For students at the Sivilia Primary School in rural Kenya, a typical morning routine didn’t just involve packing homework into their backpack before rushing off to class, it also included a pit stop at the nearest well or river to retrieve water in a plastic jug called a jerrycan.
Because the Sivilia Primary School in Navakholo village lacked a running water, students had no choice but to carry as much as 20 liters of water on their 40-minute walk to school every day. It was an exhausting task, but a jerrycan full of water was essential for everything from drinking water to handwashing.
Attending school all day is challenging enough for small kids, but the added physical stress of providing their own water made it nearly impossible for students to focus on work in the classroom, causing a noticeable decline in their academic performance.
However, that changed once the school received a piped water connection through the Navakholo Water Supply Company.
“Our students no longer have to carry water to school in the morning or go fetch it from the river. This has improved their ability to concentrate and excel in their studies,” observed Evans Juma, the school’s head teacher.
In the following year, the school’s national test scores increased dramatically, as students were less stressed and had more time to focus in the classroom. The availability of clean water also meant the children could have a hot lunch and safe drinking water each day, which vastly reduced the number of diarrhea-related illnesses treated by the school clinic.
The Navakholo Water Supply Company was able to provide water to the Sivilia Primary School through the support of the Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) Project, a five-year U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program implemented by DAI. KIWASH collaborates with local water providers to improve the lives and health of Kenyans by developing sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services across the country – services that have not been able to keep up with Kenya’s rapidly growing population.
Since KIWASH began in 2015, Kenya’s population has surpassed 50 million and is projected to double by 2050. To tackle this challenge, KIWASH has implemented activities that target water, sanitation, and hygiene needs, particularly in rural areas where nearly half of the population lacks sufficient access to water.
In addition to the construction of water pipelines, KIWASH supports over 230 projects that include training, coaching, and mentoring local water providers in order to improve operations and ensure more effective, responsible, and sustainable business practices within their communities.
Harrison Kithuku, a project manager at Nairobi County Water and Sewerage Company, has witnessed first-hand how the KIWASH project impacted his business.
“KIWASH taught us how to fish as opposed to giving us fish,” said Kithuku. “We benefited from training on different aspects including project and business management, planning, financial management, and gender equality mainstreaming.”
Mentoring project owners in management, customer service, and other skills has not only helped water providers strengthen their own businesses but has transformed their entire community by making water more easily accessible.
“The coaching and mentoring we received from KIWASH opened our eyes to potential opportunities to increase revenue and serve our people better,” said Justus Langi, Chairman of the Mumbuni/Katalwa Borehole Water Project.
When business owners are empowered with the knowledge to succeed economically, communities receive greater access to the clean water they urgently need — and the goal of providing water for Kenya’s growing population becomes more tangible. By the end of 2019, the program had helped over 800,000 Kenyans gain access to basic drinking water.
By addressing the growing need for water, sanitation, and hygiene services in Kenya, the KIWASH project has not only improved water security in rural communities, it has led to even greater opportunities across the country. The support of USAID and DAI has given local business owners the means to provide more reliable water services to their communities. As a result, communities can worry less about water-related diseases and focus more on their education and livelihoods, allowing for a better quality of life for all.
Photo credit: DAI