Well Drilling Buy-in and Ownership by the Community in Kuria, Kenya

The Answer Was In Nakuru

In our quest to improve our community water training program, I traveled with Nuru’s Water and Sanitation managers to Nakuru, Kenya to learn from the best: CAWST. Little did I know that our trip would have a second purpose: to discover the next step for our well buy-in program.

(Learn about what we were doing in Nakuru, Kenya in my former video blog post: Water and Sanitation Training Success with CAWST.)

The goal of Nuru’s well buy-in program is to meet the community’s need for clean water with a solution that’s owned and maintained by the community themselves. The first prototype of our well buy-in program was a step in the right direction, but like all prototypes, it requires testing and iteration.  In just 10 months, our four deep wells have had an incredible results – diseases have been reduced, hours and hours have been saved walking to distant sources (one woman testified: “I have forgotten where the river is”), the need for expensive and tedious boiling has been eliminated, and girls are back in school. And our well committees are actively engaged in troubleshooting issues at the wells and holding the well attendants accountable for faithfully collecting user fees. Despite our early successes, we can continue to grow in the area of leadership and financial sustainability. Before we implement large numbers of projects, we need to get this right.

My Kenyan team and I have been brainstorming, asking questions and gathering information in the field to better understand the needs of the community and improve upon our first prototype. We generated multiple possible solutions to increase user levels and do a better job of engaging the community in our well projects from the inception stage. A theme emerged – we need to require MORE from the community BEFORE wells are drilled.

We had gathered the ingredients for the second iteration of our well buy-in program, but were missing the framework for how it all fits together. Then, during our time in Nakuru, we had a chance encounter with the fine folks at The Bridge Water Project, and we found our answer.

The Bridge Water Project is a team of Kenyan drillers who complete a well project every week! Our new friends told us about the success of their cost-sharing arrangement where the community is required to provide 20% of the cost of the well project in the form of local materials, accommodation for the drillers and security BEFORE Bridge Water will mobilize to drill the well. This results in higher community participation, which is exactly what Nuru is looking for.

Our managers really appreciate how a cost-sharing agreement clearly lays out the requirements of both the organization and community and provides a tangible way for the community to demonstrate their commitment to the project. After this discussion our team agreed that this would be a great next step in making our well buy-in program truly sustainable. This week I’m drafting a cost-sharing agreement, which will be integrated into our next well project.  Stay tuned!


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