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Before yesterday1. Water

At the epicentre of the crisis: battling to provide clean water in Kenya

In Kenya, the coastal city of Mombasa has been one of the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Antony Njaramba, Managing Director of the Mombasa Water Supply and Sanitation Company, gives us a first-hand account of how the crisis has affected water supply in the city and how attitudes towards the importance of water are slowly changing.

“When the crisis hit Mombasa in March, we found ourselves in a no-go zone, in terms of accessing some of our customers, because of the lockdown which sealed off some parts of the city. Yet at the same time, our services were categorised as essential and we had to respond to the government directive to keep on supplying water. So we were in a Catch-22 situation of some sort.

Our offices, in central Mombasa, face the Old Town of the city, which was one of the epicentres of the pandemic in Kenya. From my office you could see the policemen guarding Old Town during the lockdown.

Our staff had to keep going into Old Town, to give them emergency water. There are some markets on the borderline, which were the only source of food for the people living in Old Town.

We had to keep supplying water to these markets, so that the people in Old Town could keep on living.

The government directives to continue to supply water to all residents regardless of whether bills were paid were understandable in the crisis, but it has affected our revenues. The first month – March – we lost 35% of our revenues. We have not broken even in the last few years, so this is a big issue.

During the first wave of Covid-19, government mandates to continue water supple severely affected the revenue of water utilities.

Mombasa has been hugely affected by the pandemic. The city’s economy is dependent on two key things – the port, and tourism. Both of these went down in a flash.

When I was in school I read a book by Chinua Achebe called Things Fall Apart. And there was a main character called Okonkwo. One of the seasons they had was one of the worst, where he borrowed 800 yam seeds and planted them and the rains never came, and when they came, they came very destructive. And it was so bad, one man just took a piece of cloth and hanged himself. And after that, Okonkwo used to say, if I survived then, I can survive any other thing.

And for us Covid-19 is the same thing, its been one of the biggest challenges in most managers’ careers, but for me, I was at the centre of it all.

I had to quickly reorganise my team to address the issues that we had to overcome. We divided ourselves into two teams, which would not be in contact with each other. We allowed people to work from home where they could, or to cover local areas to reduce movement as much as possible.

One of our biggest challenges was to provide water in the vulnerable areas. We mapped the city into zones and focused on the most vulnerable areas. We constructed concrete bases to enable us to install a 5,000 litre tank on top. The water was for free, so that people were not tempted to go to cartels. Water cartels always take advantage of a negative situation, to make people’s lives even more difficult.

There were also public service institutions which needed water. Within 24 hours of the government directive being given we went to Kenya Ferries and put 100 taps in. Then we did a hydrological survey and realised that there is fresh water there. So we drilled on the island side of the ferry and the mainland, and connected with a pump, so now there was a guaranteed supply of water for 24 hours.

We know that in another wave of Covid-19, we may not be able to move around freely to bill. So we bought 100 smart meters that can be read remotely, and we picked a few customers just to test. We were amazed at the response – not just in enabling us to social distance, but with the numbers that came through.

Through the efforts of staff, our revenue position is improving. We are now just 10% down and I believe we will be able to catch up in September.

Investing in smart meters will allow utilities like MOWASSCO to safely bill customers if there is a second wave of Covid-19.

When we had the first case of Covid-19 with our staff, 15 staff including myself had to self-isolate.

Personally, this was one of the most trying moments in my entire life. Those three weeks I was in the house, in the room, stuck there, it was scary – but at the same time, I had 300 staff who were looking up to me. I spent a lot of time coordinating with staff, to keep myself busy and sane.

I do think that now, there is greater appreciation from the general public, and the government, about the role of water utilities.

Water has never been on the high table for discussion. When you look at donors, all of them rush to health, but they don’t seem to realise that prevention is better than cure.

The other day I heard that at least Ksh 300,000 [$2,700] had been spent to treat a single Covid-19 case. I don’t think you spend Ksh 300,000 to give someone water. If you were to spend the equivalent on water, I think people would be safer.

But for the first time in eight years, the County government of Mombasa has allocated Ksh250 million to support the water sector.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for additional investment in water services across Kenya as a way of preventing outbreaks. Credit: Brian Otieno

In Mombasa, we do face a water scarcity problem. We have only enough water to meet around 15% of demand, and around 74% of the population is low-income.

But despite this, I do believe universal water access in Mombasa is possible. Completion of the Mwache Dam, and repair of the Mzima pipeline and construction of a second pipeline, Mzima II, would give us enough water. In addition if we could get a cheaper electricity tariff which was just for water – like there is for streetlights, for example, it could make desalination possible.

But our infrastructure is aging. Some of our pipelines were built in the 1920s. Water is just not something that people have taken seriously. This country is full of water, just mismanaged water. The entire country has a NRW [non-revenue water – water that is lost or not billed for] rate of 43%, a very high number when the global rate is around 22%.

There is a stereotype that water is always available, and as a result we have never properly developed the water sector. This myth about water being just freely available, without the need for investment to manage it properly, needs to be debunked.

We in the water sector are a sum total of failures across the generations, and probably Covid-19, and the spotlight subsequently shone on the water sector, is making our work a bit easier.”


WSUP has worked closely with MOWASSCO for several years, helping the utility to better serve low-income communities with clean water. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic WSUP is currently implementing hygiene promotion campaigns in Mombasa and other Kenyan cities, supported by the UK government / Unilever backed Hygiene Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC).

Learn more about WSUP's work to increase the capacity of utilities like MOWASSCO

 

The scale of Zimbabwe's water crisis

By: editor
The scale of Zimbabwe's water crisis editor 12 August 2020 - 12:05

Post-construction support to Akatsi North and South districts

By: awumbei

Video stories of change from two Ghanaian districts as a result of post-construction interventions.

IRC Ghana has been providing post-construction support to Akatsi North and South Districts in the Volta Region of Ghana as part of the district system strengthening efforts. This intervention is a move towards professionalising the work of area mechanics and equipping them with the necessary skills to perform their tasks more effectively for improved water service delivery.

"In the light of long-term sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions, post-construction support is critical for continued maintenance and operation of rural water systems," IRC Ghana Country Director, Vida Duti noted.

Through IRC Ghana’s work in Akatsi North and South Districts under the Triple-S project, tools were developed in collaboration with the districts to support post-construction support for water facilities. IRC in collaboration with CWSA, worked with the districts to conduct service monitoring over three years. Following up on the previous work and to ensure that progress is being made to achieve the national target of full coverage by 2025 and the SDG of universal coverage by 2030, IRC Ghana has since 2017 provided the local authorities in the two districts with the tools and technical support to position them to lead in the process.

As part of the post-construction intervention in the two districts, the Akatsi South and North District Assemblies in collaboration with IRC Ghana organised a number of training workshops for area mechanics in the two districts to equip them with the skills and knowledge to undertake installation, uninstallation, repair and maintenance of various types of handpumps in the districts.

Earlier this year, the IRC Ghana documentation team visited selected communities in the two districts to collect and document stories of change and lessons emanating from the intervention. The visit to the two districts took place in February 2020, meeting community members, trained artisans, Water and Sanitation Management Team members and District Assembly staff including District Chief Executives in both districts, conducting community visits and interviews. The team was accompanied by staff of the District Assembly in both districts, helping the team in community entry and translations.

The following three short videos highlight the experiences of change in the lives of communities in the two districts as a result of the post-construction support intervention. They represent examples from real-life about how small but targeted interventions towards local system strengthening can make a difference in the lives of many communities in the districts.

These three short videos reflect the perspectives of the community members, area mechanics and the district authorities, respectively.

They trained us to repair the boreholes for the communities

 

 

When they collect revenue from the sale for water, it has most of the times been misapplied

 

It's government's responsibility to ensure communities have good source of water

 

Surviving Covid: Government, Pay Your Water Bills!

By: editor
Surviving Covid: Government, Pay Your Water Bills! editor 1 September 2020 - 15:07

Climate recovery in Beira: sustainable water and sanitation access for a more resilient city

In the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, WSUP has been delivering sustainable, long-term water and sanitation solutions to help mitigate the effects of climate change for thousands of residents in Beira.

In March 2019 Cyclone Idai caused devastation across Mozambique, including in the city of Beira which suffered from widespread flooding and severe damage to its water network. A major relief operation saw many residents housed in resettlement camps with limited access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities.

With the support of Borealis and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, WSUP has been working to restore and improve water and sanitation services for low-income residents in the most affected districts of Beira.

Throughout this work WSUP has been focusing on creating more resilient services to ensure that, as climate change makes extreme weather like cyclones more common, vulnerable residents in Beira have sustainable access to clean water and safe sanitation.

WSUP’s work with water utility FIPAG has improved water access for residents of resettlement camps like Ancha Luis. Credit: Stand Up Media

Extending the water network to underserved areas

A key part of WSUP’s work in Beira has been supporting the local water utility FIPAG to extend their water network and provide an improved water supply for their low-income customers. Alongside the utility staff we worked to extend the network to the most underserved areas of the city, particularly areas unable to supply water to additional residents resettled after the cyclone.

This has helped residents like Ancha Luis, a Beira resident currently living in a resettlement camp, access a reliable source of water.

“Every day we faced many challenges to clean ourselves. There was a shortage of water for drinking, washing clothes including the dishes. Now the search for water has become a lot better compared to when we first arrived. We used to have to walk from Block C to Block A, as the resettlement camp is divided in blocks.”

Rehabilitation of the existing water network in Beira is helping ensure a more reliable water service for Joao Manuel. Credit: Stand Up Media

Ensuring the reliability of the existing water network

WSUP has supported FIPAG to rehabilitate 112km of the existing network, including repairing and replacing worn pipes. WSUP helped facilitate communication between FIPAG and the community to promote the benefits of the project and raise awareness of the necessary requirements for households to get a potable water connection. This has helped to provide a more reliable service for low-income customers, ensuring existing water connections can continue to serve residents in the future.

This work has proved crucial for water connections in resettlement camps where large increases in the number of residents after the cyclone meant water fountains could initially only run for a few hours a day. Joao Manuel, a community chief living in a resettlement camp, recalls the dire situation in the days after the cyclone.

“When we arrived here, there was no water. We spent about 15 to 20 days without water and when we did get access it wasn’t enough for everyone.”

In the longer term, WSUP is working with FIPAG to extend water connections in peri-urban communities which are unserved, using high quality PE100 pipes.

WSUP has been supporting members of community-based organisations like Domingos Mafunga to ensure their organisations are able to help affected residents. Credit: Stand Up Media

Supporting community-based organisations serving vulnerable communities

WSUP has also been supporting community-based organisations that are directly supporting the most vulnerable communities in Beira to access water and sanitation services. This has included rebuilding the offices of these organisations and providing training to increase their capacity to support residents struggling in the aftermath of the cyclone.

For Domingos Mafunga, Coordinator of the Vision for Community Development Association, a community-based organisation supporting residents in Beira, WSUP’s support has been vital in ensuring his team can promote good sanitation and hygiene practices to displaced residents.

“The biggest challenge we all face is sanitation. It is a critical activity, because the majority of the population come from rural areas, so they are not used to an urban lifestyle.”

Learn more about our work in Mozambique

Climate resilience in Southern Zambia – new report

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor has today published a new report on the need for water and sanitation service providers in Southern Zambia to become more resilient in the face of climate change.

Building resilience to climate change experiences from Southern ZambiaThe report, entitled, Building resilience to climate change: experiences from Southern Zambia, focuses on water shortage in the Zambezi river basin and the steps that the water utility Southern Water & Sanitation Company Limited (SWSC) is taking in response.

Read the report now.

As the effects of man-made climate change become more pronounced, water shortages are becoming more common throughout Africa, with Southern Africa a particular climate change hotspot.

The challenges brought about by climate change are too fundamental to be solved simply by drilling new boreholes to access new water. Instead, utilities need to assess all parts of their operations, from financial management, to governance, customer engagement and staff capacity.

WSUP Utility Strengthening FrameworkThe report also presents the different stages of WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework, which uses eight steps to move towards a stronger utility. Click on the image to see the full size graphic.

SWSC has seen its water source shrink significantly in recent years, most notably in 2018-2019, where many regions in Southern Zambia only received 20-30% of the normal annual rainfall.

As a result, WSUP has been working closely with SWSC, with the support of Wasser fuer Wasser, to develop and implement a utility strengthening programme to help it build resilience in the face of growing climate change.

Read Building resilience to climate change: experiences from Southern Zambia now

 

Join us for World Water Week 2020

This year World Water Week will be held virtually, with WSUP co-convening five sessions through the week of 24 August 2020.

With Covid-19 and climate change both demonstrating the need to invest in improved water, sanitation, and hygiene for the poorest people around the world, meeting to discuss these issues is more important than ever.

Learn more about the sessions we are involved in below:

Climate change and water scarcity: how can urban utilities respond?

As the demand for water increases, and climate change places stress on water availability, finding ways to effectively manage urban water systems has never been more urgent. In many parts of the world, climate change and rapid urbanisation are placing enormous pressure on urban water utilities.

Drawing on recent research, in this session we are exploring how utilities can transform their operations to improve water resource management and mitigate the impacts of water scarcity.

Learn more

 

It doesn’t help people if we don’t deploy it!

The world needs more success stories of water innovations and business models operating successfully in underserved markets. WSUP is partnering with Imagine H2O for their Urban Water Challenge to facilitate the implementation of urban water innovations that can help transform lives and communities.

Together with Imagine H2O we are reimagining the parameters of a truly productive partnership to support water innovations that can scale their impact across the region, the continent, and the world.

Learn more

 

Sewers for Resilient Sanitation in the 21st Century

Sewers are vital elements of most urban sanitation systems. What can we learn from past successes and failures to ensure sewers contribute to resilient sanitation for the 21st Century?

We’re exploring historic and emerging approaches to sewer design from condominial to source-separation sewers, to find the best ways to sustainably protect both the environment and public health.

Learn more

 

The invisible link: dignity, safety and health for sanitation workers

Sanitation workers are critical to achieving safely managed sanitation, but their work can be easily overlooked. Millions of sanitation workers around the globe provide essential public services, often at the cost of their dignity, safety, health and living conditions.

Join us as we discuss experiences from around the world of the best ways to protect sanitation workers dignity, health and safety.

Learn more

 

Seen and unseen stress on water resources in climate-vulnerable countries

Bangladesh is on the frontlines of climate change. Sea-level rise and groundwater saline intrusion are forcing more and more people to move to urban areas that are already struggling to provide water to their growing populations.

In this session we are highlighting the multi-faceted effects of climate change in Bangladesh and the need for more integrated approaches to developing sustainable solutions to water resource management.

Learn more

What can the water sector learn about customer service from UK energy providers?

By Annie Hall, Marketing Specialist

Learning from other sectors is a fundamental part of WSUP’s approach. We bring together experiences from civil society, academia, and the private sector.

In fact, it was WSUP’s interest in the role of the private sector, and the drive to understand low-income consumer needs, that convinced me to make the leap from a career in corporate marketing and creative advertising agencies.

In previous roles, I’ve worked on projects to improve the customer service experience in sectors from energy and pharmaceuticals, to luxury jewellery and technology. However, trying to apply this in a developing market context hasn’t been easy.

I have had to adapt familiar theories, models, and best practice assumptions to account for technology limitations, business maturity, and unique pressures faced by the utilities we work with. Nonetheless, I still look to international industry leaders for inspiration from time-to-time.

In this blog, I share a snapshot of a recent customer experience of my own. This year, I switched to Octopus Energy, a relatively new UK based company that has attracted press attention for their numerous industry awards, and impressive customer service commitments.

From my first interaction, to the regular billing and metering communications I receive now, I have been impressed by their clarity, consistency, and creativity in keeping me engaged. It led me to reflect on what WASH institutions can learn from other utility brands and which, if any, of their customer engagement techniques can be replicated by water service providers in sub-Saharan Africa.

The onboarding process

The onboarding process refers to every interaction a customer has getting set up with a company. For a utility provider this may include the initial customer application and confirmation of when the connection will take place, through to being issued an account number, the first meter reading and delivery of the first bill.

This critical process is where first impressions are formed and it has the potential to disappoint, confuse, frustrate, and leave customers worried that they’ve made the wrong choice.

My onboarding process with Octopus commenced with an immediate email, thanking me for choosing them. I was given a clear and detailed summary of the key information and could see when my supply would start. I was even able to change this with a single click. The email confirmed my payment amount and indicated when to expect the first bill and all subsequent payments.

It’s important to acknowledge the ability to provide such an efficient switching service was heavily enabled by action taken by the UK regulator Ofgem back in 2014 when they radically modernised the switching process to benefit customers.

Regulator engagement forms a core part of WSUP’s work in the WASH sector. Active, informed, and empowered regulation authorities help to drive competitive innovation within industries, which is why it’s so important that a customer-centric mindset is championed by the regulators. WSUP must often encourage the utilities to go above and beyond the minimum standards set by the regulator, whilst supporting the regulator to raise the stakes in parallel.

My welcome email also included a personalised note, with a useful tip regarding how to identify emails that require action from me, versus emails I can read at my leisure.

This email was shortly followed by another, from the company CEO, telling me more about the company’s mission and values and invited me to learn more about how my purchase decision contributes to their greener energy initiative.

Throughout the process I did not have to seek out any information. I was sent regular updates, billing reminders and felt informed, valued, and convinced that I’d made a good choice, not just for me – but for the planet too it seemed!

By contrast, customers seeking a household water connection in a peri-urban area of sub-Saharan Africa can wait several weeks after paying an initial deposit before they see any activity from the service provider. Lengthy processes involving approvals with local councils and sourcing of infrastructure materials mean the customer is left chasing for updates, often queuing at the utility office.

This period spent out of pocket and out of the loop makes customers distrust water utilities.  Many of the utilities we work with miss opportunities to proactively keep customers informed. They could engage customers in their wider vision for healthier communities and add a personal touch to communications simply and cheaply.

Meter readings and bills

Like most utilities, my energy provider requires me to submit regular and timely meter readings – a task no one enjoys! It interrupts your day, and often involves accessing a meter hidden somewhere outside the home. So, Octopus incentivises this in two ways.

Firstly, I can access an online platform to submit my readings on a laptop or mobile in less than three clicks. There are step-by-step instructions to remind me how, and my previous submission is displayed to help me notice any anomalies.

Secondly, every time I submit a meter reading, I have the option to play a virtual wheel of fortune. An animation simulates a game-of-chance, where I can win money off my next bill. I’ve not won anything yet, but I keep playing (and keep submitting my readings) regardless!

It almost doesn’t matter what Octopus has created to pique my interest. The point is, they’ve recognised the effort required of customers to facilitate the billing process and have attempted to make it easier and more enjoyable. WSUP conducts customer journey mapping exercises with utilities to help them identify where their business operations inconvenience customers and try to encourage them to think of their own ways to ease the burden.

It’s all in the mindset

Is it reasonable to expect a small regional water utility in sub-Saharan Africa to deliver a customer experience like mine? No, not yet. But there are there lessons we can learn from other sectors about how to prioritise customer experience within organisational structures and processes.

When talking to Utility Week, Rebecca Dibb-Simkin, marketing and product director at Octopus Energy said, “It’s everyone’s job to do customer engagement.” Rebecca explained how staff training, performance measurement and even where they sit in the office, is built around delivering the best customer experience.

She also talked about how their systems are set up to facilitate individual customers being repeatedly routed to the same six to eight staff members, leading to greater personalisation and accountability. Staff aren’t measured on call handling times because they want staff to give customers the time they need.

Some observers are sceptical about whether Octopus can maintain this high-quality service experience as the customer base grows. However, an attitude of continual learning and improvement seems to be the status quo. “As we keep growing, we need to continue to get better. That’s the biggest challenge, continuing to put pressure on yourself to keep making things better as you scale,” said Rebecca.

It’s not as simple as “build it and they will come”

This is important because building the necessary infrastructure is only part of what is required to bring sustainable water and sanitation services to poorest and most vulnerable urban communities.

Utilities need to continuously work at creating and sustaining demand for their services. When designing business models for low-come consumers, it’s important to remember that ability to pay and willingness to pay are not the same thing. Willingness to pay is driven by a perception of value and like any other customer, low-income customers expect and deserve service experiences deemed worthy of their hard-earned .

Investments in customer experience don’t have to be radical, expensive or underpinned by major technological advancement (although that helps). Often the utilities we work with just need to spend more time putting themselves in the customers’ shoes.

They need to think strategically about the customer communications plan, map key customer journeys and identify where an extra SMS update, a personalised bill communication, a targeted public announcement or a more friendly customer service interaction, might help to transform how customers perceive their service as well as how valued they feel.

If you’re interested in learning more about Octopus energy and how they’re disrupting the UK market with their unique approach to managing customer relationships, check out some of the links below:

https://octopus.energy/

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-7261379/Octopus-boss-reveals-focus-green-energy-customer-service-helped-grow.html

https://utilityweek.co.uk/octopus-tech-firm-energy/

https://www.power-technology.com/features/qa-lighting-up-customer-service-with-octopus-energy/

https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/energy-companies/article/energy-company-reviews/octopus-energy

Freshwater conservation and WASH advocacy strategy workshop facilitator's guide

This guide covers steps required for engaging effectively with decision-makers; increasing the impact beyond programmatic solutions; and influencing individuals, organisations, policies, regulations, and financing.

IRC and Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group Members, Conservation International and the Jane Goodall Institute, jointly developed the Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop Facilitator's Guide because advocacy is a critical step in enabling integrated freshwater conservation-WASH management and must be closely tied to field-implementation of freshwater management strategies.

The target audience for this manual is development practitioners and advocates who desire a supportive policy environment for integrated freshwater conservation and WASH programming. The guide covers steps required for engaging effectively with decision-makers; increasing the impact beyond programmatic solutions; and influencing individuals, organisations, policies, regulations, and financing.

The Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop Guide is comprised of five parts, the main Facilitator's Guide and 4 appendices:
1. Advocacy Strategy Workshop Facilitator's Guide
2. Appendix 1: Advocacy Strategy Workshop PowerPoint Presentation
3. Appendix 2: Country Context Presentation Template
4. Appendix 3: Facilitator Workbook
5. Appendix 4: Participant Workbook

The four-day workshop outlined in the guide is designed to introduce advocacy and provide the rationale for the important role advocacy and influencing play to advance freshwater conservation and WASH at national and sub-national level goals through changes in policies, budgets, and practices.
When using this guide, please use the suggested citation below. For questions about the methodology in the guide, please contact Elynn Walter (walter@ircwash.org) or Colleen Sorto (csorto@conservation.org).

Suggested Citation: Walter, E., Sorto, C., Edmond, J., Mercurio, S. and Rozenberg, E. 2020. Freshwater Conservation and WASH Advocacy Strategy Workshop: Facilitator's Guide. Washington, DC: Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group and IRC.

Multi-dimensional challenges of ensuring sustainable water supplies

Word from the RWSN Chair:Louisa Gosling, WaterAid Download the latest RWSN Update in English, French or Spanish Dear RWSN colleagues, the 4 months since the last newsletter have been eventful for the RWSN. It has become clear that covid-19 will be with us for a long time and that people need water to stay safe. … Continue reading "Multi-dimensional challenges of ensuring sustainable water supplies"

ruralwaternetwork

Airing concerns: how radio raises community voices in Tanzania

By: editor
Airing concerns: how radio raises community voices in Tanzania editor 10 August 2020 - 12:32

The virtuous circle of good customer service: experience from Mozambique

By Antonio Madeira, Head of Water, Mozambique

Creating stronger service providers, a core strategic goal for WSUP’s 2020-2025 business plan, requires development of scalable business models that allow services to be provided to low-income customers at a profit.

There are two fundamental ways to make a business model more profitable: increasing revenue or reducing costs (and preferably both). Good customer service is critical for both.

Good customer service leads to greater customer satisfaction, timely payment of bills and customer advocacy, which in turn drives new customer growth via referrals. Poor customer service leads to customer complaints, which are resource-intensive to manage, defaults on bills, negative word of mouth, higher rates of customer churn, and even vandalism.

It can be tempting for public service organisations like utilities to assume customer service is less critical because they are the only provider in the market. However, an absence of direct competition does not mean, customers have no choice. Customers can choose an illegal water connection, they can choose to purchase bottled water, they can seek an alternative source.

Águas da Região de Maputo (AdeM), the primary water utility in Maputo, recognises the importance of good customer service and has been working with WSUP for several years to develop a model that allows them to be more present and available for their hardest-to-reach customers.

AdeM, a water utility in Maputo, has been working with WSUP to develop a model that allows for better customer service in low-income areas of the city.

Consequences of undervaluing low-income customers

Like many of the utilities WSUP works with, maintaining a consistent, reliable, and financially sustainable engagement with low income communities had proved challenging for AdeM. A lack of trust had emerged between low income communities and the utility.

Firstly, there was a broadly held perception that water services in low income communities were not prioritised due to less water supply network coverage, fewer household connections and comparatively less water consumption making the market less attractive to the utility. This was exacerbated internally at AdeM, by weak bill collection efficiency in poorer areas of the city.

Secondly, there was a belief among customers that their service was substandard, particularly in relation to wealthier neighbourhoods assumed to receive a better supply experience. For example, in times of water shortage, low income communities believed their supply would be cut first.

The extent to which these perceptions were accurate was arguably less important than the need to change them. What AdeM needed was to shift their relationship with customers into a position of greater trust and cooperation.

Customers needed to feel valued by AdeM and equally deserving of quality service and attention awarded to higher income areas. In return, AdeM needed low-income communities to view their service as good value for money and worthy of timely and consistent bill payments.

The power of community-based organisations

AdeM currently contracts several community-based organisations (CBOs) across the city. The model operates on a performance-based contract whereby responsibility for local monitoring of bill payment, meter reading, delivery of invoices and reporting leakages are delegated to a community-based organisation. CBOs conduct their tasks by visiting low income customers at home, whilst maintaining daily communication with AdeM, through the zone manager.

The decision to hire CBOs was driven by the fact that the CBO staff would be working in their own neighbourhoods. They would therefore have better knowledge and appreciation of the problems and be likely to adopt a more authentic, understanding, and effective approach to engaging low income communities.

Once recruited, CBO staff undergo training delivered by WSUP and AdeM, covering technical aspects such as understanding the billing systems, through to softer skills such as community interaction techniques.

The difference between this model and use of traditional meter readers is that the local staff have more time to dedicate to building relationships with customers, making themselves available for any queries or feedback during their regular visits. This change has been positively received by residents.

“We now have someone to report to at the utility Águas da Região de Maputo as well as local young people who can read water meters in the neighbourhood,” says Carlota Zefanias, resident Aeroporto B, Maputo.

Carlota Zefanis, a resident of Maputo, has benefited from the improved customer service of AdeM in her district. The work was funded through WSUP’s partnership with the Coca-Cola Company. Credit: Ernanio Mandlate

Benefits for AdeM

In areas managed by CBOs, AdeM has seen an increase in debt recovery values, billing rates, and reading rates of meters, which enable the utility to calculate bills more accurately. AdeM have also seen the CBOs deliver added value in managing dissatisfaction in times of crisis.

An increase in water tariff in 2018 unfortunately coincided with a review of AdeM’s billing cycle, which led to multiple bills in quick succession and unexpected invoices, understandably impacting the poorest communities most significantly.

Whilst better planning would have been preferable in mitigating customer dissatisfaction, the availability of CBO staff to assist with customer queries, explain the changes, be sympathetic to their frustrations and support customers in managing a debt repayment plan, meant that bill collection efficiency recovered quickly.

Deployment of the CBO model has also led to significant improvements in the tracking of error cases and account anomalies. While collecting readings, CBOs will sometimes encounter obstacles such as faulty meters, water damage obscuring visibility, or the customer simply being unreachable.

Thanks to the CBO staff capturing the most frequent and impactful error cases, AdeM has an up-to-date customer database and a better system for prioritising action to improve quality of service supply.

The successful CBO model used by AdeM will be scaled-up to a further five areas by September 2020. Credit: Mario Macilau

The future

Approximately five years from the launch of the CBO approach, the model is delivering impressively and is a fantastic example of how customer-centric investment in simple human touchpoints can transform the service experience and have a meaningful impact on the bottom line. Bill collection efficiency increased from 50% in 2009 to 80% in 2016 in the newly served low-income areas. Additionally a customer survey found that 59% of households considered the water bill a ‘reasonable price’.

The model is currently being scaled up and implemented in 10 areas of the city, with the costs shared between AdeM and WSUP funders. A further five areas are planned to be included by September 2020. However, this is only the beginning. The CBO model was always planned to be developed in stages, culminating in fully delegated management of service areas whereby the CBOs will have complete responsibility for service delivery including billings, revenue collection, leakage management and customer liaison.

The delegated management contracts will be performance based with the CBO’s being paid an agreed percentage of the revenue collection. The principles of moving to this stage have been discussed and agreed with AdeM and the first pilot is expected this financial year with replication to several areas in 2021/2022.

Arsénio Mate, project manager at AdeM, describes the approach as part of the organisation’s plan to provide better quality service to customers, especially for those living on the periphery. “We welcome the initiative and we hope they will continue working with us to serve those in need with good quality service”, he says.

This work is part of WSUP’s strategy to support AdeM in improving operations and service delivery, through a wider utility improvement programme over the next three years. This strategic approach addresses AdeM’s water service delivery in a holistic framework to improve KPI’s for service delivery, commercial returns and to meet future demand including reducing NRW losses.

Find out more about WSUP's work in Mozambique here

Launch of Good practice for WASH in Ghana booklet

By: awumbei

National Development Planning Commission - NDPC in collaboration with IRC and partners is disseminating the findings and is further engaging relevant stakeholders on the stories starting with the launch of the Good Practice for WASH in Ghana booklet.

 

launch of NDPC booklet

The Government of Ghana is committed to achieving access to safe water supply and water-related targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With about 10 years left until the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, there is an urgent need to identify innovative actions that can help fast-track the delivery of the SDGs.
The National Development Planning Commission in collaboration with IRC embarked on a project to collate and publish ongoing innovative interventions on water and sanitation from selected district assemblies; namely Wassa East, Bongo and Asutifi-North District. Fieldwork was carried out from 18th February to 4th March 2020 to ascertain, assess and interact with developers and beneficiaries of the selected WASH projects. The aim of the exercise was to collate and publish these innovative approaches and interventions for the purpose of sharing experiences and lessons learnt to institutions such as MDAs, MMDAs, private sector and CSOs. The main outputs for the exercise which include website publication on the WASH stories (at both NDPC and IRC websites) together with the final WASH document have been prepared.

As part of the way forward to these publications, the NDPC in collaboration with IRC and partners would disseminate the findings and further engage relevant stakeholders on the stories starting with the launch of the Good Practice for WASH in Ghana booklet.

The objective of the programme is to i) raise awareness on the ongoing strategic, innovative WASH interventions identified in the selected districts; ii) highlight major findings in the report; iii) generate further interaction with stakeholders; and iv) provide an opportunity to widen the scope of the interventions to unserved or underserved areas in the country to help attain the national and SDG targets on WASH. Due to the Covid-19 health pandemic, the launch event would be organised within one-and-half hours targeting WASH-related stakeholders and beyond.

Selected stakeholders are invited to join a face-to-face session whilst wider stakeholder participation will be via Microsoft link: Join Here

Programme brief

Time (Day1) Activity Responsibility
9:00 – 9:30 am Registration and Arrival of invited guests and the media NDPC
9:30 – 9:40 am Welcome Address Dr. Kojo Mensah Abrampah, Director-General, NDPC
9:40 – 10:00 am Brief Statements:
                  Country Director, IRC Ghana
                  Ministry of MWSR
                  SDG ICC Coordinator
10:00 – 10:20 am Presentation: Water Stories and Sanitation Tales by NDPC
10:20 – 10:40 am Discussions: Participants
10:40 – 10:50 am Launch of the WASH Report Dr. Kojo Mensah Abrampah, Director-General, NDPC
10:50 – 11:00 am Wrap-up and next steps Dr. Felix Addo-Yobo
11:00 am Refreshment and Departure

 

 

Pivoting to Virtual Gala: Lessons Learned and Shared

By: Splash

By: Cyndie Berg, Liz Flores-Marcus, Kaitlynn Lagman, Laura Mapp, & Molly Parus

Like so many other nonprofits this year, Splash pivoted our gala to a virtual event as a result of COVID-19. While we were thrilled to exceed our fundraising goal, we also learned some important lessons along the way. Whether you work for a nonprofit organization or support one through volunteering or donating, we hope you find this article helpful as you consider how best to gather virtually, fundraise and engage digitally, and capture the energy and generosity sparked by in-person fundraising galas.

Learn from the best

When we made the decision to go digital, we immediately sought advice from those who had gone before us. We were fortunate to speak with Upaya Social Ventures’ wonderful fundraising team and learn about the structure of their virtual gala, as they were one of the first Seattle-based organizations to host one. We also connected with our Board members, donors, and other Seattle business leaders to diversify our perspective and ensure that our virtual gala ideas translated well for guests. These early conversations helped to guide our decision-making process and find harmony between our revenue goals and the overall guest experience.

Engaging donors and supporting virtual Table Captains

For the virtual event to succeed, we knew we had to engage our closest supporters (including already confirmed Table Captains) and get their buy-in and support. We wanted to keep the gala spirit alive by creating “virtual tables” with Table Captains. Using Classy’s peer-to-peer fundraising platform, we were able to mimic the gala format to achieve our fundraising goals.

The virtual platform also provided some flexibility that an in-person live event would not afford. Instead of being limited to 15–20 Table Captains and asking them to fill a ten-person table, we were able to engage a larger group not limited to the Seattle metro. Supporting Table Captains leading up to and throughout the event, confirming pledged gifts, and securing donor matches were all critical to meeting our fundraising goal.

Creating content that will translate digitally and leveraging technology for a global reach

In a concentrated effort to make the program content more accessible to Splash’s global audience and to increase fundraising opportunities, we decided to host the virtual gala over a four-day period. We were fortunate to contract Kelly Lacy, photographer and videographer of MakeBeautiful, to help us edit and produce videos for the virtual gala. Collaborating with a videographer brought a level of professionalism to our content that we would have otherwise struggled to achieve.

Going virtual allowed us to embrace technology and invite a significant amount of our global staff to take part in the gala through pre-recorded videos. While the in-person gala usually allows for a few global staff to make the journey to Seattle, the virtual platform allowed us to increase involvement across all of our country programs. With this increased involvement came extra engagement with technology — late night and early morning Zoom calls — to align visions and record content. This increased our daily interactions with one another and resulted in some pretty fun and creative collaborative content.

Living your organization’s values

COVID-19 has disrupted every industry, and event-centered businesses have been hit incredibly hard. While Splash benefitted from saving in event costs, the vendors who were counting on this revenue took a big hit. Splash’s primary value is people first, people second, and people third. In an effort to support and honor our community partners, we tried to work with vendors to minimize losses. For example, rather than trying to claim force majeure with our gala venue for a full refund, we instead asked them hold onto our deposit and worked with them to reschedule our event for May 2021.

Lessons learned

Hindsight allows us to appreciate the success of the event, even amidst our ever-changing global environment. Thanks to our incredible donors, staff, and network of supporters, we exceeded our fundraising goal and continue to be proud of the content we produced. Post virtual gala, our team gathered to discuss lessons learned and what we might have done differently, knowing what we do now. Major takeaways to consider include:

  1. Length of event: We chose to host the virtual gala over four days to maximize fundraising potential. Two of the days (the first and last nights) featured a combination of live and pre-recorded content, while on the second and third days we posted pre-recorded content to the event website. In retrospect, a one-day program may have been equally effective and put less of a strain on staff to produce a high volume of content. We also acknowledge that it was a big ask for guests to tune in for four evenings.
  2. Communicating clearly: We struggled to explain what a virtual gala was to Table Captains and their guests, because we were learning as we went. We were slow to establish the virtual gala format and lacked answers to questions from our Table Captains/peer-to-peer fundraisers, which led to confusion and delayed pre-event fundraising opportunities. We recommend that organizations solidify the structure of the event early and be clear with your guests and Table Captains so they can confidently communicate to their networks.
  3. Staying on course: The virtual gala was an opportunity for the team to stretch our creative muscles. Yet, with so many fun, fresh ideas, the team wavered on making decisions that stuck. This contributed to our communication issue (above) and resulted in a lot of last-minute content creation.

4. Streaming platform: We chose Zoom to host both our live kick-off and closing ceremony as we thought the medium best replicated the intimacy of a live gala, and it was the platform with which we were most familiar. However, we question if a live streaming platform like Facebook Live would be a better option. Some of the intimacy might be lost in opening the event to the general public, but there would also be the opportunity to engage a larger audience.

Conclusion

We will likely integrate some elements from this learning experience to an in-person gala, perhaps streaming the event live and posting it on our website. While we look forward to gathering in a room with our closest friends at a future event, the global accessibility of a virtual gala is particularly compelling.

Have you also pivoted to a virtual event recently? Let us know how it went, and visit our virtual gala page to see Splash’s virtual event for yourself!

Marketing the un-marketable? Selling sanitation in Bangladesh

In an environment where many are unwilling to pay for sanitation, how can we promote safe services?

In Bangladesh, WSUP is trialling different marketing models to encourage greater uptake of services.

We tested door-to-door brand promoters with promotions running in trusted shops (retail agents), to find out which were more effective at targeting different stages of the customer journey.

We also looked at how these marketing approaches could best link with a sanitation service’s existing processes, so that sales leads could be retained and converted when the customer was ready.

Watch our video to find out what we learnt:

The work was supported by TRANSFORM, a programme led by Unilever and the UK’s Department for International Development. TRANSFORM is a collaboration between business, government and civil society, leveraging their respective strengths to address the world’s most pressing development challenges.

Learn more about WSUP's work to build a stronger customer experience.

10 years later, where are we?

By: editor
10 years later, where are we? editor 30 July 2020 - 10:32

26 years later, water rights are still not real in South Africa

By: editor
26 years later, water rights are still not real in South Africa editor 28 July 2020 - 11:55

¡Feliz aniversario a los derechos humanos al agua y al saneamiento!

El 28 de julio se cumple el décimo aniversario del reconocimiento de los derechos humanos al agua y al saneamiento. 10 años y 12 resoluciones más tarde, este blog responde a preguntas frecuentes sobre el estatus legal del agua y el saneamiento como derechos humanos en la legislación internacional y nacional.

blog-28-july_wash_illu03

ruralwaternetwork

Bon anniversaire aux droits humains à l’eau et à l’assainissement

Le 28 juillet marque le 10ème anniversaire de la reconnaissance des droits humains à l'eau et à l'assainissement. 10 ans et 12 résolutions plus tard, ce blog répond aux questions les plus courantes sur le statut juridique de l'eau et de l'assainissement en tant que droits humains dans le droit international et national.

blog-28-july_wash_illu03

ruralwaternetwork

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