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Kenya water, sanitation and Hygiene resilience and governance programme

Jacinta Atiir with filled jerry can walking home from the water kiosk (Credit: Jane Beesley/Oxfam GB/SWIFT)

At a glance

Implementing innovative water and sanitation solutions in disadvantaged communities, and pioneering a web-based drought early-warning system.


The Kenya Water, Sanitation And Hygiene Resilience And Governance Programme works closely with county governments, water user associations and water utility companies to build their capacity to adequately serve citizens and ensure sustainability of water services. We developing and piloting innovative solutions to meet the immediate needs of local communities struggling without clean water or safe sanitation. We also work with other civil society partners to call for policies and operating frameworks that work for the poor, such as the need to increase financial investment in marginalized counties. The programme is also working on the development of an innovative real-time, web-based drought monitoring system to enable timely and effective response to future crises. The programme was launched in April 2014.

Our approach

The Kenya Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Resilience and Governance Programme encompasses three main projects: SWIFT, Water ATMs and Remote Monitoring Systems. 

Consortium for Sustainable WASH in Fragile Contexts (SWIFT)

Sustainable WASH in Fragile Contexts (SWIFT) is a DFID-funded project which is being implemented in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo by a consortium led by Oxfam, with Tearfund and Overseas Development Institute as global members, and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor as a global associate. The first phase of the project, which ended in March 2016, focused on developing infrastructure to meet immediate needs, while the second phase (which ends in March 2018) focuses on activities to ensure this infrastructure is sustainable. In Kenya, the SWIFT consortium works across four counties: Nairobi, Turkana, Wajir and Marsabit. Activities to date include:

  • Drilling boreholes, improving pipelines, constructing shallow wells and solar pumping systems, installing hand-pumps, rehabilitating and upgrading water points.
  • Promoting hygiene and sanitation.
  • Strengthening water utility companies.
  • Building the capacity of village-level water management committees.
  • Improving access to sanitation in the urban informal settlements, e.g. through low-cost sewer lines.
  • Conducting hygiene promotion activities and mass media campaigns for behavioural change.

Water ATMs

In Wajir in 2014-15, Oxfam piloted the use of electronic water meters, commonly known as water ATMs, in collaboration with Wajir Water and Sewerage Company and a private sector company. Water ATMs allow water to be automatically dispensed when a customer presents his or her card against an electronic reader, which regulates flow. A chip within the card contains information on the amount of water the user has already paid for, and water credits are deducted each time water is dispensed. Users can buy more credits via the MPESA mobile phone payment system, or from local sellers. Water ATMs reduce queuing times and potentially make water available 24 hours per day, while the fact that customers pay up front makes this an attractive technology for water companies. During the pilot, 15 dispensing units were installed in two villages. Within a week of installation, one of the villages saw the water revenue collected rise by more than 400%. Building on this success, Oxfam is now extending this pilot with two water utilities in Turkana county.

Remote monitoring systems

This project addresses the need for better drought early warning systems to enable more timely and effective responses, by further developing and bringing to scale a real-time, web-based drought monitoring system. Data is collected by mobile phone using an App running on android operating system, and transmitted to a web-based monitoring/mapping system that has been developed. The inventory and monitoring data can be accessed remotely from the web platform. This will lead to the development of a time-series of key data related to water usage patterns (supply and demand) in chronically drought-affected areas, to develop better 'triggers' for drought response activities. Standard analysis and reports will be created electronically; this means that there is no need for data entry or analysis by Oxfam staff.

Working through partnerships

Oxfam will build on relationships already forged with the new county governments, which now have the financial resources to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services but can lack the capacity to develop innovative solutions to problems. We are increasingly focusing on strengthening key institutions within counties, particularly the main water service providers in Turkana and Wajir. Oxfam also works with local partners at county level - the Wajir South Development Agency and Arid Lands Development Forum.

In addition to the members of the SWIFT consortium, Oxfam works with other international NGOs to influence national and county governments on water, sanitation and hygiene issues; they include Concern Worldwide, Practical Action and BBC Media Action. In Nairobi, Oxfam is working with a social enterprise (Sanergy) to scale up access to sanitation in schools through a business model based on processing and sale of by-products from human waste, and researching the viability of a household portable toilet. 

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