June 22, 2018
I refer to myself as a Nairobian having been born and raised in the city. As I have grown, so has the city. Nairobi is now home to approximately 4 million people having experienced rapid urbanisation in the last three decades. There has been a lot of changes during this time, both pleasant and unpleasant. Nairobi is now popularly referred to as Silicon Savanna, its skyline now dons beautiful tall building, it has a good road network among other positive attributes. But the population increase has put immense pressure on the existing infrastructure and I have for a long time wondered for how long the city will be sustainable.
I was elated when I got the opportunity to undertake research on water and sanitation with the Archimedes Project. With the knowledge that Kenya has been facing challenges in bringing water and sanitation to the urban poor, which accounts for more than 60% in the city of Nairobi, I was curious to find out what the government is doing and who are the non-state actors providing water or sanitation services.
In the beginning, I had the assumption that the government was putting little effort and resources in providing this services and that non-governmental organizations were at the forefront in providing the services. However, from the preparatory period, I have discovered that the government is committed to bringing these service to the urban poor. Despite this commitment and the fact that there are many organisation working in this sector, the problem of poor and inadequate sanitation is still prevalent. I will endeavour to find out why this is the case during the research period.
During the preparatory phase, I have been conducting desktop research to gather information and have had the opportunity to learn the following:
The above findings have been instrumental in broadening my understanding of water and sanitation issues in Kenya. Moving forward, I am curious to find out if the low investment priority in sanitation by the government is due to institutional fragmentation, with different elements of the sanitation supply chain being in the hands of state actors. Is there a similar bias with NGOs, and if there is, what would cause the bias?
Kenya has an active civil society including a number of local NGOs active in water supply and sanitation. Many of them are members of the Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (Kewasnet). Kewasnet monitors service delivery, especially for the poor, and policy implementation on water reforms, provides information to Kenyans to enable them to be engaged in the management and decision -making mechanisms of the Water and Sanitation sector. It also promotes a culture of consumer responsibility that pays for supplied services from utility companies, safeguards water service infrastructure and equipment against vandalism. I will seek to find out how effective the network has been noting that poor water management attributed to water scarcity. Furthermore, its common knowledge that the rampant illegal water connection in many urban slums are robbing the government millions in revenue thus exacerbating it’s inability to provide the service.
With this in mind, what next moving forward? As I move onto the next stage, I will seek to answer the following question:
I have mapped out KIbera, Korogocho, Mathare and Dandora as the main informal settlement areas that I shall conduct my research. I plan to conduct interviews with organisations working in these areas, visit the two social enterprises in sanitation, conduct one-on-one interviews with people living in these areas, visit government bodies and water networks. Hopefully, at the end of it, most if not all of the questions above shall have been answered.
Looking forward to new learnings!