Thames loves Malawi: skill sharing across water companies
Water utilities are our first port of call when we suffer interruptions to our water supply. It's all about customer service – and it's a model that WaterAid and Thames Water are trying to replicate. Thames Water's Paresh Kavia and Rob Fuller from WaterAid share experiences of peer-to-peer learning between the UK and Malawi.
As urbanisation progresses, many countries are creating water utilities as the vehicle to deliver widespread access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). However, many utilities – especially in small towns – struggle with the delivery of services. This is down to a combination of high non-revenue water (water that has been produced and is 'lost' before it reaches the customer due to leakage/ theft etc.), lack of investment, and difficulties in attracting and retaining skilled staff.
In recent years, WaterAid has begun to work closely with a number of these small town utilities to support improvement in their performance, through a combination of infrastructure funding, direct funding and capacity building support.
Thames Loves Malawi is a really good example of this way of working.
What is the Thames Loves Malawi campaign?
Since 2016, Thames Water has funded projects in two small towns, Mponela and Kasungu in Malawi, through the ‘Thames Loves Malawi’ campaign.
The projects are implemented in partnership with Kasungu Municipal Council, Dowa District Council, local NGOs partners and the water utility company – Central Region Water Board (CRWB).
But the Thames Loves Malawi campaign goes beyond fundraising. Over the years, we have shared skills, knowledge and expertise, and this all contributes to the building of 'peer to peer' relationships.
This skill sharing is a unique element of the initiative and will make the investment of funds raised more sustainable over the long term – and help transform the lives of people in Malawi. As part of the initiative, Thames recently welcomed colleagues from the Central Region Water Board (CRWB) of Malawi to Thames Water.
Peer-to-peer learning between utility companies
The visitors from CRWB held a variety of posts, from network managers to the director of technical services. Thames Water colleagues shared their knowledge to help improve the sustainability of WASH projects in Malawi, focusing particularly on water supply, reducing leakage, customer relations and capacity building across all support functions.
The visit gave the CRWB staff an in-depth experience of how Thames addresses these challenges through a mixture of strategy, operation and delivery, with a particular emphasis on placing customers at the heart of utility work.
Together we can make a bigger difference
Mercy Masoo, country director of WaterAid Malawi, said: “WaterAid is committed to finding ways of bringing together industry partners and water utilities in the countries where we work to share skills and knowledge.
"Together, we make a far bigger impact than we could by acting alone – helping transform more lives with clean water and good sanitation.
"One in three people in Malawi lack access to clean water and more than half of the population don’t have a decent toilet. This partnership will contribute towards building robust national and local water and wastewater services in Malawi, ensuring clean water, good sanitation and hygiene for everyone everywhere by 2030."
Future plans for the Central Region Water Board
We are working together to advocate for customer needs and interest in the next strategic planning process for CRWB, with a focus on reducing leakage, improving customer relations and building capacity across all support functions. As part of the Thames Loves Malawi project, CRWB plan to:
- Recruit two customer care officers for Mponela and Kasungu.
- Launch service charter.
- Conduct an awareness campaign meeting in each scheme per quarter.
Our longer-term ambition for CRWB is to start delivering sanitation services, including ways to water treatment and faecal sludge management within the two towns of Mponela and Kasungu.
This responsibility currently lies with the municipal authorities who struggle to meet customer demand/ deliver services effectively.
We’re confident the CRWB will be able to transfer many of the skills they have learnt, and implement them within their own organisation. In turn, this will help improve how they produce and supply clean water, manage their network and develop resilience – while focusing on skills and capacity.
For more information on ‘Thames Loves Malawi’ campaign or to donate visit https://www.wateraid.org/uk/donate/thames-water