A pilot programme aimed at making Kenyan water users and providers become more aware of their rights and responsibilities proved such a success that it inspired similar programmes across Kenya.
The pilot programme, started in 2009 by the UNDP Water Governance Facility at SIWI and Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO) in the Bondo district in western Kenya, set out to strengthen the capacities of formal and informal water sendee providers, regulators and water users. The aim was to effectively engage the groups in water sector reforms and ultimately improve access to water for communities.
The project broke new ground in the region by establishing Water Dialogue Forums through which water suppliers and water users could physically meet and exchange thoughts and ideas. The conversations held at the Water Dialogue Forums addressed challenges and perception differences in water management and service delivery while trainings focused on the responsibilities of service providers and water users alike. Several hundred people in Bondo were trained on water sector reforms in this manner.
As a result of the discussions and training on water sector reforms, water providers became more aware of their actual maintenance responsibilities and water users became more vigilant in protecting their water resources infrastructure. Previously, water infrastructure had often been subject to vandalism with metal parts stolen for illegal sale. These thefts had been largely ignored by the community who saw the equipment as part of the supplier's goods and not necessarily connected to the quality of their water supply. This increased public awareness resulted in less reparation costs for the company and a more reliable supply for users. By creating community ownership through participation, more initially dissatisfied users also opted to remain with the supplier instead of disconnecting from costly and unreliable water supply.
The successes of these projects were greatly helped by the political backdrop in Kenya in 2010, when politicians enshrined the Human Right to Water into the new Kenyan Constitution. In 2011 and 2012 Nakuru, Eldoret, Vihiga and Kakamega regions saw projects modelled on Bondo evolve, the success of which encouraged the next stage of scaling up with financial contributions from the United Kingdom and Sweden.
Good water governance emphasises that decision-makers are held accountable for their responsibilities just as stakeholder participation is an equally critical slice of the balancing act -two elements successfully brought together in the Bondo Water Dialogue Forum programme.