Week 1: Getting the team together.
Arriving in Accra to find out my internal flight was cancelled and I needed to get a 6hr bus trip, which turned into an 8hr bus journey toKumasi, was not the best of starts to setting up the trial. When I arrived in Kumasi I was happily greeted by the project coordinator Asantewa and the two students from Cranfield University Simon and Clemens. We moved into the project house and the long journey was forgotten as there was great energy in the team.
The first thing to do was to sort the warehouse for the delivery of the Torp-Isak portable toilets (great toilet all the way from Separett in Sweden), the closest commercially built model currently on the market to the Uniloo design. Once the toilets arrived it was time to arrange the branding of the toilets and getting the uniforms and t-shirts ready. With the project we have tried to use local talent as much as possible. We managed to get great uniforms made by sourcing fabric in the local market and getting a tailor to make them. What a great job he did.
The polo shirts, the printing of the passbooks, receipts books, business cards and all marketing materials were all produced and compiled locally. The results looked really good and professional.
At the end of week1 I knew we were in for a long journey but we had a great weekend watching our project coordinator Asantewa graduate with her masters from KNUST technical University in Kumasi.
Logistics are a nightmare; always have a plan B when working in Africa.
Week 2: Contracts and waste containers
Week 2 started off similar to week 1, my internal flight to Accra to meet with Unilever Ghana was cancelled. This turned out to be a good thing as there was so much work in Kumasi to be done. Our aim in week 2 was make sure the new recruits into the project, the Waste Collector, Service Associate, Contract Manager and Project Contractor were all trained up.
This was a very interesting part of starting up the trial, teaching people about sanitation and good hygiene who had little education in the area before. Everyone in the group really enjoyed the training as we tried to make it as interactive as possible using good, bad and in-between cards to indicate how to improve hygiene. The training was held at the offices of the Waste Management Department of the KMA, reflecting their ongoing support to the project.
The next phase was the practical training/interviews for the workers. We decided the best way to select the workers was to see how they performed in the field first. This was a good idea as candidates who flourished in the classroom fell apart on the field. The most worrying thing we found was the alcohol abuse by the workers in the sanitation field.
Getting the contract with the operators set up was a real challenge and a great learning for the future. Managing the stakeholders is very important in any project.
Week 3: Shipping containers and setting up for first loo delivery
We now had reached a point where everything was coming together; we had our uniforms, payments books and staff. A challenge we did not envisage was trying to find an old shipping container to store our items at the waste collection site. We spent 2 days driving all over Kumasi and following up on leads to buy/rent a container. We also needed to buy a poly tank to store water for the cleaning of the waste containers and preparing the toilet chemical. Our student from CranfieldUniversity, who was tasked with analysing the waste, was also having challenges in terms of finding the correct measuring equipment locally. The week ended well with us finding a container and purchasing a poly tank.
Week 3 was a definitely the week of challenges, one of the biggest is importing things into Ghana! Week 3 ended with us finally receiving the waste containers and intermediate bulk storage container (IBC) which allowed us to get toilets into peoples home for the proposed start date. The containers had gotten stuck in Luxembourg and we needed to write a letter to the commissioner to get them released a long story but a good learning.
A key learning from the week is that cash is king in Africa; you cannot get anything done without showing the money.
Week 4: First toilet, first family, first day
The day finally arrived when the first loo was going to be installed. This turned out to be much more of a challenge than we could ever imagine; finding a time when people are home and ready to receive the toilet was not easy. On the first day we managed to install 2 toilets which was a great achievement considering all the hard work and challenges the team had in the preceding weeks. The first families were very happy to receive the loos. We also realised that we needed a handy man to help with the installation of the toilets.
The first problem we had was that the toilets began to smell after 1 day, we reacted quickly and corrected the chemical in the toilet to reduce the smell. The families appreciated that we are working on as trial and gave us great feedback. By the end of the week we had 14 families, stabilized the issues with smell, most families had used the toilet and had been serviced at least once. Before we handed out the toilets we did a survey on expectations and once the toilets were handed out we did another survey. This gave us great data and helps us prevent unhappy early customers as all our customers were very happy with there new toilets and the service.
When we handed out the toilets we also gave families “do and don’t” and “how to use” posters. The families found this incredibly helpful.
The best part about the start-up was that we had people coming up to us all the time asking if they could sign-up for a toilet. We even had people calling us from other parts of the city asking when we would be starting up in their area. We also got our final delivery of Unilever products so we could provide the families with some great cleaning products for their new toilet service. During the week I also paid a visit to Unilever Ghana, where I met the MD who gave his blessing to the project and some great insights to growing the business.
During the start up week we also had a visit from the KMA Waste Management senior manager who was very impressed with the start up and even suggested areas in Kumasi for the 2nd phase role out. We also informed the KMA of which families were involved in the trial so that they could do an independent evaluation of the project. The best part of the KMA visit was when a member of the community came up and asked where he could sign up for the service, so all very positive.
At the end of the first week of the trial we had managed to install 14 toilets, solved the issues with smell and had all the equipment for the trial in place (trolley made locally from old pipes). What an accomplishment by the team!!
The time had arrived for me to head home; I had a fantastic time inKumasiand was happy to leave knowing that the project was in good hands of the project coordinator Asantewa. I felt that during the time setting up the trial The Clean Team was successful because we did everything with a smile and positive attitude. We were all very aware of the sensitivity of sanitation and gave families and people working in the area the greatest of respect. The positive attitude rubbed off onto the families and the people we worked worth. We attracted wonderful people, from our driver to the waste collector; everyone was positive and hard working. Thank you to everyone – lets keep the Clean Team spirit up.