Students feted on water solution

A group of Cambridge University was feted for their role in developing solutions for global water crisis. The team was selected by a panel of judges from an international competition of 150 teams from around the world and announced by President Bill Clinton.

The students are now the winners of the 2nd Annual Hult Global Case Challenge, the largest crowd sourcing initiative to date focused on identifying solutions to the global water crisis.

During his comments President Clinton said, “There is always a gap between what the private sector can produce and the government can provide.” He later challenged the students, “How are you going to turn your good intentions into real changes? The ‘how’ question will be the most important question of the 21st century.”



Encouraging students to research and propose solutions to the global water crisis is one way organizations like connect seemingly unrelated trends and apply them to its core mission of universal access to safe water and sanitation. Just over five years ago, identified the growth of micro-lending and its potential for those without water. Today over 315,000 people have basic services through the organization’s WaterCredit program, which engages those lacking water and sanitation to seek their own solutions.

“It’s pretty clear that philanthropy alone will never be able to reach the nearly one billion people without clean water,” said co-founder Matt Damon. “Solutions that leverage resources from the ground up are absolutely critical and the Hult Global Case Challenge is a great platform to capture the energy and enthusiasm of business school students to create lasting solutions.”

Currently more people in the world have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. The winning concept would leverage the rapid adoption of mobile phones in emerging markets. Through a loyalty program designed in conjunction with mobile providers and operators, individuals would allocate a percentage of their top-off cards to raise capital required for water improvements in their communities.

“The Cambridge team’s model is very compelling because it puts beneficiaries in control of their own water destiny. Simply by using the strength of their own purchasing power with mobile providers, more communities could get safe water solutions more quickly,” said Gary White, co-founder of “The experience of this competition and partnership with the Hult International Business School has been remarkable. We’re eager to explore the winning idea as well as many elements of other submissions to drive the real system change needed to reach everyone with safe water in our lifetime.”

Will technology ‘heal’ Ukambani water challenge?

About a decade ago, residents of Musingini location in Machakos County knew no other water source other than shallow sand wells located tens of kilometers away. In most occasions, they had to walk in threes in order to fetch water from the wells that were also shared by livestock in the dry Ukambani region. But today, the story is different as the community members now enjoy a water drawing technology that is not only affordable but also easy to use even by children and the old.

Currently, the borehole serves 382 pupils in Musingini Primary school, 155 students in Musingini Secondary School, the dispensary and the market. More than 525 residents from 105 households benefit from the facility that has been functional since 2009.

While the neighbouring communities access water at Sh10 per 20litre jerrycan, Musingini residents buy water at only Sh3 per jerrycan, a price they say is affordable to majority of the households. I have used the technology since 2009. I fetch nine jerrycans per week at Sh27, something I never struggle. The water-borne diseases that we used to have then, we do not have them now. Previously, we used to fetch water at a very far place and we would always clash with livestock at the water source. The water we used previously was very salty and we struggled to cook githeri with it,” says Josphine Munyao, a resident.

According to Plan Kenya, the financier of the borehole, the technology has eliminated persistent wrangles over the management of cash collections that were a common occurrence between the water committee and the community members.

Musingini Sub Location chief Peter Munyasya told TakeOff that the water technology has saved the residents time and wastage of water. “Now children and old people can access water at a more convenient way. The main purpose of this system was to protect the girl-child who, in the Africa setup, was responsible for drawing water. Through this water technology, our girls-child is now safer,” said Munyasya.

The borehole using a modern technology came into being after the local community entered into an agreement with a private company known as Grundfos Lifelink Kenya Ltd, which is pioneering this new technology in the country.

Water from the borehole is pumped into an overhead 10, 000 litre plastic storage tank using an electric submersible pump that is powered by solar energy that is generated via 18 solar panels installed on a roof on top of the tank. By gravity, water flows to the kiosk from where the community members collect by inserting a ‘key fob’.

Each community member has a unique but user friendly key that is linked to his/her mobile phone that automatically draws credit via M-Pesa based on the amount of water collected. The chief explains: “Using your mobile phone, you Musingini 700004 is our business number which is registered with Safaricom. Your mobile phone will then ask for the key fob which is used like a pin for one to access water. It will request for a certain number that is unique for each key holder. It will then ask for the amount of money that you want to load to your M-pesa water with any amount. Anyone can load this key while at any part of the world as long as you know the key fob number. This helps those parents who work abroad or far from home.”

World Bank pledges $11.8 Million for water and sanitation

The World Bank, acting as administrator for the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA), has signed a grant agreement with the Republic of Kenya approving funding of US$11.8 million to help expand access to water and sanitation in low-income urban areas. This innovative, coordinated program is projected to reach 30,000 low-income urban households – or 150,000 residents – and builds on lessons from a Kenya community-managed water pilot program which extended access to water to 190,000 beneficiaries.

“This is a significant step toward bringing more water and sanitation services to the poor, and demonstrates the Kenyan government’s confidence in the output-based approach, using resources from the public and private sectors,” said Diariétou Gaye, World Bank Country Director for Kenya.


The project is facilitated with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and will be managed by the Water Services Trust Fund of Kenya (WSTF). It will help water service providers access loan finance from commercial banks to invest in water and sanitation subprojects, with subsidies covering up to 60 percent of the cost of providing services to low-income households.

Output-based aid is an innovative approach to development financing, where payment is linked to performance. Under the Kenya agreement, water service providers will not receive the subsidy until water and sanitation services are functional and reach the target group.  “This project will help water service providers access commercial credit to expand water and sanitation services to poor urban areas, reducing the connection fee and increasing access for poor urban households,” explained GPOBA Manager CarmenNonay.

Kenya Vision 2030, the government’s development program, includes universal access to water and sanitation as one of its goals by the year 2030. Rapid population growth and accelerating urbanization present growing challenges for developing countries in these sectors, where the cost of connecting to water and sanitation services is prohibitive for the poor. As previous grant agreements for water and sanitation have centered on the Nairobi areas, the capital city is not included under the terms of this project.

Ismail Fahmy Shaiye, CEO of the Water Services Trust Fund, stated: “We look forward to working with the World Bank and the Government of Sweden as development partners in this innovative financing scheme to bridge the public funding gap. Together and within the framework of devolved structures in our counties we can work toward improving the lives of underserved communities and making Kenya Vision 2030 a reality.”

About One Safe Drop

When you look into a glass of water or water in a sealed bottle, it is not easy to tell whether the water is safe or not and most of our citizens are not aware of the issues of water safety and the chemistry of water. It is in view of this that One Safe Drop is determined to engage the Kenyans in understanding the chemistry of water and how they can access clean and safe water.

The One Safe Drop project seeks to start the dialogue on water issues in Kenya. In these discussions, we wish to engage the communities, county and national governments on water safety issues.

This is because we have variants in terms of water quality. In Rift Valley, for example, we have high floride levels and high salinity at the Coastal Kenya. Therefore, as a consumer, we feel that you need to start engaging and understanding this chemistry.

One Safe Drop, in partnership with is, thus, primarily modeling and piloting this in three locations in Kenya-i.e Narok, Machakos and Makueni, with a potential of scaling it up to all the 47 counties. We picked on these three first because of the acute demand of safe water and the knowledge of water quality issues. These are areas that we already know water is not safe and therefore we want to demonstrate from there.

The initiative will engage the peri-urban and ruralfolk in issues of water safety. We will also roll out a lot of awareness.

On site, we are going to expose the technology of water treatment to the communities. We want the communities to have a visual understanding of how these things work; whether it reverse Osmosis, which the most is advanced system of technology of water treatment to the filtration using carbon filters. We hope to be able to ensure that communities are aware of and are using safe water.
That will reduce the issues of water treatment at home such as boiling, which is not 100 per cent sure. We will also brand our water using the One Safe Drop transparent jerricans which the community members can use.

The community will be bringing back the jerrican for exchange and sanitation at the One Safe Drop water shop.

We hope that beyond the technology, the distribution network will create almost 10 permanent jobs for our young people. These young people will be trained on safe and hygienic delivery to the consumers, brand them with uniform, provide them with branded tuktuks. They will be the link between the source and the consumers.

We are looking at very marginal increase in water prices. The treated water is likely to increase by 10 to 20 percent in price. That is still manageable. For instance, a 20-litre jerrican of treated water will not trade beyond Sh50 but the raw water will sell at Sh10 and Sh20.

Within the water shop, we will have outlets for green and water related products such as water filters, solar products and so on.

The water shop will also be a retail outlet for essential medicine. We are looking at collaborating with pharmacists on this cause. We also will partner with a local bank to ensure agency banking at every water shop. It will be like a water mall.

We have already started the project in Narok and Matuu and hope to launch it by May this year. Our starting point will be to train the vendors then the community.

Kamau Kuria