Ahuja, A, Gratadour, C , Hoffmann, V, Jakiela, P, Lapeyre, R, Null, C, Rostapshova, O and Sheely, R (2015) Chlorine dispensers in Kenya: scaling for results, 3ie Grantee Final Report. New Delhi: International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)
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Two million children die of diarrheal disease each year and contaminated water is often to blame. Treating water with chlorine could substantially reduce this toll. The most common approach to chlorination in areas without piped water infrastructure is to offer small bottles of chlorine for sale to consumers. However, chlorine use has been slow to catch on in this system.
This study examines different channels though which households can be encouraged to use community chlorine dispensers for water purification. Three separate studies were conducted: the first study examines how local government officials allocate public goods, the second examines ways in which communities can organise themselves to fund a public good, and the third looks at different types of motivations for community workers who encourage the use of a public good.
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The team undertook three studies: one survey experiment and two large-scale randomised controlled trials (RCT) designs. The first study involves 179 elected county councilors in rural Kenya, who chose between different public goods packages in an incentivised survey. In the second study, 104 communities were randomly assigned to a free provision of chlorine or one of four community financing arms. In the community financing arms, water source users were responsible for purchasing chlorine refills. In half of these, an upfront contribution to the cost of the dispenser was required prior to installation (“up-front payment” treatment); cross-cut with this was a “threat of removal” treatment, in which the dispenser was a portable model that could be removed if the community failed to stock it with chlorine. In the third study, alternative compensation schemes for community-based workers responsible for promoting and restocking the dispenser were put in place.
The first study finds that on average, councilors value the opportunity to target the water treatment technology, but not the ability to control funding for maintenance. In the community financing study, no effect is found of up-front payment on household chlorine usage three months after installation, nor on whether the dispenser contained chlorine at unannounced visits over a period of 11 months. In contrast, threat of removal leads to a 20 percentage point increase in the probability that a dispenser was stocked relative to permanent community-financed dispensers, which were stocked 41 per cent of the time. In the third study, providing workers a fixed financial payment is not found to affect household chlorine adoption compared to a volunteer contract. However, performance-based payment increases chlorine use by 4.9 percentage points over a base of 27 per cent under the volunteer contract. The effect of the incentive contract on household adoption appears to be through its motivating effect as opposed to the selection of more effective community workers.
Implications for policy and practice
Together, the results of these three studies suggest that both water users themselves, and their representatives in local government, value community-level water treatment infrastructure. Water source users in the study area were willing to contribute to the initial investment required for installation of a chlorine dispenser, and local elected officials valued the opportunity to decide on its location. However, local mobilisation of the resources required for upkeep of such infrastructure may not be feasible.
Local officials were generally uninterested in taking responsibility for maintaining chlorine dispensers in their constituencies. Identifying cost-effective approaches for central financing and management of rural water treatment infrastructure should thus be a policy priority. Incentive-based pay, but not fixed compensation, is found to be effective at motivating workers in what is traditionally a volunteer role.
- Read blog on NPR
- Read a blog on IPA's website: Dispensers for Safe Water in Haiti
- Read a blog on washfunders.org: Dispensers for Safe Water Making Huge Strides in Kenya
- Read a feature on NPR's website: Water In The Time Of Cholera: Haiti's Most Urgent Health Problem
- Read a feature on Oxfam America's website: Oxfam takes the fight against cholera to rural Haiti