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Stanford varsity students propose roadmap for Suleja water services

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In an effort to ensure the revamp of Suleja Water and Sewerage Corporation (SWSC), improve livelihoods and meet obligations to the citizens, graduate students of Stanford University have developed a water access platform that outlines some innovative steps to meet the gaps in water services.

The platform known as Suleja Water Access Platform (SWAP) was developed in collaboration with the UN- Habitat and Niger State government to improve access to quality water in Suleja. The city has suffered from lack of basic infrastructure and services, especially unreliable access to quality water.

Despite the technical demarcation between Abuja and cities outside of the FCT, Abuja’s growth impacted Suleja, which is now the largest city in Niger State. Slums and informal settlements are a product of failed policies, weak governance, corruption, lack of regulation, dysfunctional land markets, unresponsive financial systems and a lack of political will.

In response to this situation, the Niger State Government sought assistance from UN-Habitat through the Niger State Urban Technical Support Programme which aims to formulate a Niger State urban development policy to prepare urban development plans for Suleja. One key element of the Integrated Development Plan is improving water and sanitation in Suleja.

This prompted a focused research on water access in Suleja by the students – Nicole Gargano and Zuha Maryam Shaikh. The students said, the core elements of SWAP can be adopted in essence and the various outlined steps can serve as critical starting steps.

However, these steps should undergo iteration through implementation and feedback in order to make SWAP more impactful toward the goal of relieving water stress faced by the residents as well as to make Suleja a pioneer city in addressing its water challenges.

Gargano and Shaikh said in their document that the goal of SWAP is increasing access to quality water by improving the existing system. Among the recommendations is ONE: integrating different modes of water access into an improved, equitable and reliable water access system for all residents such as informal vendor integration and creating communal ownership of existing and potential standpipes as well as borehole ownership.

TWO: putting in place communication mechanisms between residents and the water body that allows the opportunity to collect data and test system performance, as well as build credibility of the water body as an institution that residents can trust.

THREE: Capacity building of the Suleja water board by retraining Suleja local water staff to understand the goals and operational details of the SWAP model and creating specialised positions within Suleja Water and Sewerage Corporation for technical monitoring, customer service, vendor integration and community engagement.

The students explained, “Our messaging strategy for residents focuses on an awareness campaign led by community leaders that incentivizes residents to buy from official water vendors.

“Through an awareness campaign, it will create and expand awareness of the platform, and the benefits such as improved quality of water and guarantee of stable pricing.

“For the second component of the programme, community standpipes, we would need to incentivize residents to actively manage the standpipes and initiate the process of getting funding from the local government.”

They said that the incentives for residents should be; improvement in reliability and quality of water; customers who buy only from government certified vendors will get some free jerry cans every month. “It is an opportunity to participate in broader change in Suleja and ensure stable prices from water vendors as well as opportunity to build water resilience in neighborhoods.”

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