Our second utility meeting started off by meeting the WSTF county coordinator Martha. Martha gave a brief introduction on the Sirimon water project after which we headed to the field. The Sirimon water project office had recently been built and funded through the WSTF J6 program. We were warmly welcomed there by the chair and committee.
After introductions and presenting the project, we started our excursion from the water intake. The intake was located about 7 km from the office up into the hills surrounding Mt Kenya. We learned that there are 13 other water projects drawing water upstream from the Sirimon project and water is rationed due to a drought in the area. The rationing is done through the water resource user association WRUA and each utility has specific days of the week to draw water. From the intake we followed the main to the first storage tank that had been built already in the 80s but improved through the J6 program. From there the water flows to 4 different zones of the Sirimon project.
After the field visit, we divided into three groups for interviews about the management, finances and technical aspects of the project. Although some challenges with communicating in English, the project team felt that the interviews went well and some initial ideas for improving the business were drafted in the evening. During our evening debrief we went through the project team’s moods of the day with our mood meter. They were quite positive although energy levels were running low for most of the team. The good visit at Sirimon most likely compensated for the lack in energy for the overall mood.
Next day we woke up early feeling positive but tired. Coffee here is not very strong but we have learned how to wake up: after a double or even triple dosage of instant coffee we were ready to take on customer interviews. This day was reserved for customer interviews and business model workshop. We split into two groups to interview current and potential customers of Sirimon Water Project. We had time to meet some households, schools and water kiosks that use water from the project.
The project currently has 350 active connections and their aim is to serve 15 000 customers within the next five years. The afternoon business model development workshop was carried out with the overall mission in mind. The idea was to recognize their current situation and get ideas for future development. The ideas were collected on a business model canvas which we introduced as ”components of a sustainable business”. Regardless of our tight schedule, the workshop came out fruitful. The WUA staff was interested in the topics and came up with their own good ideas from recalculating tariffs to renting out their office to make extra income. Even an idea of hosting a cyber cave was listed on the business model canvas. The day was long but left us feeling positive. We have now visited two utilities and tomorrow we are heading to our last WUA, the Sipili Water Project.