Supporting community-managed water in Kibera

Like many slums and shantytowns worldwide, water in the Kibera area of Nairobi is scarce, costly, unreliable and contaminated. The largest slum in East Africa, Kibera is comprised of single-room rental units built side-by-side along unpaved avenues. Unregulated water points with toilets and faucets charged residents often exorbitant amounts each time they need to use them.

But that is starting to change.

In December 2018, the USAID Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Project (KIWASH) completed the Soweto Highrise Savings Scheme Water Project located in Line Saba Ward of Kibera. The project is communally owned through membership and obtains its water from the Nairobi County Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC), through a delegated management water service delivery model.

Before KIWASH intervention, the project owners faced several challenges. Inadequate water storage facilities led to frequent water shortages. Illegal connections diverted water to unlicensed operators. And a limited pipeline network and an inability to access commercial financing impaired the project’s ability to improve and expand its infrastructure.

Through KIWASH infrastructure support and a recoverable grant of $8,000, the project constructed a 0.65km water pipeline and a water kiosk. In order to ensure every drop would be accounted for, the kiosk was installed with a high accuracy meter. Finally, to increase the water storage, the project installed three plastic water storage tanks with a total capacity of 25,000 liters.

Christine Mueni runs the project’s water kiosk. She serves at least 100 people per day and makes an average of $210 dollars a month. “In addition to adequate water, it is safe for drinking,” notes Christine. “Each month, NCWSC collects water samples for testing and the results have always been positive.” Christine is also happy to note that NCWSC has started requiring every water supplier to hold a business license, which has helped address illegal connections.

This support has been strengthened by KIWASH training, coaching and mentoring support. “KIWASH taught us how to fish as opposed to giving us fish. We benefited from training on different aspects including project and business management, planning, financial management and gender equality mainstreaming,” says Harrison Kithuku, Project Manager. “Through KIWASH training, we have also created employment to water kiosk attendants and line patrol officers.”

Stephen Kalia is a beneficiary of the water project. He visits the water kiosk at least four times a day with a 30-liter jerrican to collect enough water for his family. “This water kiosk has brought water closer home. Before, I had to go to a water kiosk located further from this place.”

The Soweto Highrise Savings Scheme Water Project is a first step toward providing water security to one of the most vulnerable populations in Nairobi County.

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