In February 2013, the Dispensers for Safe Water team completed an extensive dispenser installation process in a new part of Kenya. We were able to install an additional 1,010 dispensers in the Nyanza District over the course of approximately three months; an average of more than 10 dispensers per day. Nyanza has one of the highest diarrhea rates in the country, and was therefore a priority for expanding our operations in early 2013. With these new dispensers, DSW now has total of 3,200 dispensers in the ground in Kenya, which are providing access to safe water for 640,000 people.
An important part our work for the Nyanza roll-out has been to improve and systematize our communications and marketing efforts for local government officials, village leaders and dispenser users. We know that obtaining the support of local leaders is critical to the success of our projects; attendance at community meetings is a key driver of dispenser usage; and marketing messages have a significant impact on whether or not people decide to treat their water.
So, for the Nyanza roll-out we have been implementing a village-level pre-installation meeting (called a village community sensitization), as well as a dispenser-level post-installation meeting (called a community education meeting). At the pre-installation meeting, we introduce the project, get the community’s commitment and buy-in (including contributing sand/ballast for the installation), and communicate the water points that have been selected to have dispensers installed. I recently attended a post-installation meeting in Nyanza, where we shared some new social marketing messages with the community to address the dangers of contaminated water and explain how to use the dispenser, and a dispenser promoter was chosen to refill and maintain the dispenser. Attendance was very high - children were off school that particular day, and our field staff was able to attract interest by amplifying music from a mobile phone and inviting people from the surrounding area using a megaphone (see photograph).
The megaphone is a simple example of how we are constantly striving to improve our model. One of our field staff suggested that a megaphone might help remind a broader range of households that the meeting was about to take place. We ran some small experiments, and found that meetings where a megaphone was used beforehand to rally people to join was associated with a 17% increase in attendance. Our evaluations have shown that meeting attendance is correlated with a 9% higher likelihood of using the dispenser (as indicated by positive test for chlorine in a household’s stored drinking water). We are then able to calculate the impact on adoption from an intervention like a megaphone, calculate the cost per unit increase in adoption, and then make data-driven decisions about which interventions to continue testing and integrating into our mainstream operations.
With our donors’ support, DSW will continue to scale up our operations in Kenya, and we will maintain our focus on evaluation and feedback loops to improve our program along the way. By finding out which types of messaging are the most effective at encouraging adoption and maintaining usage of the dispenser over the long-term, we can maximize the health benefits for our target communities.