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.
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.
UNICEF: Mahboob Ahmed Bajwa
University of Nairobi: Professor Albert Mumma, Dr Daniel Olago, Dr Maggie Opondo, Dr Gilbert Ouma
University of Oxford: Dr Simon Dadson, Dr Ellen Dyer, Dr Rob Hope, Dr Sonia Ferdous Hoque, Dr Johanna Koehler, Saskia Nowicki, Cliff Nyaga, Dr Patrick Thomson, Professor Richard Washington,
Can rural people pay for water in a crisis?, June 2020
Water security in times of crisis: how COVID-19 is impacting the rural poor in Bangladesh and Kenya, May 2020
Uncertainty and optimism: the impact of COVID-19 on the REACH community in Ethiopia, Kenya and the UK, May 2020
Rural water quality monitoring within reach: moving beyond the quantity vs. quality mindset, April 2020
REACH Early-Career Researcher Feature: Improving water security for the rural poor in fragile environments, January 2019
‘Smart Handpumps’ research is the overall winner of the Vice Chancellor’s Innovation Award, July 2018
Why getting ‘water affordability’ right matters – and how water diaries can be of help, June 2018
Handpump vibrations could help secure water for millions of people in Africa, February 2017
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
Hope, R., Foster, T., Koehler, J. and Thomson, P. (2020). “Rural Water Policy in Africa and Asia” Water Science, Policy and Management: A Global Challenge edited by Dadson, S.J., Garrick, D.E., Penning-Rowsell, E.C., Hall, J.W., Hughes, J., Wiley.
Nowicki, S., Koehler, J., and Charles, K. (2020). Including water quality monitoring in rural water services: why safe water requires challenging the quantity versus quality dichotomy. NPJ Clean Water, 3(14).
Hope, R., Thomson, P., Koehler, J. and Foster, T. (2020). Rethinking the economics of rural water in Africa. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 36, 1.
Korzenevica, M. (2019). Emerging themes on considering water equity. REACH Research Brief, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Nyaga, C. (2018). Understanding factors and actors to achieve sustainable drinking water systems in Kitui County, Kenya. Research brief.
REACH (2018) A cultural theory of drinking water risks, values and institutional change. REACH Policy Brief, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.
Koehler, K., Rayner, S., Katuva, J., Thomson, P, Hope, R. (2018). A cultural theory of drinking water risks, values and institutional change. Global Environmental Change, 50, 268-277.
Hoque, S., Hope, R. (2018). The water diary method – proof-of-concept and policy implications for monitoring water use behaviour in rural Kenya. Water Policy, 20, 4.
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
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