Slightly over a decade ago, some five people came together in what looked like overthinking.
Lawrence Miano Wambugu remembers vividly the engagement which has since turned out to be one of the most celebrated sports tournaments.
According to Miano, he was then a Sports Officer at the then Nyandarua District when he was approached by the individuals.
Many of these water companies once in a while held team building activities, which was basically meant to break monotony from work, and bondLawrence Miano
The individuals were employees of water companies.
“There was an ongoing discussion over sidelining of water companies from municipal council tournaments,” said Miano.
At the time, the municipalities ran an annual tournament named Kenya Inter Municipalities Sports and Cultural Association (KIMSCA).
With the advent of county governments, KIMSCA was turned to Kenya Inter County Sports and Cultural Association (KICOSCA) games.
Water companies which appeared autonomous, but linked to the municipalities, thought they needed such a platform.
“Many of these water companies once in a while held team building activities, which was basically meant to break monotony from work, and bond,” added Miano.
The team of individuals, mostly drawn from Nyeri Water Company then presented a proposal to come up with a tournament.
The tournament was baptized Water Sports Company Organization (WASCO) games.
In its first edition in 2009, Miano remembers that less than 15 water companies participated.
“I remember it was held in Thika, and the feedback was so good,” he said.
oday we have over 40 water service companies participating in this event, and the scope has widened as other players in the water sector have come inLawrence Miano
When Lake Region Bulletin caught up with Mr Miano at Kisumu National Polytechnic, the venue for the 11th edition of the WASCO games, he was high in spirit.
Mr Miano the WASCO Technical Advisor.
“Today we have over 40 water service companies participating in this event, and the scope has widened as other players in the water sector have come in,” he said.
Miano says he participated in the development of the WASCO constitution and rules to govern the game.
Some of the critical laws, he says, are those which protects the integrity of the tournament by ensuring eligibility of participants.
“Fidelity to these laws by all our members has seen this tournament grow beyond our imagination,” he says.
And Miano attributes these to the strict and able leadership of the tournament, led by Chairman Peter Kamau.
More than sports
Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company (KIWASCO) in collaboration with Kisumu County Government are hosting this year’s WASCO games between April 19 and 21.
Today, Mr Miano says the tournament has turned out to be more than just sports.
He says this tournament has provided a platform for learning and exchange of experience among staffs of various water companies.
For instance, the theme for this year is ‘reducing non-revenue water through sports’.
With the companies struggling to fight non-revenue water which cost them 45 per cent of their revenue, such a platform gives and opportunity for them to learn from each other.
According to Mr Kamau, the over 50 water companies in the country records an annual loss of Sh20 billion due to non-revenue water (water lost through theft and damage of water infrastructure).
Another key advantage of the tournament is regional integration.
According to Miano, through the tournament, staffs of the water companies have participated in East Africa games.
“We have water companies getting to compete against their colleagues across East Africa, and this is key in regional integration and cross-border learning,” he said.
The tournament also plays a huge role in the health of the staffs.
While engaging in the sports, the staffs engage in physical and mental activities which are healthy for them.
We have water companies getting to compete against their colleagues across East Africa, and this is key in regional integration and cross-border learningLawrence Miano
However, finance still remains one of the key challenges in taking the tournament to the next level.
“To hold such an event, which brings over 2, 000 participants together, you need money,” he says.
Key spending areas include; hiring play grounds, catering for upkeep of participants and their accommodation, as well as transport and paying allowances to match officials.
The companies have been paying affiliation fees which help in the raising of the required funds.
“But this is not enough, and there is need to get many sponsors to help,” he adds.
Integrity of the game
To avoid cheats in the tournament, Miano says participants undergo thorough vetting to ensure that they are actual employees of the water companies.
“Things like PF number, KRA PINs, and terms of service of the employees have to be provided by the employer,” he said.
He adds: “Our prayer is to see this tournament grow huge and have more impact not only to water companies, but the entire community.”