31 August 2012

The Bush of Niger

Hi Everyone,
Needless to say I have never had an experience like I had today, If you would have asked me a year ago do you see yourself in Niger, I would probably have said “Nigeria”, not in the near future, so Niger was not really even on my map, especially since it is so remote – took us five legs to arrive her, Israel and Niger do not have a formal relationship although Israelis are very much welcome here, and the prime minister of Niger recently said in a speech he gave that ”we should stop the hypocrisy and form a bilateral relationship with Israel”, Israelis are well known for their agricultural abilities here and Prof Dov Pasternak  which I mentioned before is a well known and respected figure in the agricultural milieu.
So we were welcomed very kindly and most people whom we meet are thrilled to meet us and to hear where we come from. Many people talk very badly about al-Qaida and there is a feeling that they continuously loom over the country as a threat.
Niger is divided into security zones and our village is on the boarder of the red zone where foreigners are recommended not to go.
We are now in the midst of the rainy season, (May to September), this year it rained a lot and there was much flooding, but there is no water retention for agriculture and after the rain everything just dries up.
the way to the village

We were welcomed very nicely by the mayor and the vice mayor, other than French, the mayor also speaks English to my delight, (he was a former English teacher, for 20 years) so we had a conversation where I could talk freely. We had a formal side of the meeting in which we gave them the presents and then they set out to prepare the goat meat (in the old days people would bring the goat with them, for practical reasons in modern times you just pay for it) and exchanged niceties.
The goat meat, which I have never ate before, was similar to lamb but a bit tougher, they added a spice on the side, in which you should dip the meat, the spice was very fragrant and had a touch of spiciness, I liked it very much.  They cooked so much, and obviously it was too much for us, but I understand that others received the food as well after our ceremony. We thought that was the end but then, a man came in with two huge pots, which funny enough were like our ptitim, but mixed with meat and sauce, it was very delicious.
Pic of mayor, enjoying the halva.

The picture of the food will be sent later.

Mahamad, Mariama (our engienier) and myself

After the formal part the mayor explained to us about his village and answered all our questions. Our village is quite developed in comparison to other villages; it is that main village in an area of 56 Km sq with 36,000 people. 21villages have sufficient drinking water but no water for agriculture and 22 the Fakara “away from the valley” don’t have enough for drinking water.
The mayor explained to us that most of all they need water for agriculture and training for new farming techniques and commercialization. The area is good for growing potatoes and there is enough water you just need to get to it. In a country where there is no credit availability, private entrepreneurship is very difficult, that with an existential mind set, does not allow for much development.  This we hope will be the basis for our project, the mayor and the vice mayor gave us much information with which we can build the project.

the Vice mayor and Mariama looking into the empty well
Avi and three brothers, they followed us the whole day and wanted to shake our hand like the grown ups. Their smiles were illuminating

We sometimes think that an African village is a communal living area, but actually in the villages where we visited, people live quite an individualistic way of life, each earning their living on an individualistic basis. Most of the houses in the village where like compounds in which there was a house or hut for the people, the areas in which the animals were kept and a plot of land either in the compound or on the outskirts of the village. The mayor explained to us, that depending on their financial situation some have a latrine in the house, some have rain water catchment or solar power, almost everyone owns land in the village and earns their living through farming and sheep and goats.

So all in all Niger was a great experience, going to the bush, wearing the local costume, in a wonderful purple, eating the goat and most of all meeting all the people we met, the mayor the vice mayor, Mahamad, Mariama, Saidou Abdousalam and Ahmed Boubacar the knowledgeable water engineer who after working for many years with Ngo’s has opened his own company and we wish him much luck, he has everything you need for drilling wells and other water projects in rural areas for Niger and other countries in West Africa.
Tomorrow early morning we are leaving for Cameroun and looking forward to new experiences

29 August 2012

Preparing for the village trip

I couldn't send out the post yesterday because we had a small lightning storm and the internet was not dealing well with that. It should have been the start of the thunder showers that were forecasted for the week, but a lase today we woke up to another beautiful day. I hope it lastes this way because the rain will not assit our 3 hour drive in each direction, so we will see.
Yesterday we had a quieter day, mostly preparing for the village trip today, I am not mentioning the name of the village due to security concerns, we are trying to take measured precautions.
So today, in addition to the local costume which I will be wearing, (made from Bazan material, a traditionally used material in West-Africa which is a shiny, stiff, starched and beaten cotton fabric and extremely colourful), upon the recommendation of Mahamad we will present the chief with a sheep or goat, (seriously, i am not joking) in the beginning we thought about brining it with us in the car, but luckily Mahamad arranged to buy it near the village.
All about this specific issue – later tonight if weather permits!
In addition we met with Mr. Saidou Abdoussalam from ICRISAT, from whom we have learnt so much. ICRISAT is the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, http://www.icrisat.org/ they have much experience with agricultural in arid land and we can apply their research in our project. The introduction to Mr. Abdoussalam, was made by prof. Dov Pasternak, an arid land agricultural expert from Israel, who was a consultant for ICRISAT and envisioned and introduced some innovative and appropriate techniques for the institue to introduce to and assist local farmers.
Another project which Mr. Abdoussalam told us proudly about was “Farmers of the Future” a schooling program for children that will enable them to become more innovative, sustainable and business minded farmers. We have all agreed at the table that the main change that farmers need to undertake is from an existential mind frame of growing produce for immediate consumption to market oriented mind frame in which you grow to earn for long term. This is part of the social methodology which we will introduce.
Sustainability we believe can be achieved when taking into account 3 factors:

Lastly, we found some time to go to the Grand Museum, a large museum which includes a zoo, and pavilions of art, a dinosaur skeleton, agricultural finding and the uranium pavilion. It could have been fun if we weren’t pressured every minute to buy something, on the one hand we were happy to contribute to Niger’s economy and buy some souvenirs, on the other hand there was so much pressure there that we decided not to buy anything and leave quite quickly. The terrible heat and the fact that we were drenched with sweat, (when I came back to the hotel, my pants and shirt were actually wet, I don’t usually sweat, nit even in Tel-Aviv), this was quite an experience.
getting ready for the big day a head updates later.........

28 August 2012

What a day in Niamey!

It’s 23:00 now and we had a full day, including a dip in the pool in the evening.

Electricity just went out and then back on, hope the WiFi will get back on quickly.

Both Avi and I are still having some dizzy spells, not sure if it's the malaria pills or the affect of the flights on the inner ear? We’ll probably know tomorrow.

We had a good meeting with Mahamad today and we went over our visit to village, what we should do, what not, we have brought from Israel different kinds of presents and we agreed that we should give the Chief – a masbaha – the Muslim prayer beads which we brought from Jerusalem and for the mayor and the vice mayor Halva – a sweet sesame dessert.

Before leaving for Africa, Maayan, one of Avi’s neighbor's child in Tuval, asked for a toy from Africa, when Avi told him that in Africa they don’t have the toys that he is expecting, the boy went to his room and brought Avi all his webkinz, for those of you that do not know what webkinz are, they are small, very cute, cuddly and soft animal toys and we decided we will give them to the village school. Will tell you all about it on Wednesday when we go.
When I asked Mahamad what I should wear to the meeting, his answer, to my surprise was that if we want to have a good bonding I should wear a local costume and that would show respect and true commitment. So we decided that we need to by me a local costume, which are quite expensive. We saw one for 200$, a bit steep for a one time courtesy call, but then at lunch, Avi met as he always does some very nice missionaries which introduced us to their pastor and his wife, who has a son which is a tailor and so the story goes on and on, but in the end he offered to drive us to the Grand marche – the big market, where, they found a shop for us and negotiated a price, they haggled very seriously for us and we were so touched. And here is the outcome:

So last night I was not so happy with the hotel, but after the market scene and heat, I got some perspective and after sweating like a horse the whole day, coming back to the hotel for a cold shower, the cool AC, a dip in the pool and WiFi……. transformed the hotel into a five star deluxe. some pics:

The Room

Washing before prayer in the market

Prayer at the market

Our pool and the sunset from our hotel

Some more experiences:
Yesterday, on our way from Lome to Abuja, Avi as a true business developer and people friendly person got to know Oliver, a Nigerian national, living in Burkina Faso, and working for an inter governmental agency for water and sanitation, so we had a 3 hour business meeting, Lunch meeting and social gathering, talking about how business models are so desperately needed to bring in the sustainability in the projects. I am glad to say that they too have taken the business approach and understand that without this issue and being on the charity side in not getting us anywhere and different approaches need to be taken. We will definitely be in touch for further cooperation.

Food – got closer to local food, but basically eating in the hotel, had mutton and rice with a spoon of the local hot sauce which was really good. Veggies are also different. We bought some bananas in the market – outstanding really good!

Heat – didn’t rain in the end, the forecast was thunderstorms from yesterday, but yet another day of sunny and hot, in the mid 30’s, not so bad in comparison to Eilat with 42c where I was a week ago.

Cost – very high, everything is very expensive, or at least it feels like that because everything is in the thousands 10,000CFA = $20, that's what we paid per person for the meal.

27 August 2012

Landed at last!

I am so, so tired!!
So I will be brief and get to bed.

The full flight with connections and so took 20 hours, but apparently after meeting with Mahamad at the hotel, there is no other way to get from Israel to Niamey in less, he flew Turkish and it took him longer.
In less than I day I was in 5 countries, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m an African veteran, well not exactly, but I feel connected already. We were in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia; Lome- Togo; Cotonou – Benin; Abuja – Nigeria; Niamey – Niger.
All the long flight, the service was really good, the seats good and the right size, even the food was fine, Yes I admit I am one of those that like airline food… one of my faults, but it was really good.

Addis airport was empty at 05:50 but at 06:30 so congested you won’t believe.

The endless line in Addis Airport
The colors and smells are starting to be Africa, people from everywhere Chinese, Israelis, Europeans, Africans from the whole continent, such beautiful colors; it was a real fashion show as far as we were concerned. It is not only the bright and unique bold colors, but texture, embroidery and such care, you might expect it for women, but I was really surprised to see the men so well groomed, if it is  a western business suit or a local costume, it is very impressive so unlike the israeli male.

Former Concerns:
·        The seats, - no problem were great.
·        20 hours flight, was actually 4 legs with additional stops in Cotonou – Benin and Abuja – Nigeria, but couldn’t do it differently.  Quite tiresome.
·        Ethiopian airline – I highly recommend and would like to add, that their daughter company, less know A sky airlines – which we were not sure about – highly professional, efficient and highly recommended.
·        Won’t have proper cell and internet connection – got great WiFi in Adis and now writing you from the free WiFi service in the hotel, the WiFi is OK, hotel- not so much…..
·        Entry to Niger – No problem with the visa that Mahamad arranged for us, but they did take our passport for 24 hours
Not worried about:
·        The food – was good up till now, but did not have a real local experience yet
·        The heat – also not as bad, tomorrow heavy rains are expected.

So much more to tell you, but too tired so I am going to sleep and bid you good night.

26 August 2012

Just landed in Addis Ababa

Flight was good very unexpected either the seats were larger than anticipated or I am not as big as I thought.......
The airport is quite hectic many people many nationalities, a lot of chinese, some Israelis  and a whole of a lot of other nationalities
They have good wifi, which made me happy
On the way to board our second leg of the trip to lome in Togo
All the best

25 August 2012

And so the journey begins.........


In about 5 hours, I will be on my way, flying Ethiopian Airways – the “new” form of travel to Africa for Israelis.

·        The seats, I’m told are built for the narrow slender figure of an Ethiopian person – not a fleshy Caucasian woman, like myself, hope to mange.
·        To reach Niamey the capital of Niger– our first destination on our journey, we will fly 17 hours straight in a 3 leg flight, from Tel-Aviv to Addis Ababa; Addis to Lome in Togo; Lome to Niamey – I will say this again and maybe more, I want you to internalize this, 17 hours flight, can’t believe I’m going to pass 17 hours, like this. Thank god we will arrive in the evening, so I expect to have a good night’s rest before we start Monday morning.
·        Won’t have proper cell and internet connection – how will I be in contact with the world – big concern. My cell phone company recommended that I disconnect my roaming, because there is no roaming plan for Africa and I am liable to get thousands of shekels bill if I don’t, so very reluctantly I did.
Not worried about:
·        The food – will mange, can practically eat anything and am looking forward to new tastes.
·        The heat – love it….hope I feel that way after a couple of days.
Looking forward to:
·        Meeting new people
·        Getting to know different life styles
·        Doing something about the water situation in the places  I will be
·        Seeing wonderful landscape
·        Anything new……….

As good as I was in Geography, about a year ago, I did not even know half of the places that I intend to visit, let alone the capitals, climate, temperature and more. Since then I am more or less savvy in African geography and can at least tell apart western from eastern nations. And yah, I am aware that on my first visit to Africa, I will be all over the place from Niger in the west, to Cameroon, Madagascar in the south and Tanzania in the east…..17 hours is only the beginning!


From the country assistance strategy document of the World Bank from 2003:
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world.  Per capita GNP stood at
approx  US$180  in  2000  (World  Bank Atlas  method),  and  Niger  ranks  161  out of  162 countries  listed  in UNDP's 2001  Human Development Report. 
Poverty headcount of 63%.
Vulnerability to drought has worsened food insecurity and consequently malnutrition, affecting 40% of children under 5 years old.  Combined with poor access  to  safe water, poor nutrition  contributes  to  an infant mortality  rate  of 114 per  1000  and  life  expectancy  of about 46  years.  Adult illiteracy remains high at 84% and gross primary  enrollment rates low  at 42%  overall,  with  female  enrolment  at only  33%  of school-age  girls  for  the school year  2001/2002.  The burden of poverty and low social development falls
disproportionately  on  women,  whose  access  to  land,  credit,  technology,  and  social  services remains  very limited,  despite  some recent progress.

What we plan to do there
Together with our local partner Mahamad, who has indentified an area which needs change, but the head of the area has also expressed their willingness to change we are going to design a water and agricultural project which will include well drilling and communal agricultural plots.  The sustainability of the project will be kept by the concept of “work for water” and a very small charge which will enable maintenance, management and capacity building. More updates as we go along…….

Preparations underway:
·         Visa to Niger –got it – Yeh, Yeh, Thank you Mahamad,
·         Meetings are mostly scheduled, already had cancelations, changes, Hope we are able to stick to the plan.
·         Hotels set…..except for the one in Niarobi, we will have a 10 hour stop over, so I want something close to the airport, let’s see what the embassy recommends.

Next time updates from Niamey

5 hours to go…….

14 August 2012

How we do things different and more preparations......

Water is the prime substance of life. It’s remarkable to think that so many experts, companies and technologies have been dealing with the issue of water for decades, but still as per the UN FAO - 2.8 Billion people lack economic access to water infrastructure or live in areas of water scarcity.

It makes one wonder, what is the reason? What are we doing wrong? How can we do it better? And most important - how can we change this? This is the question that has troubled WaterWays while we contemplated our company's vision and as we tried to find our place in this market.

So what do we bring which is different, which can give a real solution:

WaterWays looks at the water challenge through the eyes of people and forming partnerships. As technical as the problem is, Technology alone is not the solution. We transfer needs into projects, incorporating technology with business and social models needed to overcome the sustainability challenge.

WWS provides a comprehensive holistic plan from identifying the challenge; writing proposals; on site evaluation; technological and organizational recommendations; integration for implementation; technology screening; fund sourcing, as needed; training, to maintenance and capacity building.

WWS working models incorporate:
-        A local community which is looking for change and looking to improve their lives
-        sufficient pre project planning;
-        Use of appropriate technology, focusing on simple, decentralized, low maintenance and low energy technologies;
-        WWS social models: enhancing understanding of the population and promoting community buy-in; empowerment of the community to instigate local responsiveness and participation incorporating local “wisdom of the masses” tools; proper integration between technology and the community taking into account local culture; training for self sufficiency; training on all levels and local mentorship.
-        Appropriate business models enhancing community income allocated to maintenance, management, training and capacity building; and the option to combine private and donor money.

WWS bridges the gap and focuses on project sustainability

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Preparations are underway:
·         Visa for Cameroon – 440 NIS and 2 days later we got the visa to Cameroon with no complications, I’m happy to say.
·         Niger – still working on it, keep holding your fingers for us
·         Meetings are being scheduled as we speak: we will be meeting with government officials, NGOs, Private companies, Water Organizations and more. All so we can get the best impression possible of what we need to do.
·         In each country we will be visiting rural areas and meeting with local people, I am so grateful to our partners in each country which are working so hard to get everything ready so that this tour will be a success and will be beneficial.
·         Much more to do

Next time I will write a little bit about the countries we plan to visit

12 days to go…….

09 August 2012

Dear Friends,

During the past two years, while contemplating our vision and finding our place in the water market, we recognized that Rural water was underdeveloped or almost neglected and we pinpointed two main market failures which we have put as our mission to resolve.
1. A gap between the three main market factors: “NEED”, “TECHNOLOGY”, “CAPITAL”, which are unable to work together properly and ultimately bring about inappropriate solutions which cause discouragement on all sides: the donors don’t believe that the locals are capable of self sufficiency and the recipients don’t believe they are given proper assistance.

2. This miscommunication as well as insufficient pre project planning, lack of community participation, inappropriate regard to local culture and lack of appropriate business models  cause non sustainable projects which are seen all over Africa in the form of malfunctioning equipment, lack of maintenance, faulty or soiled filers or just plain population misuse due to lack of training and understanding.

Both of these are the root for discouragement and failure in reaching long term improvement in providing access to clean water to millions of people.

WWS sees itself as a solution to these malfunctions. We operate through partnerships and coordination of the three market factors thus overcoming their vulnerabilities. 
WWS transforms a need into a project by taking into account all variables as well as community buy-in and local culture, in a consistent format through appropriate and sustainable solutions for the goal of access to clean water.

Next time I will share with you how we do it, in more detail.

Preparations are underway:
·         Visa for Cameroon – check, it was very hot that day, giving us a weather prep I guess, 2 forms to fill, not too bad, although we complained of course.
·         Niger – a bit complicated, but our partner is working on it, hold your fingers for us
·         Other visas: Madagascar, Tanzania at the entrance – very convenient but also expensive………..
·         Vaccinations – check, 7 all in all were needed, hurt a bit, but not too bad, overcoming….
·         Much more to do

17 days to go…….

05 August 2012

Dear Friends,

Most of you that know me, know that I founded WaterWays Solutions Ltd, with the belief that everyone has the right to access to clean water.

Today in the 21st century there are still many areas, villages and regions, with over 800M people without access to clean water; this is uneconomical, illogical and unacceptable.

Rural areas in underdeveloped countries are the worst hit by the existing water crisis.

Over 50% of the water projects developed in Africa, are not sustainable after half a year, again uneconomical, illogical and unacceptable.

We, I, through WaterWays see ourselves as providers of solutions to mitigate these challenges.

In this Blog I will share with you: what we are doing; how we do it; innovative technology appropriate for rural areas, any interesting facts we find or come up with and my journey to Africa diary.

On the 26 August 2012, Avi Miller my colleague and I will embark on our first journey to Africa, this is very exciting for us because we will finally meet with our local partners and see with our eyes, and actually experience some of the challenges which we are trying to resolve. Join us on the journey.

Next time I will share with you, the market failures we have pinpointed…. And our visit to the consular department in the Cameroon Embassy.

21 days to go…….