“Pure water! Pure water!” A seven-year-old girl carries a rectangular insulated thermos on her head as she walks towards the tro. Individuals sitting in an almost full tro buy a small plastic sachet of water. For each sale, the young vendor braces the thermos with her left hand as she reaches up with her right hand to open the thermos, pull out a sachet of water and hand the small bag to the thirsty traveler. The traveler exchanges a 10 pesewa coin (about five cents) for the clear plastic sachet of clean water.
“Ice pure water! Ice pure water!” A twelve year old girl carries a large plastic tub with a lid on her head. She walks toward people waiting on a bench at the tro station. Who will buy a 500 milliliter sachet of cool water to wash down the hard-boiled egg or fried yam slice they just ate?
“Pure water! Pure water!” A woman in her mid-twenties walks by with a tub of pure water sachets on her head and a baby strapped to her back. She asks a man standing nearby to help her move the tub to a small stool so she can sell water sachets to passengers on the bus.
Like bottled water around the world, the “pure” water in sachets may not be much different from the piped water available. But the labels declare “pure water” and that’s what it’s called. Cocktail-napkin sized pure water sachets are part of the Ghanaian culture.
Companies sell pure water (packaged in plastic sleeves with 30 sachets each) to small re-sellers.
Re-sellers sell 30-sachet bags for 1.50-2.00 GHC (75 cents to a dollar) to small entrepreneurs.
Caterers or street vendors refrigerate the sachets and sell cool water to individual customers.
The price for each sachet is always 10 pesewa.
After buying a sealed plastic bag of cool water, the purchaser rips a small hole in one corner with his teeth. When we arrived in Ghana as Peace Corps Trainees, one of our first lessons was how to rip the water sachet open with our teeth without biting off a bit of plastic or spilling water on ourselves. The sachet plastic holds as much as a small water bottle and is flexible enough so it can be placed on the floor or a table without spilling.
After drinking the water, individuals almost always drop the empty pure water sachet to the ground. Few water sachets are recycled. Few sachets are reused. Most pure water sachets end up in landfills.
It’s easy and fun to reuse the sachets.
The easiest reuse is cutting the top edge to make a mini-pouch. The one-sachet pouch can be used as a simple soap holder. Cut a few slits in the bottom for drainage and the pouch becomes a planter for new seeds.
Kids as young as five or six can make jumping ropes from the pure water sachets by cutting the sachet into rings, connecting the rings into a rope and braiding the rope together.
Children cut the sachets into rings to make “nets” for volleyball or football (soccer) or fences.
Teens cut one seam off the sachets to allow them to dry before making bags or coin purses – either sewing by hand or by machine.
I combined the “net” technique with a “bag” design to make a market pouch.
My pure water sachet woven basket is still in the prototype stage…
I may become the “Pure Water Sachet Queen” (or perhaps the “crazy Obruni who makes everything from pure water sachets”) before I leave Ghana.