The Foothold International Biosand Filter Project

Globally, 783 million people do not have access to clean and safe drinking water with 37% of those people living in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It helps me in so many ways by saving me time and money.
The water is so much healthier and better for our environment.
But most of all, I love how the water tastes so sweet.

Dorcus, Biosand Recepient

70
Biosand Filters Installed by Foothold
21
every 21 seconds a child dis from water-related disease
200
gallons of water used by a running toilet
4
gallons saved by turning off water while brushing your teeth

Foothold began our Biosand filter (BSF) project in Chala, Kenya in 2013 as a community based organization.  We chose the area of Chala because it had one of the highest rates of water-borne disease/deaths in the Taita/Taveta county.  We targeted those who were HIV Positive and families with children under the age of five.

Water wells are not a viable option in the Chala area as they are much too expensive to drill due geological conditions such as rock and salt. The main water source for Chala is a river that travels many miles picking up pathogens from human/animal waste. This water is pumped to taps throughout the community. This distribution system is unreliable and inadequate, forcing residents to collect their own water at the source with jugs and jerry cans. 

After much research, Biosand water filtration technology proved to be the most effect means for water purification for this area.

These simple filters last 6-10 years with proper care, and require virtually no maintenance other than adding water. They can purify up 15 gallons of water per day, rendering it up to 99.7% pure.

Members were trained in Biosand technology, assembly, and marketing two of our members, Darius and Clara were also trained and utilized by the area community health department as CHPs (Community Health Promotors). 

As CHP’s they gained credibility in the Chala region which helped in marketing water filters in the community to many local groups including schools, churches, women’s groups, dispensaries, and local officials as part of our over WaSH (Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene) goals. They have also taken this message door-to-door to homes and farms throughout the area. 

In an effort to make the project self-sustaining, we transitioned from a community-based organization (CBO) to a charitable small business in 2018.  To set them up for success, we helped them diversify by training them to also make hand-crafted soap to be sold in the community and donated to local primary schools, further advancing Foothold’s WaSH goals. The school soap is subsidized by our partners, Pacha Soap Co. of Hastings, Nebraska. The addition of soap and promoting proper hand-washing, has complimented the BSF project overall.

Our current Biosand project is going through a much-needed transition initially brought on by a problem with our water tanks.  Our Foothold BSF project utilized plastic water storage tanks readily available in Kenya.  The accessibility, affordability and ease of use made these tanks ideal for our the Chala area, but over the last few years during followup we found these tanks failing more frequently and therefore not lasting the 7-10 years they have been known for. 

What we discovered was the plastic construction of the water tanks were being manufactured with a lower quality that did not stand up when filter was assembled.  Darius Ndambo has been researching the use of concrete in place of the plastic tanks, which is more environmentally sustainable and even more durable than the original plastic ones we built.

However, we are working to address a few challenges with the initial startup of the concrete model.  The first challenge is the cost of the mold and its construction which we estimate at $3,000.  We have not yet focused on fundraising for this phase yet because we first must make sure that the mold can be constructed to specifications in country.  We are also exploring the possibility of assembling the steel mold here in the US and taking it over in parts, but this has been on hold due to Covid-19 and all International travel into Kenya being shutdown.  

Please continue to watch our updates as we hope to have this next phase of the BSF project moving forward soon.