Financial sustainability, accessibility and reliability of rural water services is worldwide challenge, particularly in low and middle income countries. Furthermore, globally, 4 out of 5 people who don’t have access to even as basic water supply live in rural areas. In Kenya, as in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, rural people are highly dependent on groundwater and on community water supplies. Addressing this challenge is key to achieving SDG6.1 and realising the Human Right to Water.
In 2016, Kenya passed a new Water Act which specifically recognises novel approaches to rural water provision (Article 94(3)), including private sector models with investment and financial plans for rural water services, marking an important shift from the previous emphasis on community management of water supply in Kenya.
UPGro activities and impact
FundiFix is social enterprise, incubated under the Gro for GooD Catalyst and earlier research grants and being continued under the REACH programme, was referenced in the 2017/18 Sustainability Report published by UNICEF as an example of private sector involvement in water system management and maintenance to improve the sustainability of water supply systems. Fundifix delivers a reliable water service and as a platform for research and learning about business models, application of ‘smart handpump’ technology and the practicalities of a blended finance trust fund.
Gro for GooD researchers were invited by the Kenyan Government to support the discussion on draft versions and propose ideas which were then discussed and agreed by government. The impact of this legislation is that it makes rural water service delivery models, like Fundifix, legally legitimate. The important lesson from this is that innovation needs to consider the wider context in which it will be applied and to invest time in helping to shape the wider enabling environment. If the Gro for GooD team had not invested time in working with government then it wouldn’t have mattered how compelling the evidence emerging from the Fundifix action-research if the business model it developed was unlawful in Kenya.
Fundifix continues to operate in the UPGro pilot district of Kwale and elsewhere through Kenya, and the lessons learned are informing the establishment of a similar enterprise in Bangladesh, through the REACH programme. Fundifix in Kitui County is also influencing through the USAID Sustainable WASH Systems project, the Rural Water Supply Network and the Uptime Consortium.
References and links:
- Fundifix Kenya: https://fundifix.co.ke/
- Research Brief (2017): A critical mass analysis of community-based financing of water services SSEE (pdf).
- Research Brief (2018): Risk factors associated with rural water supply failure SSEE (pdf).
- Policy Brief (2017): How has devolution fared in its first term? Responses from Kwale County at the end of the transition period. Johanna Koehler, 2017
- The Economist: An innovative cure for broken water pumps in Africa (Mar 2017)
- BBC ‘Good Vibration’ hand pumps boost Africa’s water security (Feb 2017)
- Guardian: How do you solve a problem like a broken water pump? (Mar 2016)
- UPGro (2018) Gro for GooD “Smart Handpumps” wins Oxford University Vice-Chancellor’s Award