Darius Ndambo has been a part of the Foothold team from the beginning. He oversees operations in the area of Chala’s Biosand Water Project.He joined our Biosand water filter team, and within two years, he became our project manager.As proud as we are of the Biosand water filter project, it struggled to become financially independent despite its sustainable use of local materials and labor.
In late February of 2020, we met with Darius in his hometown. He gave us a tour of the areas where he sells soap to shop owners, and we visited recipients of the biosand filters. After returning to his house we discussed the need for more biosand filters in his area and the challenges of adapting to the changes in available materials.
I asked him where is heart is, and he said, “I love making soap, but most of all, I want to bring clean water to my community.” This fact was made all the more sobering as he explained that in the last week, his neighbor’s child died from a water borne disease.
In 2016, Foothold began its partnership with Pacha Soap Co. to bring handmade soap to the surrounding communities, we first worked with women’s groups, but Darius was eager and determined to learn how to make soap.His humility and willingness to work alongside women and learn from them is rare in his community.
Soon, Darius learned to make soap and incorporated soap in the Biosand project.When meeting with community leaders and visiting households, he found that selling soap complemented his Biosand water filters.Unlike the ladies groups, Darius works alone making soap.Instead of selling retail, his business model is to sell wholesale to local shops.
Pacha Soap Co. began partnering with him two years ago, and he now provides over 600 bars of soap to the local schools in his community and sells wholesale to local kiosks.Darius continues to sell Biosand water filters, but it was the soap making that enabled him to diversify his business model so that it became financially independent.
Foothold is now working on a new partnership with Darius to improve the production and environmental impact of the Biosand filters, moving from a plastic model to concrete.We are currently working with engineers and welders in the US to help us develop a prototype to take to Kenya and train local Kenyan welders to build the steel mold for the concrete model.
When the Covid crisis hit Kenya in March, Darius’ work like much of our Kenya team found soap and clean water to be even more of a critical need.Darius worked with local leaders to deliver soap and filters to children in their homes when schools were closed.
Our ladies groups were also busy making face masks and washable menstrual pads, and without hesitation, Darius jumped in to help, humble and eager to learn, he is now helping them make menstrual pads and face masks.He is in the process of writing a proposal for Foothold to provide sewing machines in order to incorporate the production of pads and masks into his work in Chala.