Along the Kisumu-Nairobi highway is the town of Ahero, where two enormous steel water tanks stand side by side by the road. The tanks bear the mark of the ‘Boya Water Project,’ and occasionally act as a landmark for many travelers along the highway. The tanks serve several water kiosks that bear the same project name. On market days, these kiosks along the highway are a beehive of activity, with water jerricans dotting the collection points.
The treasurer for the Boya Water Project in Kisumu County was pleased to see the community benefit. “As a water project, we had a dream to ensure our consumers had reliable and clean water,” he said. “Gladly, USAID’s Kenya Integrated Water Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) Project shared the same vision as us and aided us in a big way,” he added.
As a standard practice, KIWASH started by analyzing significant challenges constraining Boya’s operations. The review noted that the enterprise suffered from high defaulted water bills and commercial water losses due to water theft and old water systems, which together resulted in low revenue. The company also relied heavily on expensive electricity to pump water, resulting in high rates for its customers. Finally, Boya Water Project suffered from a general lack of professional expertise.
To address these challenges, KIWASH supported Boya to improve and expand its infrastructure, reduce its operational costs, and realize its goal of supplying clean water to the residents. KIWASH helped construct approximately two kilometers of water pipeline to reach underserved residents and replacing old and worn-out pipes. KIWASH also installed a 24,000-liter steel tank to boost water storage and increase supply hours, constructed five water kiosks to increase accessibility, installed a solar pumping system to reduce electricity bills, and provided a water treatment unit to supply safe water to consumers.
“In addition to the huge support to improve our water systems, KIWASH also trained and mentored our management committee and technical staff to ensure we embraced the right practices of running an economically viable water business,” said Boya’s treasurer. "KIWASH also gave us a US $4,402 recoverable grant to purchase water meters as a measure to curb the runaway commercial water losses,” he added. KIWASH uses recoverable grants as soft capital to water service providers to enable them to expand their operations and increase their effective delivery of water services.
“KIWASH’s support did not only set us on an upward trajectory towards realizing our dream but also made us a commercially viable water enterprise,” Boya’s treasurer said proudly. Boya Water Project has reduced its commercial water losses from slightly over fifty percent in 2019 to 23 percent in 2020. All of its 930 customers – 76 of which were added in the last year – have metered connections, ensuring accurate water readings and billing. Solar panels have helped the project cut down on electricity costs by 42 percent to the US $7,000 per month. “All these improvements taken together have enabled us to maintain an average monthly revenue collection of US $3,000 in 2020, despite the advent of Coronavirus disease in Kenya,” said the project’s secretary.
“In four years, KIWASH has been able to drastically improve our capacity as a water enterprise. The fruits of their support will be long felt by generations to come,” said Boya’s treasurer. The Boya Water Enterprise became the first KIWASH-supported project to fully repay the recoverable grant. The project then explored the option of commercial financing, valued at US $45,000, to construct a 50,000-liter steel tank.
“My tap used to run dry for a whole month, and sometimes I forgot that I had a water connection in the compound. That is history now,” said a 70-year-old beneficiary of the Boya Water Enterprise.