The majority of Kenyans in rural areas are completely reliant on natural sources for all of their water needs; this includes bathing, washing clothes, cooking, and drinking. Unfortunately, these sources of water are in no way purified or fit for human consumption. Therefore, before it can be consumed, the water must be boiled to kill bacteria. This is an arduous process that not only requires time and money, but also has a lasting environmental impact – as coal is the source of heat for heating the water. Enter Evidence Action – a Kiva partner with a solution that addresses all three issues with one simple solution: a program entitled ‘Dispensers for Safe Water’ (DSW for short).

An alternative purification strategy is to chlorinate the water - which will quickly provide safe drinking water without burning coal (chlorine is provided at no cost to users). Through a series of grants and Kiva loans, Evidence Action has been able to install 18,500 dispensers around Kenya with an estimated reach of 2.4 million people. Each dispenser is placed at a water point that serves between 10 and 200 households, and a member of the community volunteers as a ‘promoter’ to receive chlorine deliveries and refill the dispenser weekly.

I was able to get a picture with Maureen and Christina - Promotors at a water point that serves over 150 households
Regional Coordinator, Eugene, stares down at a daunting water point that has begun to dry up. This can happen from season to season and during dry spells

Treating water with chlorine is not an exceptionally revolutionary concept; however, Evidence Action may have discovered a way to make it a sustainable operation. Saving each family from boiling water means that this activity can be registered with an exchange and monitored to earn carbon credits - which are then sold on a marketplace to provide tax breaks to businesses. The greater the adoption / usage of the community - the more credits the dispenser can earn. This is how the group plans to generate revenue to pay back loans taken from Kiva to install about 2,000 of their dispensers.

Esther stands next to the well on her property that serves 28 households. She lowers the pictured jerry can about 25 feet down to fill it and pull it back up
About 15 households use this water point - known as Korindo Spring. While interviewing the promotors for this water point, I watched a woman in crutches walk down, fill up a 5 gallon bucket to the top with water, balance it on her head, and then crutch back home.

DSW operations in Kenya are run by a team of 116 employees who manage the entire portfolio of dispensers from top to bottom. They identify new counties to enter, plan informational meetings with local stakeholders, recruit promoters, test monthly for adoption rates and also make quarterly chlorine deliveries via motorbike.

Ruth, a field officer in Kuria, walks me through the metrics that are tracked by her team each month
Stockpile of chlorine for 3 months of deliveries from one of Evidence Action's 15 field offices
Difficult driving conditions like this required lots of strategy before attempting to navigate

In my time working with Evidence Action, I was able to visit 10 dispensers in the southwest Kenyan areas of Rongo, Migori and Kuria. Each of the promoters I met with were proud to support the community and were very reliant on the chlorine. Sometimes it is easy to forget that access to safe drinking water is not a universal privilege that we all share, but Evidence Action is doing their part to help chip away at this problem.

Please consider supporting a water and sanitation project with your next Kiva Loan!

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