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UK Research and Innovations (2015)

Mobile payment systems to reduce rural water risks in Africa (Kenya)

Handpump Management Payment Water Risk

Titre : Mobile payment systems to reduce rural water risks in Africa (Kenya)

Pays/Région : Kenya Africa

Durée : sept. 15 - mars 17

Référence projet : ES/N000137/1
Catégorie : Research Grant

Community management of handpumps has been the accepted mode of thinking for rural water supply over three decades in Africa. The paradigm underpins the hundreds of millions of US dollars invested each year to reduce institutional and operational water risks. The logic of the paradigm follows that (a) institutional risks are less where water users self-organise to manage and monitor service delivery compared to distant and unaccountable agencies, and (b) operational risks are less where local mechanics are trained to respond in timely and low-cost maintenance regimes. With one in three handpumps not functioning at any one time in Africa and 35 million more people without rural water services in 2011 compared to 1990 (WHO/UNICEF, 2014), the evidence starkly illustrates significant and widespread deficiencies in community handpump management with women and children impacted hardest. The significant but avoidable health, wealth and poverty impacts have left Africa lagging behind the global drive for universal water services with one in two rural Africans lacking improved water access.

This research project aims to improved handpump management by insuring payment risks. Like insurance products that pool risk of unanticipated but costly events, like a car break-down, flood damage to homes or a serious health problem, we proposed to apply the same approach to community handpumps in rural Kenya. Currently rural communities must work independently saving and paying for maintenance on a case by case basis. This is fine until an unexpected but costly repair emerges. Then the communities, which include a majority of households with low and variable income, simply can’t pay to have their handpump repaired. They then turn to more distant, often dirty and costly water sources. Our approach brings these communities together in a shared financial model that reduces costs by sharing them amongst hundreds of handpumps. Earlier research suggests the majority of communities will pay into this ’insurance system’ on a regular basis provided the handpumps are repaired in a couple of days. The project can guarantee this higher maintenance service which has reduced repair times from over a month to a couple of days. The communities love it the current trial of the maintenance service and now want to pay for this service through a local company to make it sustainable. This next phase of research is to introduce a fair payment system and monitor how communities pay over time. This will provide evidence for a more sustainable approach which the Government of Kenya supports and can be scaled up by our regional partner, UNICEF.

If successful we hope the model will provide a firmer and more sustainable financial model to keep water flowing for poor rural communities in Kenya and beyond. This will help improve the health and welfare of potentially millions of people, particularly women and girls who hit hardest when handpumps fail and they must walk miles to find alternative water supplies for their families.

Lead Research Organisation : University of Oxford

Financement : Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Budget  : £177 633

UK Research and Innovations

Page publiée le 7 septembre 2022