KWAHO/SANDEC - SODIS in Kibera and Mukuru

A SODIS promoter visiting a user family at lunch.


Kibera and Mukuru slums, Nairobi, Kenya

Key Components

Water treatment by SODIS, Hygiene Education

Brief description of the project

KWAHO is currently implementing a Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS) project in the Kibera and Mukuru informal settlements in Nairobi as an effective and inexpensive initiative to enhance the community's access to safe drinking quality water at the household level. The SODIS project adds incremental value to KWAHO's sister water supply and sanitation improvement project in the two slums.

The major goal of the SODIS project is to achieve sustainable improvement of health of the disadvantaged people in the slums by providing quality solar treated water to them. This project is pertinent in this area as one of the major problems for the residents of Kibera slum is having access to water as a whole and more so to safe drinking water. (Click here for a more detailed description of Kibera and challenges that face the residents)

The project is funded by SANDEC of Switzerland and has a target of reaching 20,000 families (approximately 100,000 persons as direct beneficiaries). The project commenced in March 2004 and has reached more than three quarters of the target population.

Families are now able to save on fuel that was previously used to boil drinking water. Savings are made from reduced expenses on medical care and other high cost methods of treating water i.e. chlorination. Safe drinking water has led to reduction in diarrhoea related diseases by about 20% according to the survey by KWAHO

Factors that have led to the success of the project

  • An effective implementation strategy that includes intensive community mobilization
  • Formation of appropriate SODIS Users groups and committees,
  • SODIS Promoters conduct intensive door to door campaigns to reach more people within a reasonable shorter time. The Promoters include experts external to the community but who are committed to working with the community, internal peer promoters who understand the community better from within and the SODIS Users who carry on the importance of SODIS to their own neighbours.
  • Forums of information transfer are through community meetings, workshops and seminars, participatory training sessions, household visits, onsite training at domestic level, Follow-up, monitoring and evaluation, and networking.
  • The community is sensitized on efficacy of SODIS as water disinfection method, use of PET bottles, cost, adoption, and use of SODIS water as safe drinking water. Hygiene education and promotion is given to the community as to enhance the project.
  • Other factors contributing to the success of the project is KWAHO's collaboration with the relevant Kenya government departments i.e. Provincial Administration of the Office of the President, Ministry of Public Health staff on the ground, Ministry of Water divisional office, Nairobi City Council, NGOs and CBOs in the area.

At the end of the project, KWAHO hopes to contribute towards reducing by half the world population of people without access to safe drinking water towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for the water and sanitation sector.

Goal and objectives

The supreme goal of the project is to achieve sustainable improvement of the health situation of disadvantaged people in Kibera through reduction of waterborne diseases by breaking the faecal-oral transmission cycle.
1. To promote and disseminate SODIS to user communities as an alternative water treatment option in improving water quality.
2. Assess health benefits of SODIS through reduced diarrhoea particularly in children less than five years of age in sampled households.

Implementing strategy

In order to achieve the project objectives KWAHO has put place an implementation strategy that is focused and aggressive based on social marketing techniques and use of research based information that potential users need to know. We use best mix of communication channels to give simple, repeated and attractive messages.

A SODIS promoter at a user family in Kibera
A SODIS promoter at a user family in Kibera.


Some of the tools include participatory community needs assessment, mobilization and awareness building, collaboration with governmental agencies and schools on the project, participatory workshops and seminars in the community and schools, short dramas, door to door promotion of PET bottles and their distribution, community group meetings for planning and training, household level training, follow ups, monitoring and evaluation and networking and pre and post data collection on diarrhoea cases on children under the age of five years.


Of special mention are the four schools within the project area that have been identified for the promotion of SODIS. It has transpired that pupils are very responsive and receptive to new ideas, hence are good agents of behavioural change. This is true of girls who play a major role in water collection and house keeping at home. At school level in a 30 minutes meeting with the pupils, they are trained about SODIS techniques by demonstrating practically how to use a bottle and gain safe drinking water. Proper hygiene and sanitation practices are also explained to them. Additionally, the pupils are provided with leaflets containing information on the use of SODIS.

Mobilisation and solutions

The community is sensitised to enable them to identify their own problems and solutions from within, i.e. practicing hygiene and sanitation to prevent faecal- transmission cycle. Such meetings start with a discussion initiated by SODIS promoters. The participants are invited to participate. While they identify their problems, they also identify possible solutions for them such as:
a) Hand washing with soap before meals and after visiting the toilets
b) Drinking treated water
c) Keeping the environment clean
d) Visiting hospitals when sick
e) Keeping animals away from food
f) Cooking food properly and keep covered
g) Keeping utensils clean


Monitoring is used to look at progress based on set goals. This is done by checking if the activities are going on as planned. Workshops and seminars are monitored by reviewing the number of participants, bottles distributed. To monitor the community groups we look at the venue and the participants attended. The success of door to door visits is controlled by the number of bottles distributed and the number of households visited. The users are registered. The field monitoring is done by the checks at the follow up visits.

Achievements and factors of success

Participation at household level

Door to door visits by the Peer promoters has enhanced participation at the household level. This strategy has been adopted because of its effectiveness in a previous SODIS promotion project in Kibera. It creates cordial relationship between promoters and users. It also makes follow up easy as promoters can easily locate their user households.
During these visits, households are sensitized in a practical manner about proper hygiene practices and the SODIS technology, The promoters are ready to answer personal questions about the use of SODIS and try to convince the user about its effectiveness. Such promotion goes concurrently with the distribution of bottles at a price of Kshs 10 per bottle.

Follow ups

This is a very important part of the implementation process as it enables KWAHO to establish and insure that SODIS is practiced correctly and consistently and to further the knowledge of users through further training. The following things are checked:
If bottles are exposed on the roofs
If the correct procedures are followed in preparing a SODIS bottle by asking the users
If there is a need for further help and more bottles
If the impacts are being realized (i.e. reduced cases of diarrhoea?).

Institutional cooperation

A number of partnerships have been developed. This includes partnerships with government agencies, schools, CBOs and the donor (SANDEC).

Water quality and health improvements

Through SODIS technology user families have been able to improve their drinking water quality as the method destroys waterborne pathogens. SODIS water tastes good, because the technology does not change the taste of water like boiling or other treatment or purification methods.
Households using SODIS consistently in cooperation with proper hygiene practices have realized health improvements since there are reduced diarrhoeal problems. We have reached about 6,000 user families who have realized positive health impacts and financial benefits from the use of SODIS as they confess of reduced diarrhoea incidences among their children. There are noted savings on medication as there is less need for seeking paid medical treatment. Financial savings are also realized on fuel as they no longer boil water.
The money saved on medication and fuel has gone a long way to improve the health of the family as they spend more money on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Awareness building

Through intensive mobilization and sensitization forum on issues of hygiene and sanitation plus SODIS, many households have adapted behaviourial change and use of SODIS water. For instance: hand washing with soap at critical times, using SODIS as a simple and effective water treatment method, keeping animals away from food, and cleaning the areas around the dwelling places has been adopted in a number areas in the community.
Identification of local problems through participatory community needs assessment with KWAHO with local leaders and community spokes persons. The problems identified were mainly centred on water supply and quality, drainage, sewer disposal and water borne diseases.

For SODIS to gain worldwide recognition local and international networking is required. Broad interest exists among other NGOs and CBO but so far there aren't enough capacities to inform them properly. The project objective is to reach about 20,000 households of Kibera, which is only a seventh of the people living in Kibera. The project therefore should be continued to reach many more people.

Carrying the initiative forward

During the international symposium network on safe water system and storage we received 30 participants from different countries visited KWAHO SODIS project in Kibera. These helped publicize SODIS as an ideal water treatment technology.

Policy Changes

With the Water Sector reforms in Kenya, policy changes affecting access to water and even the quality provided are taking place. The ministry of Water Resource Management and Development has decentralized the management of water systems in the country. Within this context of decentralization, the water supply for Kibera is under the purview of the Nairobi Water company within the Nairobi City Council. Being a commercial entity, it is expected that water distribution in Kibera will be improved as the company noted that the whole of water connections in Nairobi and especially in slum areas will have to be streamlined as there had been a lot of illegal connections that interfered with equitable access to water in those areas.
However the project stands to gain from this policy change from the point of view of more streamlined access to water in the project area.

Factors that facilitated above achievements

The above success is largely attributed to focused and ambitious strategies that KWAHO employs which are cited above. This includes collaborative implementation by KWAHO, government agencies, community and SANDEC.
Availability of subsidized bottles funded by a donor are normally given out on a cost sharing basis during door to door visits has enabled the households to own more bottles. The bottles are in built in the domestic set-up and the families continue using them even in the absence of SODIS promoter.
Many households are using SODIS consistently and in cooperation with good hygiene practises.
The users discuss SODIS with their neighbours who developed interest and asked for SODIS bottles.
Consistent follow up is necessary as some users forget the procedures.


During implementation of this project, the following challenges were faced:
Frequent mobility of the people from one village to another in search of better livelihoods or evictions by landlords means that there is always new persons coming into the project area, hence the need for frequent sensitization and re-training.
Competing Water treatment options the availability and accessibility of PET bottles from hotels and restaurants have to be enhanced. Retrieving bottles from such sources and selling them in Kibera can become an income generating activity for community groups.
Low level of funding restricts expansion and yet there is a demand for SODIS.

Lessons learnt

Below are the lessons learnt:

  • Community needs assessment is absolutely vital for such kind of projects.
  • Involvement of the community at all levels is prerequisite.
  • Participatory approach is necessary.
  • Formation of a CBO is a proved strategy for sustainability.
  • Choosing the promoters amongst the target population proved fruitful.
  • Refresher training for promoters is necessary.
  • In the beginning of the programme the availability of bottles was well organised by buying new bottles directly from PET-bottles producers. This was very viable for the project. Maybe more emphasis could have been laid on getting bottles from other sources without subsidies from the early beginning.
  • Social marketing, creating awareness and providing knowledge is generally crucial for any development project which is geared towards new technologies and behaviour change.
  • It was a discovered that people can save money by using SODIS.
  • Partnership or coalition at all stages of project development is absolutely requisite as KWAHO was able to make some changes only by working with its partners.


1. recommendations on upscaling

SODIS is not the general solution for water problems
but a very appropriate relief for slums.

KWAHO recommends to continue with:

  • work on general improvements of slums
  • further development of dissemination strategies

Meanwhile there is a need to:

  • cover the whole area of Kibera
  • expand to all the other slums in Kenya and East Africa

2. share the SODIS information, therefore we offer:

  • Networking with other institutions
  • Cooperation with the Government

Role model story

A SODIS promoter visiting a user family at lunch.
A SODIS promoter visiting a user family at lunch.

In the photograph is one of the user families taken at lunch with a SODIS promoter drinking SODIS water during a surprise follow up visit.
The photograph illustrates how SODIS has become common, routine and mandatory practice in many household in Kibera. By drinking SODIS water the promoter instils confidence and faith in the user about effectiveness of SODIS hence continuous use.

Below is the narrative about Mrs. Laila in the photograph above.

My name is Laila, I am 33 years old and I am from Kibera Makina village. I am married and have four children. I was puzzled and surprised when I was approached by Paul about SODIS water treatment method. I did not believe that a plastic bottle when exposed in the sun with water can treat it. However, after vivid and thorough explanation I decided to buy two bottles to try the method. To my amazement when I drank that water that evening it tasted nice and everybody in my family liked it. Since then, I have been practising SODIS consistently and I bought a total of ten bottles for SODIS.
I have gained a lot since I began using SODIS; I can now afford to drink treated water consistently which I never used to, this is because SODIS is cheap; the health of my family members have improved a great deal; as there is no case of diarrhoeal like before. I am saving on medication and fuel. I can now buy my children more food and some fruits.
I love SODIS and somebody can not convince me against it. I have always talked to my neighbours about SODIS as it is almost a panacea.
I appreciate KWAHO for introducing SODIS to me!


More information about SODIS on www.sodis.ch

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