In 2009, Water For People entered into an agreement with Blantyre Water Board (BWB) to provide facilitation services for an investment totaling just over $5million received as a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and a grant from the European Union to the BWB to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene conditions in the 21 Low Income Areas (LIAs) of Blantyre. Access issues had persisted since the late 1990s, when there were an alarming number of disconnections of community-managed water kiosks in peri-urban Blantyre due to non-payment of water bills to BWB. Party-politicization of water was another serious issue, with frequent cases of kiosk and water revenue being controlled by political parties. In some cases, politicians ensured water kiosks constructed were on plots of land belonging to party loyalists. Relevant public authorities with full jurisdiction to act succumbed to ruling party pressures as it was safer to not to act.
In a bid to solve this water crisis, Water For People–Malawi, in partnership with BWB, facilitated the establishment of a Water Users Association in the pilot area of Nkolokoti-Kachere in 2009. The idea was to empower communities to manage the water supply, and also create a sustainable business model. By focusing resources on consensus building (with political actors), knowledge sharing, mobilization and advocacy, the WUA was able to overcome a situation of intense corruption, disrepair, vandalism and near-total service disruption. By December 2009, the Nkolokoti-Kachere WUA had settled all its outstanding bills with BWB and since has not experienced supply disruptions for non-payment of bills.
The model is being scaled up across all 21 peri-urban areas of Blantyre, through co-financing from BWB leveraged from EU/EIB, which will see an additional 363 new kiosks being constructed. Water For People–Malawi, in partnership with BWB, has facilitated the establishment of eight Water Users Associations (WUAs) to manage water kiosks across the 17 of the 21 LIAs of peri-urban Blantyre. WUAs empower communities to manage the water supply, and also create a sustainable business model. A WUA sells water to people through communal water kiosks (usually between 25 to 50 per WUA), where people purchase by-the-bucket water from sellers. Water For People–Malawi establishes the WUA and provides it with the technical (water point maintenance and repair), financial (tariff development and financial accountability), and human resource skills necessary to manage the water system. Water For People-Malawi also helps the WUA to set up a contract with the Blantyre Water Board (BWB), so that the WUA is responsible for paying the BWB for all the water piped to the water kiosks under its management. Because the WUA is paying for the water, it is in its best interests to ensure that the water points are well maintained (no leakages or outages) and serving the community, so that it can continue to make a profit.