By Chisha Mwenso, Administrative Officer for WSUP in Zambia
In Zambia, WSUP has been supporting sustainable models for WASH service delivery to help reach more people in the most underserved communities.
In Lusaka, the capital and largest city in Zambia, around 65% of residents live in low-income communities, many of which lack access to clean water and safe sanitation. These areas are often overlooked by utilities and service-providers as they are less profitable than higher-income districts where residents can more easily afford water and sanitation services.
Lusaka Water Supply and Sanitation Company (LWSSC) has been implementing Delegated Management Models (DMMs) to expand access to water and sanitation in low-income areas and improve service delivery at the local level. This model establishes local management teams within communities which take over responsibility for day-to-day service delivery from the utility.
By preparing bills and payments, collecting meter readings, fixing leaks in the network and setting up new water connections they ensure a more reliable water supply and better customer service. As a result, residents become more positive about the service and more likely to invest in their own household water connections.
WSUP has been working to support LWSSC in the establishment and maintenance of these DMMs. This has included creating and monitoring service agreements between the operators and the utility; evaluating existing DMMs; mobilising capital to support new infrastructure; training staff and helping with community engagement. In addition, we have supported the low-income customer unit within LWSSC so that, in future, they will be able to establish DMMs without external support.
In the case of Mtendere East, a low-income community in Lusaka, WSUP also helped to mobilise financing to extend the water network to the area. Eight years on, this DMM is still working well, servicing 1,700 households with clean, affordable water. The local management team has also established positive relationships with the community through good service provision and a fast response time to queries.
“The DMM has been very proactive in resolving any challenges that arise and always provides good customer service. I receive my bills on time and in instances where I have been unable to settle my water bill at once the DMM has a facility that allows me to pay in instalments and not face any water service interruption” – Austin Kazelondo, a customer of the DMM in Mtendere East.
Investing back into the community
The management teams set up through DMMs require a start-up investment but are designed to become financially viable after this initial period. In Mtendere East, this start-up funding was provided by Australia Aid with support from CARE International who have worked with other DMMs in the area. Since then the local management team has been able to generate enough income to cover its own operating costs and establish an investment fund for the DMM. This fund is used to support payment plans that help residents spread out the costs of establishing a household water connection and to save towards the development of the DMM.
From this fund the management team has been able to save enough to build its own office in Mtendere East, allowing it to serve more residents in-person and extend its services within the community.
“The revenue being collected from the kiosks and payment of bills has enabled the DMM to extend the water network to service more people and build more kiosks, increasing the number from 15 to 24. Furthermore, the land on which these additional kiosks have been constructed is land that has been offered by the community members” – Benny Kaleya, Manager of the DMM in Mtendere East.
What can we learn from Mtendere East?
The DMMs established in Lusaka have shown that this model can provide a successful path for commercial utilities and other government authorities to better serve low-income communities.
“We have seen high levels of efficiency with the DMM approach. You have a team dedicated to this area who are very efficient in providing services and are in constant contact with the customers”– Yvonne Siyeni, Peri-urban Department Manager for LWSSC.
In Mtendere East, a key part of this success has been the involvement of the community in the development of the DMM. The role of residents in supporting the DMM, engaging with the services offered and, in some cases, donating land to be used for water kiosks has been critical in ensuring the sustainability of the DMM.
“When the Mtendere East DMM was established we ensured that clear roles and responsibilities were laid out in the service management contract between the DMM and LWSSC. This ensured the local management team were able to provide good customer service and could receive the support they needed from the utility.” – Reuben Sipuma, WSUP Country Programme Manager in Zambia.
There is still much work to do to improve water and sanitation access across Lusaka but WSUP is already working to replicate the success seen in areas like Mtendere East and expand the same model to other cities.