A water project brings peace to a community

Daniel Mbone, a resident of Ulu Market on the border of Kajiado and Makueni counties, remembers when there were fights in the town over water. “Water was a scarce commodity and a source of conflict between two neighboring communities.” Exacerbating the existing tensions, the government had sub-divided land, disrupting existing water projects and leading to even greater water scarcity.

In 2009, a small group – led by Daniel – decided to start a community water project to help resolve the conflict over water scarcity. They drilled a borehole with funding assistance from the Kenyan government and the Tanathi Water Works Development Agency, which is mandated to provide bulk water and sewerage infrastructure in Kajiado, Kitui, Makueni, and Machakos counties. The drilling marked the birth of the Ulu 3 Water Project. Over the years, the project expanded its system by extending its pipeline and acquiring and installing a modern water pumping system and a storage tank.

Despite the infrastructure growth, the project suffered from poor management. A lack of training led to improper record-keeping and financial mismanagement. As a result, the enterprise had little available money to maintain its systems or address water theft.

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Women and spanners: Promoting female leadership in the water sector

When Beatrice Adhiambo was promoted to manager of Migori Water Scheme in 2020, she became the first female manager at the company, which is part of the larger Migori Water and Sewerage Company (MIWASCO).

As a trained social worker, she joined the water sector six years ago handling pro-poor initiatives for a water utility in Kisumu County. “I was a coordinator handling water supplies, customer relations, new water connections, and ensuring the underserved and vulnerable people had access to clean water,” she said.

It did not take long before she slowly developed an interest in the technical roles that her colleagues performed. “Watching plumbers fix damaged water pipelines and fixing new connections made me love water pipes. The more I interacted with them, the more my passion grew,” she said. Her first memorable role as a technical staff involved fixing a water meter. “After successfully installing it, my career officially took off and as it goes, the rest is history,” she said proudly.

 

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Amidst the tragedy of flood and disease, one water utility continues on

As the dark rain clouds gathered in early March 2020, Ann, a resident of the lakeshore village of Osieko Nambo in Siaya County, Kenya – saw nothing unusual. This marked the onset of the long-awaited rainy season, which traditionally starts in March each year. She had her small field plowed ready for planting while her fisherman husband knew that heavy rainfall spelled luck on the nets.

 “Once the skies opened, the water levels on Lake Victoria started swelling rapidly and we knew it was a ticking time bomb,” Ann said. It did not take long before the lake overflowed, forcing Ann and her neighbors to flee their homes. The floods did not only displace people but also destroyed toilets, water pipelines and disrupted businesses in the village’s shopping center famous for fish.

Swiftly, the government launched a flood response operation in the area that oversaw the relocation of three thousand people to Osieko Nambo Primary School. The institution sits on elevated ground and has a reliable supply of water from Osieko Nambo Water Enterprise.

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Maintaining water flow in Kisumu City amidst a global pandemic

The Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company (KIWASCO) manages water supplies in both formal and informal settlements of Kisumu County. Currently, the company serves 83 percent of approximately 457,000 people in its service area and offers management support to two smaller water companies – Gulf and Nyanas. With a large customer base and a strong corporate commitment to expand household connections and extend its networks to unserved communities, KIWASCO had to adapt to stay afloat and continue to serve its customers when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“The COVID-19 outbreak sparked fear among our staff and consumers. Our technical staff feared conducting water pipeline patrols while our customers dreaded meter reading. At some point, we were unable to update our systems, and this had a direct impact on our billing and revenue collection,” said Elda Odongo, Acting Head of Communications at KIWASCO.

When many of KIWASCO’s largest customers – schools, churches, bars, and hotels – closed to help contain the spread of the virus, the company’s monthly revenues decreased from an average of US $800,000 to US $600,000. “The closed businesses comprised only 20 percent of our consumer base but contribute to 80 percent of our revenues,” said Kevin Ogonda, Pro-poor Programme Coordinator at KIWASCO. The company held a crisis meeting to evaluate the situation and put in place precautionary measures. “As a company, we shelved all planned service extensions and expansions to cut the cost burden,” Odongo said.

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Wastewater and the spread of COVID-19

For ten years, Caroline, a kale ‘sukuma wiki’ vendor in one of Nairobi’s busiest markets has been receiving healthy-looking kale from her supplier. However Caroline does not know where her vegetables are grown or whether the farmer uses clean or untreated sewer water for the crops. For many years, Kenyans living in urban areas, and especially in Nairobi, have been warned that fruits and vegetables sold in markets could have been grown using wastewater.

New scientific evidence detected the presence of SARS-Cov-2 RNA, the virus that causes COVID-19, in wastewater systems, indicating a possible fecal-oral transmission route. In response to this finding, researchers from developed countries have employed wastewater-based epidemiology [1] as a methodology for detecting the prevalence of the virus in the population within a sewer catchment. Though studies have not confirmed any known cases transmitted from wastewater to humans, the potential for aerosolized transmission of the virus disseminated by wastewater sprinkler irrigation systems is a possibility.

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Solar energy kept us afloat amidst a pandemic

Since 2016, funding from USAID through the Kenya Integrated Water Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) Project has enabled 231 small and medium water projects to tackle infrastructure and skills challenges to reach more people with clean water and sustainable services. The challenges are unique to each water project. One of these projects is in Kamulu Town on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The project was started in 2013 by a resident of Kamulu when he saw that other residents faced an acute water shortage. “Residents here relied on two shallow wells with limited supply. I felt I needed to help salvage the situation,” he said.

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A pathway to the sustainable expansion of WASH enterprises

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.

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Innovative technology reducing barriers, increasing access to water

The Little Sisters of St. Francis Community Water Project in Nairobi’s Kasarani area benefits approximately 57,000 students, patients, and community members with access to safe drinking water. The Catholic sisters run the project alongside a community hospital, primary school, pastoral care center, vocational training center, and a shelter for rescued street children.

The water project is unique. Water in this area of Nairobi is high in fluoride and unhealthy for human consumption. Through a partnership between KIWASH and DOW Chemical Company, a fluoride decontamination treatment system was installed in 2018. DOW donated an energy-efficient filtration system while KIWASH provided technical assistance and infrastructure support to expand the existing water pipeline, install an efficient pump, and construct two water kiosks.

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Scaling up water access as an essential commodity amidst a pandemic

Busia, a bustling border town between Uganda and Kenya, is full of travelers passing through for business or to visit family. Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic in Kenya, the Busia Water and Sewerage Company (BUWASCO) has managed to increase daily water production by nearly 50 percent to 2.9 million liters in 2020. This increase is due to the company’s hard work before the outbreak of the pandemic in Kenya to improve its infrastructure, records, and customer service and to increase demand for piped clean water.

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Responding to COVID-19 and solidifying WASH development gains

mobilepayment.jpgIn March 2020, Kenya reported the first coronavirus disease case in the country. The virus has since spread from the capital Nairobi to 46 other counties with over 36,000 people infected according to the Ministry of Health’s data dated September 13, 2020. Besides the disease burden, the pandemic has caused immense economic impacts characterized by the volatility of the Kenyan currency, poor performance of financial markets, and general job losses hence affecting many livelihoodsAs the Government of Kenya (GoK) mobilized its response to the pandemic, USAID was able to support its efforts through an extension and re-alignment of its Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (KIWASH) project. 

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Kiwash Blog

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Daniel Mbone, a resident of Ulu Market on the border of Kajiado and Makueni counties, remembers when there were fights in the town over water....
Beatrice Adhiambo  the first Manager at Migori Water Scheme Chris Muturi-USAID KIWASH-1
When Beatrice Adhiambo was promoted to manager of Migori Water Scheme in 2020, she became the first female manager at the company, which is part...
6-year-old Cliff Gege enjoying a glass of clean water under a tree in their homestead. Their home is served through KIWASH supported West Uyoma Water Project in Siaya Countyvvv.  Chris Muturi KIWASH
As the dark rain clouds gathered in early March 2020, Ann, a resident of the lakeshore village of Osieko Nambo in Siaya County, Kenya –...

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