The Miracle Well of Makueni County

Photograph of a group of people gathered by a water meterIn 2003, 200 residents of Mbukoni, Kathiani and Mbotela villages in the heart of Makueni County joined hands to sink a borehole after years of suffering, with women and children trekking up to 10 kilometers to fetch water each day. The collaboration was later named the Chyulu Valley Community Based Organization (CBO). Their main aim was to have a water point closer home.

Little did they know they were creating a business that would one day become a self-sustaining source of livelihoods for the community. Yet after just a few short years, the water supply collapsed due to weak management and low revenues.

In 2016, KIWASH identified the potential of the Chyulu Valley CBO and started providing capacity building support to improve business and financial management. A year later, the project qualified for a KIWASH-funded recoverable grant to install a high capacity solar pump to take advantage of their high-yield, rich recharge, and soft water borehole. KIWASH also supported a 6.3 km pipeline extension and two new water kiosks, each with a five cubic meter storage tank. The CBO decided they could extend their water infrastructure even further and took it upon themselves to dig more than 6 kilometers of trenches for additional water pipelines, further increasing their customer base. The water supply business is now delivering water to 5,000 households and realizing US $80 in daily revenues from water kiosks and household connections.

The improvements to the water supply business go way beyond the physical infrastructure. Following the governance and financial management trainings, the CBO members nominated a woman to Chair the group which has increased transparency in their operations. They have hired more young people to manage various aspects of the business. And their high-quality bookkeeping has made them a credit worthy organization, allowing them to apply for loans from banks. 

KIWASH is supporting them in this endeavor, providing technical and feasibility analysis, business planning support, Environmental and Social Impact Assessment assistance, and has helped with loan negotiations. As a result, the Chyulu Valley CBO has seen a surplus of more than US 10,000, which it has re-invested in the business while maintaining a reserve for any future repairs.

Emboldened by the continued profitability and high demand for water in this semi-arid region, the CBO has submitted a formal loan application to Family Bank for a USD 42,000 line of credit to finance a community water-bottling project. The credit will blend USD 32,000 in community equity and KIWASH grant assistance.

Veronica Musyoki, Chyulu Valley CBO Chair, marvels at the blessing the borehole has been for the community, “We call it a miracle well. A miracle well because the borehole is very shallow, it has very fresh water, it has plenty of water, and it supports kitchen gardens and small businesses for dozens of households in this area.” As the new bottling business gets off the ground, the well will continue to provide a source of livelihoods and hope to this community.

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