The ATM in Kenya that never runs out of water |

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The ATM in Kenya that never runs out of water

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About 48% of the water schemes in rural Kenya fail within 3 years after their start. This is mainly because the government manages the schemes themselves or hands over management to community members who do not have the right skills. Since public and private organisations started working together, water and sanitation access for Kenyans have improved a lot. Around 109,000 people in Siaya (11% of the Siayan population) now have access to clean and safe water. And another 68,000 people have access to sanitation and hygiene.

The need to work together

Native Kenyan Ronald Mose is the programme manager at Dorcas Aid International Kenya. He represents one of the organisations in the project. Mr Mose explains, “When it comes to water management, the private sector is more efficient.” That is why public-private partnerships were formed in the Siaya County water and sanitation project. Dorcas Aid works together with 2 other public organisations and 1 private organisation to improve water and sanitation conditions in Siaya. The Sustainable Water Fund (FDW) supports the project with a subsidy. FDW is a Dutch funding programme for public-private partnerships that support clean and safe water in developing countries.

Ronald Mose explains that this mix of public ownership and private management is what makes this project a success. “Water is a public resource. It is entrusted to the county government on behalf of the people of Siaya. But when it comes to water management, the private sector is more efficient. A private organisation will look at this as a business, work on operational costs and improve the service at the same time. And this while government-regulated water schemes have not improved since the ‘70s and often face leakage problems.”

Boosting local businesses

Private businesses can also inspire local entrepreneurship and create more jobs. Mr Mose continues, “Over the last few years, this project has caused an increase in local businesses. This is also due to sanitation marketing. Because we create more awareness about proper sanitation and hygiene, that also creates more demand. We teach masons how to install toilets, and local businesses provide the materials. Now, Siaya County has 50 businesses that deal with issues involving water, sanitation and hygiene within their community.”

An ATM for water and hygiene products

Another upside of collaborating with the private sector? Technological advancement. The project provides clean water to the community by letting people prepay for a certain amount of water at a local ‘water ATM’. Each time someone buys water, they receive loyalty points. Loyalty points allow them to buy sanitation and hygiene products from local entrepreneurs.

Mr Mose concludes, “The government has not been able to keep up with new technologies. With our prepaid meters, our communities can get water 24/7. They can literally go to a ‘water ATM’, get their water and go home. I am very happy. We are only at the beginning, but it is a good step.”

More about the Sustainable Water Fund

The Sustainable Water Fund programme (FDW) is a Public-Private Partnership facility that aims to contribute to water safety and water security in developing countries. FDW has over 40 projects in 24 countries and covers 3 themes:

  • drinking water and sanitation, including waste management,
  • water efficiency in agriculture, and
  • integrated water resources management.

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