Building water secure institutions

The challenge

Kenya embarked on a process of devolution in 2013, establishing 47 new county governments with wide-ranging responsibilities, including the provision of drinking water services. County governments have inherited a legacy of past policies and failing infrastructure investments, including community-based management as the dominant institutional model for rural water supplies.

Kitui County is tasked with delivering universal and safe water services in a challenging environment. The climate is semi-arid, rainfall extremes are common, and populations are scattered with high levels of poverty. The population is almost entirely rural with two out of three households classified as ‘poor’. Revenue collection for water is low and financial sustainability remains an elusive goal in Kitui, and across Kenya.

The observatory

Supported by the Kitui County Government, we have developed the FundiFix model to address the gap in maintaining rural water services. Results have seen broken handpumps fixed in under three days compared to a month under previous arrangements. Local communities are now paying a local maintenance services company to continue and expand the model to piped water infrastructure. A Trust Fund has been established which blends finance from government, investors and water users for a performance-based, sustainable and scalable model.

The Kitui Observatory will explore the potential and limitations of the FundiFix model to achieve universal drinking water security. Our research will help design more effective institutions to address rural water security risks from rainfall variability, unreliable infrastructure and unsustainable finance.

Research questions

  1. Can improved institutional design improve drinking water security for the poor?
  2. Do geophysical parameters control groundwater quantity and quality more than rainfall variability?
  3. What influences water use behaviour and affordability of water services?
  4. What type and nature of rainfall events leads to different water use behaviours?

News and blog

Why there’s a handpump in an Oxford car park, October 2016
Quenching thirst for data in rural Kenya, September 2016
A vision for drinking water security in Kitui County, Kenya, February 2016

Publications

The Fundifix model: maintaining rural water services, University of Oxford and UNICEF, November 2016.

REACH (2016) Maintaining Africa’s water infrastructure: findings from a Water Audit in Kitui County, Kenya. REACH Policy Brief, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

REACH (2015) Country Diagnostic Report, Kenya. REACH Working Paper 3, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Research team

UNICEF: Dr Andrew Trevett

University of Nairobi: Professor Albert Mumma, Dr Daniel Olago, Dr Maggie Opondo, Dr Gilbert Ouma

University of Oxford: Dr Paola Ballon, Dr Simon Dadson, Dr Ellen Dyer, Dr Rob Hope, Dr Sonia Ferdous Hoque, Johanna Koehler, Professor Richard Washington

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Dr Daniel Olago, University of Nairobi

‘We’re working closely with UNICEF in Kenya to build water secure institutions in rural areas to potentially benefit millions of Africans.’

© 2017 REACH