Sustainable Organic Farming and Development Initiatives (SOFDI) was started over 15 years ago with a vision to support and empower the hardworking farmers of Western Kenya.

Over that time the SOFDI’s Swiss Founder, Brigitte Frey, has personally guided and grown the program, bringing in a wealth of insight from years of living and doing business in Kenya, and building a network of local and international experts and stakeholders together along the way. Her strategic decision to focus on one geographical area has allowed her to really learn first-hand what works on the ground and to invest in sustainable programs. This includes training farmers on climate-smart and nutrition-sensitive agriculture to improve food security, promote healthy diets, and sustainable livelihoods through farming.

A cornerstone of this work is providing access to clean and safe drinking water through spring protection. 


Problem We Are Trying to Solve

Less than 13% of the population in rural Kenya has piped water. Most rural residents are forced to collect water from unimproved sources like streams, rivers, pooled groundwater, or unfiltered rainwater. Collecting water from open sources like these comes with high risks to health and at a high cost in terms of productivity lost due to time wastage and resulting illness. Stagnant water sources are also a breeding ground for Malarial mosquitos and unsafe conditions are dangerous for the many women and children responsible for fetching water.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for water and sanitation, Goal 6, calls for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030. While the ideal of safe water available directly in each rural home still remains a distant vision in Western Kenya, the first step of providing everyone with a basic service within a 30-minute round trip is achievable and this project contributes towards that.

How We Are Going To Do It

SOFDI has protected over 1300 springs to-date (providing clean water to well over 350,000 people) and continues to do so at a rate of 16 springs per month in new sub-counties.

All of SOFDI’s spring protection work is taking place in Western Kenya, which is very densely populated with small land sizes and relatively large households. Fortunately, this area is not vulnerable to extreme droughts (as other parts of Kenya are), so while water is not generally scarce, clean water is. 

What spring protection does is seal off the source of a naturally occurring water spring below ground in a concrete casing that protects it and channels the flow out from a pipe rather than letting it seep up to the surface, where it is vulnerable to contamination.

Not only does this method result in the safest water (comparable to boreholes and shallow wells), it is also highly cost effective in terms of construction and maintenance because it does not require any moving parts and has a lifespan of 15 years.

Who Benefits

Each spring reaches an average of 45 households or about 200 people, who are also trained on best WASH practices around the springs and at home. 

SOFDI works closely with the Ministry of Health and Department of Water and Sanitation to identify areas suitable and most in need of an improved water source. They prioritize sites with large catchment areas including young children and adjacent schools and also those where clean water collection points are widely spaced. They also assess the sites in terms of aquifer status, distance from contamination and flood risks, as well as accessibility. The communities are usually the ones who report the need and come with a proposed site for which access is already guaranteed.

Each community is required to establish a formal spring management committee and complete a series of forms allowing SOFDI to identify the households benefiting and obtain explicit agreement from the landowner of the site. Prior to work commencing, the expected contribution required of them is outlined and the local area chief is engaged in the process. The community contributes approx. 25% of the inputs (materials that are locally available) and supporting labour.

Long Term Impact

By partnering with a well-established and swiss-run NGO with a dedicated team on the ground in Kenya, we are able to support an existing and expanding spring protection program, which provides access to a reliable, long-lasting protected spring as a source of clean water closer to homes.SOFDI works with local-area Chiefs and the Kenyan Gov. Ministry of Health on the ground to identify the sites, provide WASH education, and facilitate the spring inaugurations.

The springs have a lifespan of approximately 15 years, which means they help reduce the exposure to unsafe conditions and contaminated water sources sometimes across generations of beneficiaries. 

SOFDI plans to continue their spring protection work indefinitely or as long as it is needed in the areas they can feasibly reach.

Any external sponsorship they receive for their spring protection work allows them to apply their fixed budget towards other aspects of their program, which takes a holistic approach to achieving a sustainable, positive and wider impact.

The causes of hunger, disease and problematic socio-economic conditions in the region are manifold and interconnected, so SOFDI is using multiple interventions with farmers, families, communities and schools in order to maximize impact.

Their other programs and activities include:

  • Teaching Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture
  • Growing Good Nutrition and Improving Biodiversity
  • Supporting Mothers and Young Families to Improve their Livelihoods.
  • Improving Access to Family Planning
  • Engaging Youth in Farming through work in 60 Schools
  • Enabling and Supporting Savings Programs and Agri-Businesses

What We Need To Do

The sponsorship of 400CHF per spring covers the cost of materials, construction, and project management. All other overhead costs will be carried by A Better World / SOFDI.

For each sponsored spring, SOFDI thoroughly documents the whole process from application to certificate of completion, including photo documentation at each stage of protection. For each sponsored spring, the Lion’s Club/Donors will receive the following documentation (usually available 2-3 month after sponsorship is committed): 

  • the geographical coordinates of the spring to remotely identify the exact location;
  • photo documentation of the site, the completed spring, and the inauguration;
  • photos of the on-site brass plaque, engraved with the donor’s name (e.g. “Funded by: Lion’s Club - Zurich Cosmopolitan”);
  • a letter of thanks from the community;
  • an official document from the local authority, confirming the protection of the spring;
  • a sample of the documentation provided can be viewed here: 

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