Jul 12, 2011

A Lifeline of Water: M-PESA - Grandfos Partnership for Rural Water Provision

In September 2009 listed telecoms operator Safaricom entered into a
partnership with Grundfos LifeLink, part of the Danish worldwide pump
manufacterer Grundfos,that allows rural communities to access safe
water and pay for it through the M-PESA money transfer service.

The unique partnership which was launched in Kitui in September 2009,
uses M-PESA's Pay Bill functionality. It transfers a subscriber's
M-PESA balance to a smart card which can then be used to draw water at
subsidized rates from automatic water systems specially developed by

Under the arrangement between M-PESA and Grundfos LIFELINK, each user
is provided with a smart card fitted with a micro-chip. The user is
able to buy water by depositing money from their M-PESA account into a
Grundfos M-PESA business account under the Pay Bill functionality.

The money is then loaded into the user's smart card. Each time the
user needs to buy water,the smart card is inserted into a slot on the
tapping point and water automatically starts running untill the card
is removed and the amount corresponding to the amount of water tapped
is deducted from the card.

The project has several inbuilt features to ensure sustainability.
Through M-PESA, the beneficiaries contribute to a community trust that
pays for the solar powered water pumping system from Grundfos. The
money caters for the maintenance of the system.

The community acquires the water pumping system on credit and at
affortable rates. The system has a business model that enables
communities to acquire the pump while paying for the investment
gradually through utility fees.

With this partnership,rural water supply in Kenya has taken a leap
into the future with a new and sustainable solution for small and
rural communities.

Musingani,a small shopping centre in Machakos,is one such area where
the revolutionary water project is helping the rural community access
clean water. Musingani suffers persistent perrenial drought that drys
up the rivers and kills crops in the farms.

Luckily the M-PESA and Grundfos partnership has ensured that Musingini
has a sustainable water source. About 3,000 people and 5,000 animals
depend on the precious water.

A solar pump is built near the borehole. A few metres away a water
tank is mounted on a steel tower several metres high,on top of which
are 18 solar panels. The water is pumped from the borehole in to the
tank using solar power. The water is then fed via gravity to the
free-standing pump station that looks like an ATM. To trigger the
water flow, the smart card is placed in any of the three slots on the
side of the pump station and water will run from the connected pipes
untill the smart card is removed or the money runs out. If the smart
card is removed one litre of water will continue to flow before
cutting off. The other side has a screen that displays the smart card

Courtesy of Safaricom, the unit's performance is monitored via the
internet. The solar-powered pump works on a computerised system and if
it breaks down, engineers in Denmark receive failure messages

Residents can now pump water to their homes. This has saved them time
and energy. They can now use the saved time to engage in productive
economic activities,and children no longer miss hours of school
fetching water.

For environmental sustainability,the water systems run entirely on
solar energy. This eliminates problems and expenses traditionally
associated with diesel-driven or hand operated pumps.