On the weekend I had the opportunity to go on a meter reading/maintenance trip with GAM-Solar. I went with Peter, who is the Water Division Coordinator for GAM-Solar, along with Ba Esa the driver, Malik the technician, and Modou the plumber (unfortunately they only had room for one of us so Yena, John and I had to draw straws to see who got to go, and I was the lucky winner). We left on Friday and arrived back home on Monday. GAM-Solar has over 80 villages with solar pumping systems in the country, and we visited about a dozen of them.

The trip consisted of stopping at various villages to read the meters of their solar pumps to determine how much water they’ve used since the last GAM-Solar visit. The villages were then billed for their water usage at a modest 2.10 Dalasis per cubic meter (1 Dalasi = approx 28 USD).  A portion of the funds go to GAM-Solar, some stay in the village to pay the watchmen of the pumps, and the rest goes to a maintenance fund. The idea is that the maintenance fund will be able to bail out the villages when their pumping systems are having problems. Part of what I want to do while I am here is look into this fund and do an assessment to see if it will be able to do that consistently, since replacement and maintenance of these solar pumping systems can be quite expensive. It might seem counter intuitive to be asking for money from people who do not have much of it when working towards development, but this is necessary to be able to provide the proper maintenance, and without proper maintenance the systems will fail and the villagers will have to resort to their previous water sources of lower quality. This also helps the villagers develop a sense of ownership of their solar pumping system, and the goal is for the villages to not rely on donor funding. Improved water sources, electricity and in some cases improved farming/irrigation techniques will hopefully help with the development of the villages in both the short and long terms.

Malik and Modou also had some maintenance work to do at a few of the sites. At one they were prepared to replace a whole pump, but they ended up being able to fix the problem by doing some wiring work. They also repaired a floater, which detects when the reservoir is full and turns the pump off to prevent overflow wastage, then turns it back on when the villagers are taking water from the reservoir. They also removed and cleaned a filter at one of the sites (see the pictures on flickr).

With only a little over 3 weeks left of our placement, we are trying to fit as much in as possible and make the most of every day. On top of the assessment I want to do on the maintenance fund, we are also helping out on one of GAM-Solar’s agricultural projects. This project has the goal of producing income for the beneficiaries to help ensure the sustainability of the project and to help the villages develop. We are also planning two more trips with Kebba from SWMS at the MoA. For the first one, we will be leaving tomorrow, and staying upcountry for one night. For the next one we will head farther inland and stay for a few nights. We are also doing some investigative work for Growing Necessity, which is a company that wants to help farmers connect with soil testing labs to help them with their crop yields (see my first blog post).

That’s all for now and I’ll be sure to keep you updated! Also feel free to post any comments or thoughts if there’s anything from my post you want to discuss.