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Who is responsible for improving the resilience of local population in the Kenya Arid lands against natural disasters and impact of climate change? And who pays the bills for sustainable water services? This was one of the questions that came up during workshops held in Kenya in October 2014.

The workshops closed a series of support actions by a Dutch consortium of Aqua for All, IRC and Acacia Water, that partnered with CRS, CARE, FH and World Vision (who joined under the umbrella of Millennium Water Alliance Kenya) to build the resilience in WASH in these disaster prone areas. The support focused on building the capacities of the implementing NGOs and local governments in planning of sustainable water provisions in flood and drought-affected areas, and thus improving the resilience of the local population against natural disasters and impact of climate change. This last support step looked specifically at the costs of sustainable water service delivery and to make a start with the discussions on how these costs will or can be financed.

What happened before?

Following field visits and stakeholder consultations throughout 2013, four reports have been issued (see link below), detailing the technical and social analysis of 4 pilot areas of approximately 40 x 30 km within the Kenya Arid Lands. The analysis, based on the RIDA framework (Resources, Infrastructures, Demand, Access), gave an overview of (1) the potential of the area in terms of 3R interventions (Recharge, Retention and Reuse), (2) an up-to-date list of current infrastructures, (3) a primary calculation of water demands for multiple uses (domestic, livestock, agriculture, seasonal migration and wildlife) and (4) an analysis of elements (social, cultural, regulatory or linked to management) that hampers access to sufficient water.

This was followed later in 2014 with planning workshop with the stakeholders of the pilot areas, which resulted in first versions of a Water Master Plan for each of the pilot areas in the 4 pilot counties. This Water Master Plan includes (1) an analysis of the current situation, (2) a future projection for the next ten years to come and (3) an action plan for the short term (2014). All analyses were done according to four pillars: Water infrastructure, Water management, Water governance and Capacity building.

Costing what?

The workshops “Financing for sustainability”, organised in October 2014, gathered between 10 and 15 participants in each county, with representatives from local partners and local government and ministerial line departments. Although all the participants were quite familiar with budgeting issues, the crash course organised by IRC on the “life-cycle cost components” captivated all participants with no exception. Some of the participants described it as “an eye opener”, and a lot of interest was shown in the service ladder and classification of costs. A few practical exercises were organised with each of the group, to ensure that all participant become familiar with the – sometimes complicated - terminology used in the LCCA.

An important discussion was around what can or should be covered by the water tariffs? Is it only the daily operations, like fuel, lubricants and salaries of operators? Or also to include provisions for larger repairs – like the engine of the generator set? And what to think of support visits and trainings by the sub-county water office? In Kate-Bori (Moyale) the participants concluded that they lacked accurate information about the real costs of producing water.

Another highlight in all meetings was that they lacked reliable information on how much was actually paid for water for the different uses. Because although they used tariffs for households, tariffs for livestock and tariffs for visiting herds from neighbouring areas, the actual revenues were not known. This led to a consensus that proper financial management requires transparency about both revenues and expenditures.

The outcome of this workshop is a reviewed version of the Water Master Plans, which are available for download on IRC website (see links below). The outcome of the “financing for sustainability” workshop is available in the final annexes of the updated plans.

Although it has been discussed passionately with the participants, one question remains: who is going to finance each of these activities? Kenya is experiencing a radical reorganisation of its administration as part of the devolution process, and budget flows have been uncertain till now. In the very short term, many of the activities might partly be financed through NGOs, but to ensure financing for sustainability, this will have to change.

Mélanie Carrasco and René van Lieshout, IRC

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