07 December 2013

Stranded in Cameroon

This one is for the books.

We arrived at 22:30 at Yaounde airport in the common belief that we are taking the Turkish Airways flight to Istanbul and back to Tel-Aviv at 12:40, Thursday.

But as you are starting to get it, it is 12:40 Thursday and we are still in Yaounde.
At the gate we see a strange sign at the side of our eye, flight cancelled, apparently Yaoundé airport has suffered a blackout in the runway and flights could not land or fly.

So we were told you have two options, take the flight on Friday or take the bus to Douala and join the flight there which is waiting for you. Optimistic as we are and really homesick we immediately chose to take the bus to Douala, calculating that if all goes well we will not miss our flight to Tel-Aviv and all will be well, just a bit of inconvenience of a 3-4 hour drive in the middle of the night in the roads of Cameroon, but we can take it and the bus is really good. One hour later, all the passengers are on, all seats are full, the luggage somehow was pushed in, quite surprisingly, all excited we are waiting on the bus and waiting and we suddenly got at midnight the excellent news that the plane has landed in Yaounde and we would fly as scheduled.

Again very optimistic we take our bags off the bus, got in the line to check in, fought with the check in about overweight, seats and more, immigration and arrived at 12:45 to the gate with most of the passengers. 12:55 was supposed to be the flight time, we assumed an hour delay, we were told no worries, flight to Israel will wait for you and the time is already 2:00.

The rumors are starting, the pilot did an emergency landing he has no authorization to take off, the airport is closed, then we thought OK we will fly at 06:00 in the morning, by 3:00 we are told, we do not know when you will fly, for now we will take you to a hotel, but no available hotels, at 4:30 we arrive at the clementine hotel, good area, nice park view , but 2 star hotel, we and the two other Israelis we met on the flight, already comrades to distress, look at each other in disbelief, at least the sheets were clean.

Slept a wink, 09:00 Avi myself, and the two other Israelis had a decent breakfast and were wondering what next steps we will take? Not having heard from the airline, we agreed that we would "march" to the local station of Turkish to see what is going on. And then as if everything was under control, we were told by another stranded partner a mother with 3 children and 12 luggage pieces, (how she kept here calm, I do not know, we helped a little, great kids) said I just got a call to tell us to take a cab to the airport.
11:30 we were the first to arrive, no one from Turkish, the check-in is closed.

Hopefully this is the end of the saga, the Turkish guy came told us check in will be at 13:00 and we will fly at 16:00. Wish us good look, I am sleep deprived, but energies are good Avi and I are making the best of it. And we were notified our project moved an additional step in the prime minister's office, but this is another story. 

the bus which was supposed to drive to douala

no room in the bus, just before we are told that we will fly from Yaounde, were laughing like crazy

the sign that we have a flight after 15 hours delay

30 November 2013

My New Name AMA Avidar

Shabbat shalom everyone,

Leaving Ghana tomorrow, but before I leave I must write you.
Avi, Freimpong (Patrick's friend, Patrick is our wonderful business partner in Ghana) and myself are celebrating Shabbat with a beer ( club beer – similar to light Belgien beer which I really like) at the poolside of the Erata Hotel in Accra (marvelous wifi- my obsession in Africa), listening to a live band singing Bob Marley – "I want to love you"

So where were we in the last 2 days, or where were we not….. we traveled from Accra to Tarkwa, to Kumasi (the largest city in Ghana) to Bogoso and then Briem North (rural area) and back to Accra. Except for one flight we drove most of the way, or rather Patrick our partner was kind enough to drive, around 4-5 hours from each destination to the next, it was quite a hard trip, with terrible roads.
Patrick a Ghanaian business man from the Ashanti area, that made it on his own, by identifying a need and finding the solutions for it. Good on you Patrick!!!!

We met and visited several mining companies and the funny thing is that right before each mine compound the road is awful, due to political issues of who is in charge of the road and who should construct it and in the end, no one does and we get to feel the experience in our aching bones. But for all purposes the way was worth it, we had some good meetings, got to understand the challenges of the mining areas and the villages surrounding them. We also met honoranble Paul the head of the district, who shared with us some of the challenges he faces and once again we trully hope we can bring some greta solutions to the area and change a challenge into a solution.

Our intention is to bring some good rural development platforms (our VIC model- the village income center, which we have developed in Nkuv, if you remember from April) .

So what about the name, Ama means born on Saturday, in Ghana people get the name of the day they were born in, there are 7 names for men and 7 for women, I was born on Saturday, therefore AMA Avidar. By the way, Kofi (Anan) is a Friday born.

Write you soon, tomorrow flying to Cameroon - for the last leg of the race.....

 the poolside band
 eating cocanut
 eating again at mining compay, looks like a kibbutz dinning room
 the hotel room at Tarkwa, - longji hotel, the new chinese hotel, beautiful rooms, good service decent price and everything imported from China
 some beaitiful scienery on the road
 Patrick, and Kofi a leading reporter in Ghana
the artisine miners, mining without a license and no regulatroy control, they threw mud at us for taking their picture

25 November 2013

WSA staff meeting

Around 100 staff members of WSA out of 344 convened on Sunday the 24th November to discuss: organization communication strategy; WSA soft power and what this entails; conclusions from the HLF and how to do it better next year; how to take forward the accomplishments of the 2013 HLF and innovative financing – the key to successfully bringing water for all.

First of all it was a great pleasure and honor for me to be included within these activities, thus being part of the WSA's way forward.

Second it was declared that Israel will be the special guest of the HLF 2014 in Cameroon, once again this is a great honor, a great responsibility and a tremendous opportunity for Israeli companies.

This is the first call for Israeli water, sanitation and housing companies to attend the forum in November 2014. If we signed 6 LOIs this year I wonder how many will be signed next……

the beautiful view from my room

the ladies of WSA 

Just a few sentences about innovative financing, as financing is one of the main challenges for water projects in Africa, it is imperative that WSA find those alternative and innovative products and schemes. The thing is, that it is within ourselves, once we define why water projects are especially vulnerable and are not allocated funds, this is where we can define the solutions, because there is no one challenge which cannot be solved. For instance if one challenge that water is considered god given and should be free – you can understand that we should not charge for water but rather for supply, or better services or, avoidance of health issues and much more. This is just one out of 14 which we have voiced. 

The High Level Forum for Water in Africa, - HLF - Abidjan Nov 2013

My dear friends,

The forum started on the 21st and I could not find a moment to write until this moment, it is 21:00 Sunday night the 24th.

2000 participated in the activities. On the agenda, ministers council meeting, a conference, exhibition and B2G meetings. Check out the website hlf.wsafrica.org
International companies came from India, China, Germany, turkey and Israel.

It has only been 1 month from the WATECH conference where Waterways was appointed as Israel country representative of WSA – www.wsafrica.org and the 21st office of WSA.
And within this short period we have been able to bring 5 companies to the HLF and facilitate the signing of 6 LOIs with Senegal, Benin, Liberia, Ivory Coast, and 3 expected next month.

The idea is creating solid PPP WASH (Water, sanitation and Hygiene) projects in Africa via, a win-win mediation mechanisms, in which WSA assists the private companies to manage cooperation with African governments. The work has begun with these 6 LOIs and now our job is to make them happen for the betterment of the African people.

theconference hall from the outside
from the inside, Tahal delegation members, Lior frumkes and Max Barel

the diffrent chieftens, in their Marvelous and colorful custumes.
after signing the LOI with the water minister of Senegal

Group picture!!!

20 November 2013

First time is Cote D'Ivoire

Ivory Coast or Cote D'Ivoire, as the locals prefer, is quite different than other African countries I have visited, at least on a first impression. Entering the city in 12oclock at night, the roads were quite spacious; there were quite a lot of city light and city neon advertising like in of most big cities.

Since we are coming for the conference, more details below, we got the VIP treatment, all conference participants, were taken to the VIP lounge, where our immigration process, visa at the airport and luggage was taken care of and then off to the hotel. This makes everything very easy, although we laughed because it took twice as much time, as it would have if we were to do it on our own, but the convenience was worth it. Entering our hotel, was again an experience, I am usually used to 3-4  star hotels in Africa which are tremendously expensive and very poorly maintained, but here this is not the case. But, thank god for conferences, you get to stay at good hotels. The Sophitel Ivoire is quite a grand hotel. with great wifi connection!!

Our conference is the African High Level Water Forum - http://hlf.wsafrica.org , between the 21-23, that convenes once a year in a different country in Africa. This year it is in Abidjan, and 32 water ministers will be meeting for discussions on water issues. People are coming from China, Germany, Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore, India and Israel. Israel will have quite a substantial delegation of 5 companies, since we had about 3 weeks to organize for this, I would say it is pretty good. Next year the forum will be in Cameroon and I hope to bring a much larger delegation.
I say to bring, because WSA is the organizer of the forum and we as their Israeli representative are responsible for this issue. We (the delegation) hope to sign quite a number of LOI between companies and ministers.

More updates tomorrow it is quite late already, and I am after a travel of over 12 hours. 

10 July 2013

Something new and good is happening - Israel has joined the world of International development

Something new and good is happening, for the last five years there has been a change in Israel's atmosphere, a lot of people are looking for how to do good. Voluntarism has flourished, alongside with the regular Reality and feeble minded television and entertainment, television shows with a social agenda have flourished, old and young look to volunteer in Israel and abroad in the many new programs that have been developmed.

One of these is the International development arena.
Although many aid groups exist in Israel for a long time, in the last 5 years, I personally feel a new trend has evolved, a new wave of interest in International development, a new interest in Africa, over 30 companies joined the Israel-Africa chamber of a commerce in the 2013 and many youngsters seeking to be part of this movement. IsraelDev a new organization, which I am happy to be part of, is a grassroots movement which seeks to foster an environment in Israel which supports and promotes international development and is the essence of this wave.
Recently I was sent the new IsraelDev newsletter, attached for your reference, a good read – http://members.viplus.com/view.ashx?message=e40020833O-40011652O157490O-40020834

For many years Israel has been on the accepting side, as a new country only 65 years old, born from dire circumstances, we have been for a long time on the receiving end. But as we grew and had to deal with our destiny: draught and water shortage; lack of land; Sun and heat; a state of constant existential threat, we have learnt to make the best of it. Not necessarily out of true grace, but quickly we understood that despair is not a good working method and you should make the most of what you have.

From our lemons we made quite a few lemonade flavors:
Our constant existential state and flow of immigrants developed into a vast High-tech industry;
Our sun and heat developed into a solar energy innovative society;
And our water shortage led to a fast growing, water conservation, drip irrigation, water management and water treatment industry.

All of these have not fallen on deaf ears and our companies and many youngsters see this as an opportunity for the developing world. I also believe we come with a different and more understanding attitude, because not too long ago we have been there too, so our assistance is from the point of view of someone who has experienced similar hardships.
Israel has so much to give and finally has the strength, willingness and stamina to do so. 

24 April 2013

WSA - Our strategic Partner

This is the last leg of our very fruitful and exciting journey.
We are in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. 4 years ago, I never heard of Burkina Faso and never dreamed to visit here, Ouagadougou sounded to me like a name from the fairytales and something that I would never be able to pronounce.

But I am here and enjoying every minute.
Burkina is the home of around 15M people, mostly arid land. The Capital Ouagadougou although very hot (we arrived at 37 degrees C), is a very organized and a structured city. On our one day off on this whole journey, we decided to walk around town – 37 degrees, I remind you and we saw the very impressive "Grand Marche" the Grand Mosque and the beautiful music museum (although only from the outside) since it was under construction. Ouagadougou although, hot and dry, has a vibrant city life, construction, stores and more, very different to Yaoundé and other capitals we have ben to.




Yesterday we had our first working day with WSA - Water and Sanitation for Africa, www.wsafrica.org provide continental leadership in the development of innovative and sustainable approaches, evidence-based policy advice, and advocacy services in the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene services in Africa. WSA now presents a strong hope in the search for sustainable water and sanitation services for the hundreds of millions of Africans without access to basic sanitation and drinking water services. Established by Africans, owned by Africans and located in Africa, WSA possesses a clear understanding of the challenges with water, sanitation and hygiene on the continent.

WSA is our strategic partner on sustainability issues and solutions and we are working together in writing a sustainability manual to be distributed among government agencies, NGOs or private companies, every contributing entity, should have free access to this information.

The team with whom we worked for the last two days on diffrent projects and ideas
the amount of ideas and cross enrichment was a fantastic process, this is the part I love most about my job
Avi, Patrick, Emmanual, Oliver, Ornit, Andrews
Tomorrow we travel Toussana, a 5-8 hour drive from Ouagadugou, not sure yet, but this is supposed to be one of the more beautiful areas of Burkina and this will be the home of our Livestock business for youngsters project.

More details to come


19 April 2013

Agreement between the Chamber of Agriculture of Cameroon and WaterWays

We just finished the signing ceremony between the Cameroon chamber of agriculture and WaterWays.

The president of the Chamber Mr. Janvier Mongui Sossomba and I discussed the different potential and vision of what should be done. The National Television station covered the story. We are all very satisfied with much work to do and many people counting on this to form into a sound model for the improvement of lives of the people of Cameroon.
The agreement says that we will establish an assistance platform for farmers, ogether with a local firm, called IB-real consulting headed by Samuel Mandeng in the form of seminars for business and innovative technologies, assistance with building a proper business plan for potential investors, coaching farmers on better techniques, conservation of water and proper use.

The idea is to move from growing food to growing an income and a business.

We welcome technological companies with relevant innovations to contact us for Cameroonian opportunities.
We also welcome investors to check with us the agriculture potential in Cameroon.
The president of the Chamber and I – discussing, signing and posing



Our wonderful experience in NKUV


Today is our last day in Cameroon, on our way to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. Although we have 3 meetings scheduled, maybe more, (there is always a last minute and unexpected here, which is actually quite fun), but for that reason I have some time and updating you and this time I hope no typos and spelling mistakes.

So, so much to tell about NKUV,
So, so many stories about NKUV, first of all NKUV is a small village around 1500 people about one and a half hours from Kumbo around 150-200K population, in the northwest of Cameroon, which is about 8 hours from the capital of Yaounde. The view is majestic, as Avi likes to call it, beautiful green and flourishing mountains with water falls and breathe taking sites. Kumbo is distinct for its ethnicity these are the people of the Lamso language.

Picture of view and church in Kumbo.

the church is celebrating 100 years this year
Our partners in this area are LWDGC – Life Water Development Group Cameroon, headed by Peter Njodzeka. See their work : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdQOVDOBJb0&feature=share& list=UUdh7HMltMPq9hvmE1zKJICA
Joined us from LWDGC was: Fi the village project coordinator and responsible for hygiene and health and Gills the development manger.

Picture of team near our hotel in Kumbo
We arrived in Nkuv at 09:00 and were greeted by the school children and their teacher, it was very moving, then we gathered in the meeting area and their the children and hosts sang and danced for us, this too was very beautiful and moving because while the girls were dancing the said the words " we are coming to welcome our visitors".
Picture of dance – I will try to download the video, once I am back

Then the meeting started, a wonderful welcome speech in English, by a lady from the village council, her words of welcome included the fact that we have come with an idea to be discussed with the villagers, approved by them and then to see how everyone can pitch in and make happen, this was a wonderful start for us, because we have started this project with the number one factor of 'the holistic Methodology" which we created saying build community buy-in and preplanning with community participation. Number one step – being implemented as we speak……
Pictures of meeting


Later one I introduced the community to the VEC – Village Eco Center, which as we spoke turned into the VBC – Village business Center. This center will be a place of community gathering, will enough electricity and a production and service area. We came with about 10 ideas, they came up with 10 additional ideas and together we decided on 3 major issues. A water treatment solution – regardless of the VBC; communal electricity and Production area.
We were all delighted and now it is time to do the work.

the village

Here we come to we want the first pilot VBC to be funded by crowd funding, we will offer contributors a lottery that 2 people will be able to join this journey once it gets on the ground – many more details later. Share this link to as many people as you can to start mobilizing the hype.

We left after they have offered us FU FU , the maize – "sticky rice" dish and engama engama, a very tasty spinach dish with palm oil.

That’s it for now, join us later.

Yours Ornit

18 April 2013

Some more pictuers from Meyomessi

the inside of a house in Azem

 a newborn sleepig soundly under a
Mosquito net, she was so sweet

 the "chicken"
Avi and mysef with the Mayor of Meyomessi

I read the blog after I sent it, please excuse the terrible spelling mistakes and missing words, I wrote it at 2:30 in the moring and obviously was not at my best.

write to you soon


The delicious chicken of Meyomessi – Or was it?

yesterday we woke up at 6 o'clock and were on our way to Meyomessi at 07:00.

Meyomessi is a region with a cluster of 25 villages, it is in the south of Cameroon, a totally different ecological area than Maroua or the northwest. It is an equatorial forest area.
We were introduced to the livestock project, as an income generating business for women,  the fantastic  cooperative structure they have built with all the find programs they plan to have there and especially the dreams and hopes of people, to have a steady income, to have a steady water system, to have a bottled water plant – the have marvelous natural springs and to make the area the CACAO capital of Cameroon, we hope to become part of all of these.

cacao nursery

 the children at Azem

In one of the villages, called Azem of the Bulu people,  they served us lunch, and you probably are asking and "you dared eat"?, well first of all, duty calls and so do manners , so I really felt that I couldn't say no, so the plan was just to taste out of manners and not eat everything. But the chicken served, was cooked well and was very tasty and our hosts made sure it was cooked properly and hygienically. while eating I notice that the skin of the chicken was at least two time as thick as regular chicken, and Avi noticed that he bone structure was diffrent, so finally we asked, what kind of chicken this is, our host's answer was, this is no chicken this is porcupine which we eat on a regular basis here. It is called Ngomb, I apologize to my veggie/vegan family and friends, I didn't mean to eat porcupine, but that is what happened.

This was not the only food experience we had here, yesterday Hesein took us to a local market restaurant were we ate with our hand a local dish called Gniri – it is a sticky maize starch (the closest I can compare is to sticky rice) and Bascoje, Folere and Boko, different beef stews with dried gumbo (bamia), fresh gumbo and a vegetable which is like spinach. It was very delicious and our stomach passed the experience well.




the meeting with the agrical minster
the meeting at the chamber

Next time, I will tell you about NKUV, this must be elaborated on further
All the best from Yaoundé