WAG member in discussion with citizens in Kakamego town, Kenya © WASREB

Water Action Groups in Kenya

Formalizing User Engagement with Water Service Providers – Case Study

Context

Results of a Citizen Report Card survey in 2007  showed that citizens in cities in Kenya were keen to strengthen relationships with water service providers and delivered valuable feedback to policy-makers and providers on the impact of the sector reform process. The survey served as impetus for the development of a formalized feedback mechanism linking users to the Kenyan water service providers, Water services boards (in charge of infrastructure development) and WASREB (in charge of regulation and consumer protection initiatives).

 

Action and Outcome

Four Water Action Groups (WAG) of volunteers were created as pilots in 2009 to:

  • Disseminate information to consumers
  • Engage service providers on issues of concern to consumers and the under-served
  • Provide feedback to water services sector institutions regarding the state of services

WAGs organize focus group discussions, public meetings and information sessions. Cumulatively, these outreach activities have reached thousands of users, even in more remote or difficult neighbourhoods.

The WAGs also manage a complaints mechanism, with the possibility of pushing up complaints from the service providers to the Boards and finally to WASREB if complaints are not adequately addressed. In the first year, 405 complaints were handled. 65% of these were resolved to the satisfaction of the users within a year.

 

Lessons Learned

  • To establish credibility and ensure that the work and feedback of WAGs are taken up requires support from public authorities and the main water service providers and stakeholders. Active partnerships and cooperation are essential.
  • Working for WAG is a time-consuming and difficult and should be recognized as such. Six months after the initiation of the WAGs programme, when the issue of corruption was touched upon, two cases of threats made against WAG members were reported to the police.

 

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