Access to clean water has been declared a human right by the United Nations. However, in the rural areas of Kakamega and Vihiga counties only 20% of the population is granted this basic right. Even those who have access often have to walk long distances to reach clean water sources. Women and children spend much valuable time collecting water. School absenteeism is also mostly attributed to the lack of access to safe water.
SOFDI has always been very much aware that a positive physical and mental development depends on access to clean water and a diverse and sufficient diet. Having a bottom-up approach, the protection of springs has always been a very high priority of our work. Taking into consideration that about 70% of hospitalizations in rural areas are caused by unsafe water and lack of enough healthy food, we decided to concentrate our funds on the prevention of illnesses rather than curing them.
In Emuhaya sub-county we have protected about 75% of all unprotected springs; in total over 700 springs in various sub-counties of Kakamega and Vihiga. This means that so far we have provided about 350,000 people with clean water. We continue to protect 12 new springs every month.
We are very proud to contribute to the wellbeing of disadvantaged communities at relatively low costs. Each spring serves a community of 100 to 500 or more people or a whole school, and costs include administration for the spring’s protection, a nice brass plaque and a tree planted at the site. Our total costs for one spring are only U$400 – a true shoe-string budget compared to other organizations!
We have a participatory approach to create an ownership attitude (this way the beneficiaries also have to contribute 10 to 20% of our costs). We insist that the community members
- Officially apply for protection of an unprotected spring
- Have the official land owners’ approval for the spring to be protected
- Form a committee with defined responsibilities for the maintenance of the spring
- Deliver material which they can find for free in the vicinity, such as stones and sand
- Provide food for the workers
- Assist workers during work, for example by cutting stones into proper sizes
Before and after completion the spring is tested, and only after a positive outcome can the spring be opened. So far, all of our springs have tested negative, i.e. to be safe after protection.
After completion, a brass plaque is fastened at the spring with the name and the number of the spring, the date of inauguration, SOFDI’s name and, if there is a donor, the donor’s name inscribed.
Furthermore, the sub-chief or chief of the community signs an official document, and the community sends a letter of thanks indicating how many households benefit from the spring.