Kenyan County Sets Sights on Lofty WASH Goals

USAID Water Team
May 11 · 5 min read
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A meter reader with the Kakamega County Water and Sanitation Company checks a
consumer’s water point. KIWASH supported the water utility to streamline this process by
making sure supporting photos are collected, which eliminates the opportunity to tamper with
readings. Photo credit: Euphresia Luseka/KIWASH.

The government in Kakamega County — Kenya’s second-most populated county (after the capital, Nairobi), with nearly 2 million residents — has set a goal to supply piped water to 80 percent of its residents by 2022. While 61 percent of residents currently have access to improved water sources, the county in Kenya’s far west is largely rural, so connecting more customers to the water utility is no small task.

“With the capacity development and infrastructure support we have received from Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) project, we are ready for take off,” explains the county’s Chief Officer for Water Joseck Maloba.

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Two plumbers with the Butere Water Scheme create a new water connection. Photo credit: Euphresia Luseka/KIWASH.

KIWASH is a five-year USAID program with the goal of improving the lives and health of Kenyan citizens in nine counties through the development and management of sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. It was developed to take on nearly all aspects of WASH from water catchment protection, to policy and legislation development, and services provision management.

“KIWASH was meant to try to holistically and comprehensively address the WASH needs in specific counties in Kenya,” says Amanda Robertson, Senior WASH Advisor with USAID/Kenya and East Africa. “Through KIWASH, we’ve really been able to be ambitious and to say ‘here is a wide set of problems and we’re going to try to tackle those in an exhaustive way.’”

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Through KIWASH’s support, a water operator at Tindinyo Water Scheme helps ensure water supplied to consumers meets the minimum standard for potable water. Photo credit: Euphresia Luseka/KIWASH/2017.

To make the government more accountable for service delivery to citizens, Kenya devolved many of its governance functions from national to county level as enshrined in the country’s 2010 Constitution. As a result, the counties are now responsible for providing water and sanitation services, rather than the central government. Thus much of KIWASH’s work is with county governments. “We have staff from KIWASH that are embedded at the county level, so that means they are able to do their planning together,” explains Nicholas Owuor, USAID/Kenya and East Africa Program Management Specialist for WASH.

As a KIWASH WASH Governance Specialist, Euphresia Luseka is that point of contact in Kakamega County. “I sit in the office where the Minister of Water, the Chief Officer of Water, and the Directors of Water sit,” she says. “In terms of activity design, implementation, monitoring, participating in each other activities, mentoring and coaching, and being available all the time, it really helps in creating ownership and accountability of processes.”

“Local ownership is really what allows all the work to happen.”

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The billing and revenue clerk at Mumias Water Scheme, under Kakamega County
Urban Water and Sewerage Company, helps the utility curb non-revenue water
losses through effective billing, handling of customer complaints, and metering. Photo credit:
Euphresia Luseka/KIWASH

In Kakamega County, KIWASH has helped the local government develop policies that will guide their water services priorities, and the county has increased the budget allocation for WASH services and related capital investments by more than 100 percent as a result.

“KIWASH has really helped us improve water services through projects that are aligned to the government’s agenda. We now plan to create a rural water company to operate community water utilities for uniformity of service and sustainability of the water services in [all] the rural towns and villages,” says John Baraza, Kakamega County Minister for Water, Environment, and Natural Resources.

The program has also focused on strengthening corporate governance and operational efficiency at Kakamega County Urban Water and Sewerage Company (KACWASCO). As a result, the utility adopted automated metering and billing processes and data management, developed company policies, overhauled customer services, and introduced staff performance agreements. This led to improved overall performance and expanded water coverage for 87 percent of residents in the area (up from 68 percent before 2016). Annual revenues increased by 36 percent, from US$19.2 million to $30 million. KACWASCO is now one of the top-ten performing water utilities in Kenya, and its credit rating has increased from a B to a BB.

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Students from Glory High School enjoy a newly connected water served by Butere Water
Scheme. KIWASH supported the scheme through an eight kilometer pipeline extension reaching
underserved areas and institutions. Photo credit: Euphresia Luseka/KIWASH

KACWASCO’s customers have noticed the improvements. A customer survey conducted in December 2019 indicated an 81 percent approval rating, up from 65 percent in 2017. “Customers are now willing to pay for water,” says Luseka. “They are now feeling like KACWASCO is more reliable and they can depend on their services.” Water quality is also critically important for consumers, and Luseka says that reported rates of waterborne disease have been cut in half.

“We have a huge potential in terms of resources in the private sector that we’ll be able to tap.”

Luseka feels that the future is bright for Kakamega County’s water services. “Even if another management team comes in place or another county government leadership comes in place, they will find this precedence, so it will be so tough for them to fall back. They will now be aiming higher and higher.”

By Christine Chumbler

Additional Resources:

This article appears in Global Waters, Vol. 11, Issue 2; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on Globalwaters.org.

To subscribe to Global Waters magazine, click here.

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Global Waters

Global Waters tells the story of USAID's water-related…

USAID Water Team

Written by

USAID and its partners improve access to clean water and safe sanitation to create a healthier and more #WaterSecureWorld. For more, visit Globalwaters.org.

Global Waters

Global Waters tells the story of USAID's water-related efforts around the globe, featuring in-depth articles exploring solutions to local as well as global water challenges, opinion pieces by development professionals, and first-hand accounts from stakeholders and beneficiaries.

USAID Water Team

Written by

USAID and its partners improve access to clean water and safe sanitation to create a healthier and more #WaterSecureWorld. For more, visit Globalwaters.org.

Global Waters

Global Waters tells the story of USAID's water-related efforts around the globe, featuring in-depth articles exploring solutions to local as well as global water challenges, opinion pieces by development professionals, and first-hand accounts from stakeholders and beneficiaries.

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