Women stand to benefit in community partnerships
Chrensencia Nyakinda’s life has never remained the same since she moved to Nyalenda informal settlement in Kisumu County about three years ago. Despite living in different slum areas, she can now heave a sigh of relief, thanks to a community initiative that has ensured that she can access clean water and sanitation.
She waits patiently on the queue for her turn to pay her water bill at the Katworo Water Project, a partnership between the community and the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (KIWASCO).
The project was initiated in 2005 to increase access to clean water and sanitation to residents at a reasonable cost.
Displaying her monthly water bill that stands at Kshs 250, Nyakinda, a mother of three children aged between 5 years and 5 months recounts that ever since she moved to Nyalenda, she has become more productive at her workplace as a nurse at Ramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital.
“I do not have to worry about my children’s welfare as I can access clean water at the comfort of my house besides living in a safe and clean environment,” she adds.
The 31 year old mother says that she had lost many house helps because they had to grapple with the challenge of having to search for water and juggle between taking care of her children and doing household chores while she was on duty.
“When I was still living in Migosi Village, I needed to purchase 12 jerricans of 20 litres of water every day at Ksh 5 each in order to serve my domestic chores. This cumulatively was very expensive for me as I would spend about Ksh 2,000 per month which was very costly for me,” says Nyakinda.
Besides the challenges in accessing the water, she had to deal with water borne diseases such as typhoid and diarrhea as her children kept falling sick on a monthly basis and she had to take her time off to take them for medication.
While Nyakinda is lucky to celebrate this initiative courtesy of Katworo Water Project, many women continue to grapple with the challenge of putting food on the table while at the same time having to content with their family issues.
Although Kisumu County is endowed with one of the largest water sources in Africa, it is characterized by chronic water shortages. According to a Kisumu Water Conference Report 2013, provision of basic safe, quality, adequate affordable water to citizens still remains a great challenge to Kenya despite enormous efforts that have been put by actors in the sector.
According to Moses Agumba, the acting Chief Executive Officer, Lake Victoria South Water Services Board, from the national perspective, only 50percent of people use water from safe sources. In urban areas, 60percent of the population have access to clean portable water and only 20percent of the urban poor have access to clean portable water.
National improved water supply is estimated at 59percent with rural population accounting for 52percent and networked peri urban having much lower coverage. Despite this Kenya suffers poor financial and technical sustainability of services especially in the rural areas.
In order to ease this problem, Katworo Water project brings together different actors under the Delegated Management Model (DMM) by Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (KIWASCO) which is a partnership between the utility and the community to extend water to the informal settlements within the city. Such efforts provide portable, quality water at an affordable price that are useful in reducing deaths caused by waterborne diseases.
The Nyalenda Master Operators Network is an engagement of Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company agents in Nyalenda settlement. The aim of this network is to improve service delivery to the residents of Nyalenda and to foster good working relations with the service provider (KIWASCO) and the community.
According to the Coordinator of Katworo Water Project, Vincent Odhiambo, the Delegated Management Model provides for managing the water pipes and bills on behalf of KEWASCO and the water is supplied within 1.5Km square sub network as well as collects the bills on their behalf.
“Since its inception, the project has had a lot of impact with about 60 per cent of families in Nyalenda Informal Settlement being able to access clean water. It is remarkable to note that water borne diseases have reduced by 75 per cent,” states Odhiambo.
The water project takes responsibility of all connections and currently there are 395 active accounts running where 25 are communal points and 370 are domestic points. Considering that the average number of households supported by the water project is 3500 people, this translates to 25 customers to serve 20 households.
Odhiambo also adds that since the customers have the responsibility of taking care of their water connections, there is minimal damage of water pipes as well as loss of water as they are vigilant in case of any damages.
“The customers also enjoy subsidised rates as compared to paying bills directly to KIWASCO. In the public water points, people are able to pay as little as Kshs 2 per jerrican of 20 litres instead of Kshs 3 at other water points outside the surrounding,” adds Odhiambo.
Before the inception of the model, KIWASCO registered 61 per cent losses but this has reduced to between 49 to 55 per cent. The network seeks to promote the spirit of collaboration, sharing of best practices, and documentation of success stories and articulation of the challenges faced by residents in accessing water.
Despite the successes, there are still challenges that the networks need to deal with such as vandalism of water meters and pipes as this is done by jobless youth who sell them to scrap metal dealers.
Odhiambo adds that expansion is still a challenge due to lack of resources and currently the project caters for 60 per cent of the population and targets to serve 80 per cent of the population in future.
Frank David Ochieng’ who is the Acting Head of Commercial Services at Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company says that the company plans to replicate the same platform to all the 15 low income areas in Kisumu and beyond.
Ochieng lauds the model saying the company has managed to reduce water loss as a result of theft and vandalism.
He explains that ownership of the water project in community has also increased with over 150,000 people in the city, Obunga, Manyatta and Nyalenda areas benefitting from the initiative.
However, the lack of electricity at the water project poses a challenge to the billing system: “We have to print out bills at a cyber café and these are additional costs to us that have to be factored in the payment,” says Odhiambo.
The network has been charged with the task of reaching as many people as possible so as to bring water closer to the people. The network is in the process of expanding to Manyatta and Obunga informal settlements and for this, many women like Nyakinda will be able afford a smile and health to their families..