byKelvin Gacheru via web
With most of Nairobi currently experiencing water shortage now more than ever, we believe that this is the right time to incorporate water monitoring at the B.O.P. Our pilot involves incorporating real-time water monitoring systems at local community water points with the aim of increasing water consistency and availability. Over the last month, we have organized three water stakeholder forums, had discussions with local water point owners and visited water points to profile them. We gained lots of insights from engaging with the local water providers, the challenges they face in ensuring consistent water supply and got a better look into how they run their water and sanitation businesses. It was interesting to note that:
• Water is still a sensitive topic. With most of the water points in Kibera not receiving water directly from the Nairobi Water mainline, some water point owners were very uncomfortable to disclose how their water is supplied to them. Some of the water point owners feared to come to the meeting as they thought we were a government agency trying to investigate how they access their water or regulate the price at which they sell. In addition to the forums, we’ve had to do a lot of groundwork visiting various water points in the pilot location to ensure they fully understood the pilot and to clarify how we would conduct operations during the pilot period.
• Water and Sanitation can be a Sustainable Business. In Kibera, over 97% of the water points are owned by either individuals or Community Based Organizations (CBOs). The remaining few are owned and run by NGOs and so far most of the supposed Government run Water points are non-functional. However, the most sustainable water points were those run by CBOs, with most being functional for at least 1 year and served a larger number of community members than individually owned or NGO water points. The main reason we think for their sustainability is that they managed to turn the Water and Sanitation Business into a profitable venture for their organizations. Not only did they sell water to their community, they also provided sanitation services. With inconsistent water supply and only 1 water storage tank for most CBOs, they sell about 40% of their stored and use the remaining 60% in sanitation services (mainly bathing and toilets). The main challenge most faced is being unaware of their water storage levels and ending up selling all the water, which meant they could not offer sanitation services. The average water price was $0.05 for a 20L jerry can and the price to take a shower/toilet use was $0.1 and on average 10L of water was used. This means that offering sanitation services provides more revenue than just selling water to communities.
• Understanding our Technology. There was a large variation in age of the water point owners who attended the forum with an age variation of almost 20 years. Most of the individually-owned water points belonged to the older generation (probably because they could afford the tanks) while youth-run water points were generally Group-owned. As expected it was much easier for the youth to understand the technology as they were conversant with mobile technology and most had smartphones. For the older generation, we had to approach them using local dialect and explain our technology as simple as possible and in some cases made visits to their water points.
The discussions and the visits to the different water points have provided us great insight into the water point owners as stakeholders and potential customers. Overall, there was a great interest in our monitoring system and lots of inquiries from the water providers. The youth-led water points showed more interest and commitment to being a part of the pilot than those owned by the slightly older generation, probably due to the youth being conversant with mobile technologies. The next phase will involve installing our monitoring system at the local water points and work with the water providers and use the data to improve water consistency at their water points.