugely successful 2020. We are proud to be your partner. 

As they say in Ghana, 'More grease to your elbows!'”

Andy Thornton – VP Sourcing and Impact – Pacha Soap Co.