Reviving small water schemes offers hope for thousands in western Kenya

60-year-old Isabella Andeso had given up on ever having reliable water at her home in Khwisero Constituency in western Kenya. The retired teacher moved to Khwisero in 2009 and soon discovered accessing water was a daily challenge. “I used to get water from my neighbor’s well at a fee, or I would go to the river two kilometers away or buy expensive water from a vendor,” she said.

Khwisero Community Water Supply was established in 1990 with support from the Finnish Government. But due to poor management and technical challenges, the project failed after five years, leaving the 10,000 residents of Khwisero reliant on rivers, shallow wells and water vendors for their daily water needs. The community revived the water project in 2009, but, as Project Chairman Charles Omukholo recalls, “it collapsed again in 2012 mainly due to mismanagement and lack of operations and maintenance knowledge.”

In 2016, the KIWASH project began working in Khwisero to help revive the water scheme once more, this time focusing on strengthening governance, business operations and financial management. KIWASH also invested in infrastructure improvements, including a solar water pump to reduce energy costs, a 50,000-liter water tank, and a new 5.6-kilometer pipeline to reach new areas of the constituency. Together, the management coaching and infrastructure improvements are reviving hope among the community for a reliable source of clean water.

By strengthening the capacity of the water supply management, KIWASH is helping ensure Khwisero has a sustainable, well-managed water supply. According the Charles, the “training in financial management, record keeping, billing, customer care, operations and maintenance are key to sustaining our project today and into the future. We now supply reliable water to four water kiosks serving 1000 people, three health institutions and four schools with over 1700 students. We also constructed a laundry bay at the spring that is popular with the community.”

Isabella finally felt hopeful for a reliable water supply after she attended a community meeting and heard about the KIWASH project. The information she gathered convinced her to connect to the new pipeline. She has since been receiving water that she uses for domestic chores, watering her vegetable garden and for her cow to drink.

The reliable water supply has reduced the amount of time community members, especially women and school-age children, spend fetching water. Now students can spend more time on their education and the women can direct their energies towards economic activities that will assist their families.

The Khwisero Community Water Supply is one the 231 WASH enterprises receiving capacity training, management coaching and small infrastructure investments from USAID’s KIWASH project to ensure the long-term sustainability of small water projects. In 2018 alone, 281,989 people gained access to reliable drinking water as a result of KIWASH interventions.  

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