The story of Kibera, a sprawling slum in Nairobi, Kenya where “Water Pipes Are In The Air”
By Adesina Idris
London, August 26, 2018 (AltAfrica)-A Kenyan non-profit organisation, Shining Hope for Communities (Shofco) has done something unusual. Shofco has invented a new way to distribute water to avoid contamination. The initiative is so beautifully unusual that it has solve a generational problem by simply listening to people and tapping into their ideas. The problem solving initiative has also propelled Shofco to a global recognition that made it the recipient of the prestigious Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.
What’s the initiative. Simple: Put water pipes in the air to avoid contamination. Shofco is the first organisation focusing on slums to be awarded the prestigious award and will receive $2 million in unrestricted funding—an amount greater than any one of the six Nobel Prizes.
Previous winners of the Hilton prize over the last two decades have included medical group Doctors Without Borders, healthcare organisation Partners in Health, and Landesa, a nonprofit that secures legal land rights for the world’s poor.
How did it happen? How would this work? “I believe change can only come from the community itself,” says Kennedy Odede, who grew up in Kibera, and went on to found Shofco as an adult. “I started asking people I grew up with, what they would do if they could do anything? One day someone said they would put the [water] pipes in the air.” So that’s what Shofco did.
Shofco has a range of programs focused around transforming slums in Kenya by improving critical services including health care, education and economic empowerment for women and girls, water and sanitation.
Shofco’s aerial water network consists of overhead pipes supported by wooden poles that connect to 10 water kiosks throughout Kibera, allowing clean water to flow through pipes in the air without fear of tampering by cartels who divert water to private vendors.
Effectively, the new system cuts the price of a 20-liter jerry-can of potable water by 60%, from five Kenyan shillings to two. The design can be implemented quickly as it does not involve trench digging and underground pipe laying.
According to Odede, those living in Kibera use a cashless system to access the water. Shofco has partnered with the telecom company Safaricom to give Kibera residents an identity card that they can load with the mobile money platform M-Pesa, and then swipe to release water from the system.
In its press release, the Hilton Foundation highlighted the community-driven aspect of Shofco’s work:
Shofco is a remarkable example of citizen-led change, created by people living in very challenging conditions. As Africa and the world urbanize and more informal settlements are created, Shofco provides an inspiring example of local creativity and solutions.
Shofco is not the first organization to try and improve water access in Kibera. But many previous attempts to support traditional underground piping systems have left pipes vulnerable to leaks, breakage, and consequent contamination.
Initial funding was provided by Pentair, the multinational industrial company. Shofco then worked with Safaricom and the US African Development Fund to build additional kiosks. So far, Shofco’s aerial piping system services reaches over 11,000 people. This is meant to be a pilot phase of the project, and the organisation is currently working with the US Centres for Disease Control to study the system’s efficiency before scaling up.
Shofco’s goal is to eventually provide potable water to 84,000 people in Kibera through the above-ground pipes.
This is a well modified story from Quartz