The “miracle well” of Makueni County

Photograph of a man picking tomatoesLeonard Ngoa owns a greenhouse at the heart of Makueni County. Despite recurring drought, he is able to run his agribusiness thanks to a reliable water source - the Masaku Water Supply Company.  The enterprise is owned and operated by the Muange Masaku family and supported by USAID’s Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Project (KIWASH).

The family business started in 1964 with a 16-foot-deep well and a 10,000-liter water tank. The initial project consisted of two water supply lines and one water kiosk. Over time, they purchased two more water tanks.

“This is a miracle well as it has never dried up even during droughts. It is also special because the water is fresh unlike other wells in the area with salty water,” explains Mzee Masaku, the family patriarch.

In 2018, the KIWASH Project supported the Masaku Water Supply Company to reach more consumers with clean and reliable water. A grant from KIWASH enabled them to install 20 solar panels and a blended energy controller. The new solar-powered system has cut the cost of pumping by 80 percent. “In November 2017, we paid an electricity bill of KES 40,000 but in September 2018, we paid KES 7,000,” reveals one of the sons. “During the rainy season, the cost of electricity goes down to as low as KES 2,000 because we supply rainwater during the day and only pump water during the night to cater to a hospital that runs 24 hours.” The solar panels have also ensured uninterrupted water supply even as the area faces frequent electricity blackouts. The small water business also used the grant to buy two 10,000-liter water tanks that were mounted on a steel tower that uses gravity to distribute water to the surrounding area.

KIWASH also constructed an additional water kiosk and extended the water pipeline by one and a half kilometers. With the pipeline closer to his home, Leonard Ngoa was able to obtain a water connection to run his green house. The improved infrastructure allowed Masaku Water to increase its water connections from 33 to 65 households, clinics, businesses and schools. Water trucks also use the new kiosk to fill their tanks and distribute water to additional houses within a 10-kilometer radius. The improved business is increasing Masaku Water’s revenues which will enable further expansions down the line.

KIWASH continues to coach and mentor the project owners in business management and customer service. This is allowing them to identify and fix water leaks, perform basic borehole maintenance, and improve record keeping and customer relations. These skills have seen the project expand its operations significantly and create employment for seven additional people. The family project has plans to establish a water bottling plant and put up a loading bay for water trucks. The project is also completing the construction of a new business hub complete with an office for visiting customers.

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