Win-Win-Win Partnership by Using Data for Improved Water Services
(Original publication date: 30 March, 2021)
Kinara for Youth Evolution’s “Water for Life” project is supported by Innovation for Change (I4C) Africa Hub as one of their We-Account Social Innovation Challenge 2018 grant winners. Our project is implemented at 15 wards in Morogoro Municipality as the second phase of the project in 2021. The first phase was in 2019 where the project was implemented in 10 wards only. The innovation addresses the thematic areas of Natural Resource Management and Accountability.
The project aims to increase water efficiency of the supply of water from the Morogoro Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authority (MORUWASA) to its customers in Morogoro Municipality. Our primary method of reducing Non-Revenue Water (NRW) is the identification, follow-up, and tracking of burst or leaking pipes in the MORUWASA system in full partnership and cooperation with MORUWASA, primarily their engineer, plumbers, and assistants in the field. Since we started, we have identified 939 leaks and 740 have been fixed. Days of water flow have been increased from an average of 2.7 days to 3.9 days per week.
Figure 1: Leaks Identified/Fixed – Cumulative (all wards)
Figure 2: Average Days of Water per Week (10 wards)
Our innovation is the idea of giving citizens, specifically motivated young people in each administrative ward called Community Change Agents (CCAs), the responsibility of reporting leaks as a direct bridge between citizens and MORUWASA using the mWater platform (mobile application and desktop portal). Monthly household surveys are used to monitor local water availability and quality changes as the leak reporting system is adopted and improved. Although there are many factors, we expect that fixing more pipes on-time will result in better water services for citizens.
The innovation has created a tremendous positive change in the water services
Win-win-win partnership approach: the project is rooted on letting us act together by bringing the Service provider MORUWASA (Government), Citizens (Customers), EWURA CCC and the Young People to collectively solve water service challenges unitedly. This approach is unmuting the voice of the citizens and the marginalized groups to be heard by decision makers. For example, we are cooperating with the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority-Consumer Consultative Council (EWURA CCC) in providing education about customers rights, MORUWASA is raising revenue from water services because of reduced water loss, Citizens are getting better services and CCAs are gaining leadership skills as well as trust from the community they are serving.
Figure 3: “Water for Life” project’s win-win-win partnership approach
Early on, we noted that Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 6 “Water and Sanitation” and particularly its target of 6. b which intends to Support and Strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and Sanitation Management and target 6.1 which intends by 2030, to achieve universal equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, it may be difficult to be reflected in real life if water service challenges are not solved collectively.
Technology tools to solve development problems are prominent in every sector. For Kinara, finding and adopting mWater was part and parcel of the conception of “Water for Life”. To us, it is the “fit for purpose” solution to what we needed: combining mapping of water leaks with data collection through surveys, accessible in the hands of local volunteers who know where leaks are. mWater's basic functionality is the ability to collect location-based data (GPS coordinates, photos) through a Survey, attach it to a Site (e.g., a water source), and then update its status over time. This is done by CCAs in the field on mobile phones (even offline), and this data is then synced to the mWater Portal for management and analysis by Kinara staff on an office laptop. As shown in Figure 4, the feature of “Issues” adds defined workflow steps and assignments to specific people for each step and is how our water pipe leaks system works.
Figure 4: Kinara leaks workflow using mWater Issues feature
What we have experienced is that such technology designed for collaboration and real-time action allows for very human “buy-in” moments at every level. During leak workflow training, we received input from water service providers, such as how to better differentiate between main and house connection leaks, made the change in the Portal, and were immediately able to show them their improvement after they Synced on their phones. In the field, many of our CCAs reported that they quickly gained the “trust" of their leaders and community because they not only collect data from citizens, but also act on it in collaboration with their local plumber, and then close the loop by seeing if citizens are satisfied with the resolution. The Assignment and Watch features of an Issue allow Kinara staff to manage each step of the process and Portal dashboards help us summarise project status (e.g., number of leaks identified and resolved per ward in the last month) and take further data-driven action.
Empowering youth to be problem solvers, the project believes in the strength and functional capacity of young people as we have been able to identify, train and mentor 15 young people from 15 wards in Morogoro Municipality to be ones of the solution seekers on water challenges from their communities.
Also, we have been able to build young people to have good cooperation with water department authorities by cooperating with them for fixing broken pipes which are being identified by CCAs, as well as solving complaints from the community through monthly household surveys. Through this process young people have gained trust by the community by enabling the community to voice up on water challenges. For example, one CCA from Sultan Area ward mobilized a business owner to contribute 30 pieces of water pipe fixing equipment such as couplings. Also, two CCAs participated at the Municipal water service stakeholders meeting in 2020 for making decision on the water bill prices.
Empowering women and young girls, the project it is carrying the SDG agenda of “Leave no one behind” concept by addressing water challenges to give women and girls more time to involve in social and economic matters and bridging the gap of economic and social inequalities.
In developing countries, the task of water collection most frequently falls to women and young girls. Often, these women and girls spend hours and Kilometers a day to collect water to meet their family's needs which is consuming their time and makes them unable to engage in development activities. The project has helped to fix leaks on time and support access to water service which enables women and girls to fulfill their dreams for example, girls attending their studies at school, and women raising their income and improving family health and hygiene.
Also, the project has given young women both CCAs and project managers the opportunity to participate in implementing the project thus building their capacity and be trusted as a leader in solving water services challenge in their communities. For example, a CCA from Kiwanja cha Ndege after solving water challenges through this project was recommended and contested for a ward councilor position.
Figure 5: A CCA (Gladius Katundu) as a leader in solving water services challenge in her community
Informed community through facts: the project builds the community by involving them in data collection, analysis and sharing findings as a tool to advocate for better services during decision maker’s meetings and community education. This is a meaningful way of inclusive community engagement by making them aware on customers’ rights and their responsibilities. Furthermore, the use of radio and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are keeping the community informed.
Also, the project is creating clear channels for community members to provide feedback on water services which is more useful to MORUWASA to be more accountable to their users and better informed to respond on water services challenges.
Scale-up and Sustainability
I4C Africa Hub is currently supporting our phase two scale-up where the project has expanded by adding other new wards, community education and complaints system.
The achievements above have been a driving factor of the government (MORUWASA) to meet with the Kinara Water for Life team to discuss how the project can be supported such as training our CCAs to fix small leaks and having a concrete plan towards sustainability for mutual benefits for all sides.