The development of ‘Re-Maji’, our latest sustainable water intervention model is a testament to our agility as a safe water enterprise. It shows that we are truly user-centric, adaptive and lean. We are quick to re-think and re-invent our water solutions to ensure sustainable access to safe water for our end-users. Read on to learn how we did just that at one of our Kenyan sites in Machakos County.
Becoming an adaptive, responsive and learning organization is an ongoing and multi-year journey. There is no quick fix, no silver bullet to attain business agility overnight. It requires hard work and experimentation but more importantly, the willingness to improve. Be that as it may, true agility is manifested in an organization’s ability to pivot day-to-day operations and provide relevant life-improving services to its end-users.
Earlier this year, we installed our solar-powered water kiosk next to a borewell, replacing a defunct broken handpump in Wendano, Machakos County, Kenya. However, performance reports retrieved through remote monitoring capacity revealed that the consumption rates of the water point were significantly lower than expected. In the Maji model, consistent consumption patterns are critical to ensure a steady revenue stream to pay for the upkeep of each kiosk. This, in turn, indicates the importance of exceptional customer service in maintaining an exceptional user experience, willingness to pay and community patronage.
Recognizing the long term sustainability of this site was at stake, we launched an investigation into the causes of low consumption levels. For us, installing a kiosk is just the beginning, if it is not used intensively, crushing the local water crisis, we are not satisfied. So, we began by listening to our end-users, most importantly, the community’s default water fetchers: women and girls. Turns out, the borewell next to which we had installed the kiosk was difficult to access and not centered in the heart of the community, also creating a safety concern for those walking for water. As a result, the community had no choice but to resort to unsafe open sources risking their health and well-being.
For us, this was a lesson into site selection. We concluded, that in this case, the location of the existing borewell was not ideal and the community pointed us in the direction of a non-functional water tower that was located about 500 meters away from the borewell on the road side .The community recommended that we rehabilitate this old but existing infrastructure. They knew that the water tower (see photograph on the left) would be more easily accessible. Because of its roadside location, households could easily collect larger volumes using wheelbarrows and oxcarts. Therefore, we took action. We conducted a quality assessment of the tank and the accompanying pipes and after discussions with the local Water Committee, the Chiefs and the County Government, we agreed to rehabilitate the existing infrastructure.
A new pipeline was drawn from the well to the tower and our solar panels pump the water into the cleaned tank. Our Maji Pay e-payment system was relocated aswell and now the waterpoint is serving its community well and is easily accessible for ox carts to carry larger volumes for surrounding households.
A significant learning for us. As much as we try to standardise our interventions in the interest of consistent quality and lower cost, there are times we need to retain flexibility in our approach. We have called this rehabilitation model Re-Maji and, where relevant, we will use this as a cost effective and efficient practice for future interventions. Here’s what Re-Maji in action looks like:
In addition to bringing safe water to the Wendano Community, a pipeline was extended from Re-Maji to Wendano Primary School bringing free of cost safe water and a handwashing station for school pupils and teachers.
After Re-Maji was formally inaugurated, we went back to monitoring its performance and consumption levels. We were thrilled to learn that consumption and consumer satisfaction shot up after we moved the water point in the heart of Wendano Community in June. Here’s the performance chart based on real-time data from the water point:
We are proudly a user-centric organization, and our operations are designed to deliver life-changing impact in the lives of those we serve. This is why we aim to be constantly learning, always open to new ideas and improvements in our current services. We recognize that we must evolve as the needs of the people we serve change, building solutions that promote self-sufficiency and sustainability over dependency.