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Implementation of a Commercialisation Policy with Social Inclusion and Service Improvement Goals



Access to water is a critical issue in Kenya, which is classified as a chronically water-scarce country. Faced with Inadequate maintenance of the water infrastructures and corruption in the sector, as well as the implementation of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) and other donor conditionalities, during the 1980s and 1990s the Kenyan Government privatized public sector enterprises, including public water services. The results proved unacceptable, especially with regard to expanding provision for lower-income groups.

With the completion of the Water Act of 2002, which provided for the decentralization of powers from the national to the regional and local level, individual municipalities, such as Eldoret, took the initiative to form companies to undertake water supply in their respective jurisdictions. The Eldoret Water and Sanitation Company (ELDOWAS) was incorporated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Eldoret Municipal Council in 1997, and began operations in 1999. The Water Act requests consultation on a number of provisions and regulations, and a culture of public consultation and active stakeholder engagement is gradually being built through appointing consumer and civil society representatives onto its boards.

Equity to water access

ELDOWAS seeks to broaden the equity of access to safe water supplies for all residents of Eldoret. In particular, one of its targets is to broaden access to safer water and sewage services for the poor population of Eldoret, which represents the vast majority (more than 90%) of the urban and peri-urban population. The company has pursued a policy of social inclusion using a two-pronged strategy: it has concentrated its activities in the medium-income areas to achieve returns on its capital, and also in low-income areas to reduce incidents of water-related diseases common among those who use shallow wells for water and pit latrines for sewerage.

Statistics show that the corporation has made an impact on access to portable water and sewerage services, although more still needs to be done. The population connected to piped water has steadily increased, customer service and staff training and capacity have greatly improved, public support of the enterprise evident in prompt payments for water services (in comparison to national averages). However, provision of good quality portable water and sewer lines in the low-income areas and the peri-urban areas has been hampered by the continued use of shallow wells and pit latrines due to deficiencies of water and sewerage services.

As well, the urban poor in peripheral settlements tend to be located on hazardous sites, in informal settlements that breach official laws and regulations. In terms of water supply, most of these areas lack a piped water network, largely because providing connections to each house plot is difficult where plot ownership is unregistered (and perhaps contested) and settlements are unplanned.

Support and policy success

The water and sewage services of Eldoret count upon several sources of financial support, both national and international. There are threats, though. Initially ELDOWAS was established as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Eldoret Municipal Council, but the repeal of several legal documents by the coming into force of the Water Act of 2002 has created new institutional arrangements that are currently being implemented.

The success of similar policies elsewhere will depend to a large extent on the ability of the municipal authority to identify service provision areas in which profit and community service goals could be pursued in tandem. Lobbying for the support of the central government in infrastructure improvement so that incremental investments could be leveraged later to gain both revenue streams and community service quality by the divested arms of the councils would be necessary.

Additional advocacy for the development of appropriate legal institutional frameworks that support the pursuit of increased revenues from appropriate returns to capital, which can then enable the councils to extend services to hitherto excluded groups, would also be essential.