The History of SASOL

Sahelian Solutions Foundation (SASOL) was founded in 1990 by consultants from Kenya and the Netherlands who possessed diverse expertise in water, construction, environmental science, and the social sciences. Each consultant had worked previously in Kitui, and saw the challenges that the community faced. The four had a shared understanding that an integrated approach, with water as an entry point, was key to addressing the agricultural problems facing the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) of Kitui County.

The Founders of SASOL are:

  1. Peter van Dongen
  2. G-C-M Mutiso
  3. Erik Nissen Petersen
  4. Jaap van der Zee

In the Beginning

SASOL struggled to find footing in the early 1990s. Diverse food security projects were attempted by SASOL to establish our organization:

  • Schools as Entry Points to Enhance Food Security: 1991.
  • Enhanced Food Security, Economic Development and Resource Improvement in Kitui District’s Lower Midland Zones: 1991.
  • Kitui/Machakos Simsim [Sesame] Development Project: 1991.
  • Schools as Entry Points to Enhance Ecology, Food Security, Health and Nutrition in Kenya’s ASALs- Pilot Project in Kwale District: 1992.
  • Emergency Aid for Matinyani, Mutonguni, Mulango, and Changwithya Locations of Kitui District: 1992.
  • Child Sponsorships in Mbusyani and Syomunyu: 1993.

Choices regarding this combination of development activity were informed not only by the expertise of the respective areas, but also by the need for relatively immediate and direct access to donor funds.

In 1994, SASOL made the decision to concentrate on the provision of water. By this time, SASOL had three years of experience developing water supply systems for schools. To satisfy these and other requirements, SASOL chose the option of sand dam technology. By this time, Utooni Self Help Group had already built 80 sand dams within the district and beyond. Other sand dams had been built by the colonial government, Eric Nissen Peterson in Mutomo, USAID, and the Catholic Diocese of Kitui—over a 40 year period. SASOL chose sand dam technology because of its simple design and because the structure itself required virtually no post-construction maintenance.

Against this backdrop, SASOL began submitting project proposals to a variety of donors. The first response came from Water Aid UK who financed the first five sand dams built by SASOL.

Sand Dam Donors

      1. Simavi: 1992-1994
      2. Swedish International Development A: 1997-2004
      3. Department For International Development, UK: 2000-2004
      4. Meppel Rotary and Groningen: 2006-2011
      5. Exchange: 2002-Present
      6. Mennonite Central Committee/Canadian Food Grains Bank: 2006-Present

Through their support and community participation, nearly 800 sand dams have been constructed in Kitui District and the surrounding areas.

In addition, SASOL has created a platform for learning and knowledge exchange. Some of the key institutions SASOL has been linked to are TU Delft in Netherlands, Vrieje University Amsterdam, and Acacia Institute in Amsterdam. Since 2001, we have been involved in research and production of academic papers in Engineering and Hydrological Studies of Sand Dams.


Exchange students making bricks

Exchange: the profit of learning has been involved in providing internship opportunities in Kitui County for Kenyan and Netherland students in multi-disciplinary fields since 2002. 0ver 700 students have benefited from the program thus far.

Rain Foundation NL, since 2007, has been practicing up-scaling and dissemination of sand dams as part of the Integrated Water Resource Management best practices in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and other parts of Kenya.

SASOL has grown tremendously as an institution both horizontally and vertically. It has grown from a 2- man outfit in 1994, to a 20 staff member team in 2006, and it is currently comprised of 42 staff members. In 2007, SASOL shifted from 1-program to 3 thematic areas. These programs are operated by highly motivated and qualified staff. In 2009, SASOL did a major change in the board of directors, mainly focusing on recruiting members with expertise in strategic fields.

Among other achievements, such as participating in National and International forums, SASOL has been recognized by various institutions for the work that has been done in the communities of Kitui County. In recognition of its efforts for spear-heading sand dams as a water harvesting technique, SASOL was awarded the 5th cycle 2004 Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment (DIAB) sponsored by UN-Habitat and Dubai Municipality.

SASOL is a legally registered non-governmental organization with the government of Kenya since 1994 (Reg No.OP 218/051/9369/328), though our involvement in development interventions dates back to 1990. SASOL was conceived, institutionally, in 1990. It was originally registered in Netherlands on November 29, 1991 and in Kenya on February 12, 1992 as a company, and then transformed into a company limited by guarantee on July 23, 1992. It was registered as an NGO on May 04, 1994.