Improved water and sanitation services

The right connections can revolutionise lives

Since 2007, we've been working in Mukuru, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. This slum is one of the poorest urban areas in Africa, with very little access to services. This project will benefit 75,000 slum dwellers through better quality water and improved sanitation.

Like most slums, the main challenge in Mukuru is the basic lack of water points and toilets. But the challenges of getting piped water and sanitation services safely to the residents are incredibly complex.

That's why we've focussed on improving the relationships between residents in the slums, local water vendors (entrepreneurs who tap water from main lines out of the slum, often contaminating it as they take it to areas not yet connected), and the main water company responsible for providing water to all residents

In 2010 we ran a learning and sharing workshop where all those involved in the water supply system had a chance to meet and discuss their needs and the challenges they face. There is a strong recognition among water utilities in Nairobi that urban low-income people are an important and large group to provide with services. Urban poor have many abilities to organise themselves, provide labour and negotiate well with the external actors.

As a result of the trust and better relationship, the water company is constructing over 2km of water lines inside the slum, while the community, led by water entrepreneurs, are investing in an additional 60 water points off the new pipes across the slum.

Margaret Wambui, a local water vendor, told Practical Action staff about her hopes for the water supply in her slum: "In the past the water company staff would not dream of coming to this neighbourhood. I'm happy that they now believe it's safe enough to come and help us. I believe that with the relationship we have with them we can do a lot to improve the water supply..."

Now, the future challenge is to improve the local environment, with better drainage of wastewater and collection of solid waste.

Reducing poverty and improving health in Mukuru

Country: Kenya
Date: January 2007 - June 2010
Project manager: Carolyne Nekesa

Water supply and sanitation - the Mukuru Model

Mukuru prior water supply Mukuru is one of the largest slums in Nairobi, Kenya with a population of over 250,000. For many years residents of Mukuru, amongst the poorest people in Nairobi, were forced to pay high prices for low-quality intermittent water supplies. Residents sometimes paid as much as one Euro for 2.5 per cubic metres; over five times the average price paid by official customers of the water company, NCWSC. Water was supplied by hundreds of water vendors (small water enterprises or SWE) most of whom access NCWSC supplies through illegal connections. While the residents of Mukuru endured long queues and frequent disconnections, NCWSC was also losing water and urgently needed revenue. At the same time sanitation provision in Mukuru was almost non-existent and sanitary conditions appalling.

In 2007 the Integrated Approach to Reducing Poverty (LARP) project was launched, with the aim of improving services in three Mukuru villages, which have a combined population of 67,000. Funding was provided by the European Union, technical support and implementation was the responsibility of Practical Action.

Water supply

The project has created a strong tri-sector partnership between NCWSC, the SWEs and Mukuru community with Practical Action acting as facilitator. Under the project NCWSC constructed ten new water chambers in the heart of the settlement. The chambers are spaced at intervals of 400 metres along the main water supply pipeline and each contain between 36 and 30 water connections. SWEs purchase water from the NCWSC through a metre at the chamber and provide an onsale service to households.

In the new model the NCWSC remains responsible for the supply, installation and connection of the water chambers and all the secondary level pipework leading to them. SWEs are responsible for the pipework from the water chamber to their water selling points. NCWSC supervises all construction and maintains technical standards.

Improved access to sanitation

Mukuru Mtongwe sanitation block Two types of sanitation hardware were supported under the project, communal sanitation blocks (CSBs) which provide toilet and washing facilities and stand-alone toilets (SATs) which serve small groups of between 5 and 29 households. Both models are to be connected to the sewer network and water supply, although not all SATs have yet been connected.

The communal sanitation blocks provide separate toilet and washing facilities for men and women. Water tanks on the roof serve the toilets, bathroom and a water kiosk. The project constructed three blocks at a cost of 29,362 Euro, an average cost of 9,787 Euro each. A Clerk of Works was employed to supervise a local contractor to construct blocks. At each of the blocks a Self Help Group (SHG) was established to identify the best location for the block and to run it once it was completed. Land was critical since each block occupies about 36 square metres, typically room for four Mukuru houses.

Mukuru Mamwika toilet Stand-alone Toilets (SAT) are smaller than the CSBs and occupy only a single house plot. Each has two to four toilet seats and a handwashing basin outside.

The SATs were built by local artisans from the Mukuru settlement who received training from the project. Their work was overseen by the project's Clerk of Works who also helped select appropriate sites. Because of the lack of space, landlords who agree to build a SAT must give up one house plot, each toilet is then shared by the remaining households on the block, or between households in two or three adjacent blocks.

The project has funded the construction of 15 SATs in Mukuru. Each block has been built with a contribution from the beneficiaries of 12.5% of the construction cost, the construction cost being dependent upon the number of 'toilet seats' or cubicles in the block. The SATs have been identified by the community as a popular and affordable solution and four landlords have gone ahead independently and built their own SATs, a further eight landlords have applied to the project for permission to build a SAT using their own funds.

Supporting interventions

In addition to establishing a new model for water supply and sanitation, the project also supported the formation of a water vendor Savings and Credit Co-operative Society (SACCO) as a legal entity with a bank account. The SACCO provides financial security for its members, enabling them to pay their water bills in times of difficulty.

The project also included a campaign to raise awareness of hygiene and sanitation issues which targeted young mothers and school children in the project area. It reached over 2,500 mothers and focused on household water storage, handwashing proper use of toilets and disposal of sanitary materials. The project worked in eight schools, reaching 4,000 children and providing training to 22 teachers on hygiene and sanitation; how to promote it and how to communicate the messages to children.

Replication and scaling up

The Mukuru model has resulted in significant benefits, not only for the SWEs but also for the NCWSC and the community. SWEs now have status and can rely on steady income without risk of being penalised by the water company. NCWSC has reduced both its physical and revenue water losses, and has better control over the 'downstream' portion of its network within Mukuru. The people of Mukuru have benefited most, enjoying a reliable safe water supply and decent convenient sanitation at affordable prices for the first time ever.

The Mukuru model has achieved an enormous amount in a very short space of time. Where there was once a confrontational adversarial relationship between the water company and the residents of Mukuru there is now a formalised working agreement built upon understanding and trust. Practical Action has provided the catalyst that has enabled NCWSC to change its approach to the water vendors with whom they are now willing and able to engage. Consequently, the NCWSC now works with the SWEs rather than against them and has grown not only in its understanding of the community but also in its ability to serve them with water and sanitation services.

Recognising this, the Informal Settlements Coordination Group, chaired by NCWSC, is now seeking ways to scale up this model, adopt it as part of the NCWSC core business plan, and bring the same benefits to many more poor communities across Nairobi.

Similar projects are making a real difference. The right connections can revolutionise the lives of thousands in Kisumu.

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