Public-private partnerships help to revamp water sector in Marsabit

Solomon Gubo

Marsabit Deputy Governor addressing water stakeholders in Marsabit town during a learning event organised by Kenya RAPID.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

For decades, Marsabit County has been struggling with the problem of water management. Water points were managed by committees, but the income ended up in the pockets of a few, with the vital commodity being unfairly distributed.  Additionally, there lacked a legal system for water governance.

However, interventions through a public-private partnership are bearing fruit.

Nation.Africa spoke to Marsabit Deputy Governor Solomon Gubo on developments in the county’s water sector and the impact of these partnerships.

How would you describe the water Sector in Marsabit?

Marsabit is among the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) which receive low rainfall. In some instances, both or one rain seasons fail. Though it is currently raining, the rain is poorly distributed within the county. This makes it a water-scarce county. Water is especially essential for this county’s communities’ livestock sector. The main sources of water are boreholes and water pans, which are vulnerable to drought.

What has the county government been doing to ensure access to water?

Over the past seven years, we have been investing heavily in addressing water availability and access to this key resource for both people and their livestock. The county has achieved some major milestones like distribution of plastic tanks, drilling and equipping of strategic boreholes, development of water pans and de-silting of existing ones, construction of underground water tanks, installation of solar-powered pumps and remote sensors for the purpose of remote monitoring and timely responses.

How are the water points being managed?

Most boreholes have been managed poorly and had been turned into cash cows for some cartels managing the boreholes. This is a trend common in many ASAL areas where unscrupulous water users’ committees mismanage the resource. To overcome such mismanagement, I acknowledge, in particular, the automation of water major points with prepaid water meters through the support of Kenya Resilient Arid Lands Partnership for Integrated Development (RAPID) programme. This programme brings together private and public institutions to increase access to water for livestock and rebuild a healthy range management system.

I urge all those tasked with managing water points to remember that the resources belong to the community. The money is not personal and people should not enrich themselves (with it). They have to come up with mechanisms for repair, maintenance and improvement of the water points’ infrastructure.

How did the partnership impact the county’s water sector?

With funding mainly from USAID and Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), Kenya RAPID supplemented the government’s efforts through various ways including development of the Marsabit Water Policy and (water) Bill. Marsabit is among the first counties which have enacted the Bill. Also in place is the Marsabit County Water and Sanitation Act, 2018. The programme also supported operationalisation of the Water Sector Fund, solar-power installation and equipping boreholes with sensors and trainings for selected staff members and, most importantly, automation of water points.

What has been the Impact?

Where the boreholes have been automated, we have seen increased revenue collection, improved equity in [sharing of] water resources and reduced wastage of water due to use of modern technology. Over 12 community water points have been installed with water meters and piloting for prepaid water meters for tracks is ongoing at two points while the same for livestock is being done at one point.

This has also opened up opportunities for further collaboration and engagements with various private partners.

How does the county government envisage the future of the water sector?

Already the county has received funds through the direct cash transfer. The county intends to build on the success it had on innovation and technology for service delivery improvement at major strategic boreholes. There are still major gaps, calling for further support and collaborations with partners and stakeholders.

There are also plans to upscale the current technologies to bulk water vendors and livestock consumption for efficiency, more revenue and mitigation of water wastage.

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