Project Status

Project Type:  Dug Well and Hand Pump

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 2,500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Oct 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/09/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

The 2,500 people of Ithambangwao walk at least three kilometers (1.86 miles) every day to fetch water that makes them sick.

Our field officer said that some families try to make four trips per day to the unprotected hand-dug well that they use as their only water source. This translates to 12 kilometers (7.45 miles) walked per day, just to ensure a household has enough water for their essential needs.

“Access to drinking water means that the source is less than 1 kilometer away from its place of use and that it is possible to reliably obtain at least 20 liters per member of a household per day.” (The World Health Organization Joint Monitoring Program)

16-year-old Jackline M. (shown above at the well) spends most of her time outside of school getting water for her family. "I...get little time to play with my friends because I have to help in fetching water after classes, or during weekends and holidays."

This demoralizing, repetitive journey reaps no reward except salty, unsafe water.

"The saline water is not appropriate for drinking or irrigating crops," said our field officer, Alex. "The water is also contaminated because the dug well is unprotected. Residents are thus exposed to water-related infections such as stomach upsets, typhoid, amoeba, and dysentery."

"I often get sick after drinking water from the dug well, like last September when I had to seek medical attention," Jackline said.

"Getting money to pay medical bills for my children whenever they contract water-related infections is hard because of the low farm and animal output," said 67-year-old farmer Christopher Muthengi (pictured above). "I want to plant trees during this season but it will not be possible because of the insufficient water and rampant drought. I cannot cultivate any crops because of the drought, which makes providing for my family difficult."

As Christopher said, this area has been ravaged by several years of continuous drought. Drought dries up water sources, makes farming difficult, and prevents people from performing necessary hygiene and sanitation to stave off disease.

Ithambangwao needs a drought-resistant water source of its own.

"The installation of the proposed sand dam and shallow well project will ensure residents have enough clean water nearby," said Alex. "They will...use the extra time and energy on other activities like tree planting, crop cultivation, rearing cattle, or conducting hygiene and sanitation. The community will be able to change the climate of the region in the long run through tree-planting, thanks to water from the sand dam project. The availability of water will ensure the community reaps better animal produce and farm yields, thus acquiring a source of income and ensuring food security. They will use the income to care for their families through better education and ultimately securing better job opportunities."

Note: Our proposed water point can only serve 300 people per day. We are working with the community to identify other water solutions that will ensure all 2,500 people in the community have access to safe and reliable drinking water.

What We Can Do:

Our main entry point into this community has been the Self-Help Group, which comprises households working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. These members will be our hands and feet in constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.

Hand-Dug Well

This particular hand-dug well will be built adjacent to a sand dam project, which will supply clean drinking water once it rains. We have provided the group with the tools needed for excavation. With the guidance of our artisans and mechanics, the excavated well will be cased, sealed with a well pad, and then finished with a new AfriDev pump.

Excavation takes a month or more on average, depending on the nature of the rock beneath. Construction of the well lining and installation of the pump takes 12 days maximum. The well will be lined with a concrete wall including perforations so that once it rains, water will filter in from the sand dam.

This well will bring clean water closer to families.

New Knowledge

These community members currently do their best to practice good hygiene and sanitation, but their severe lack of water has significantly hindered reaching their fullest potential.

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Self-Help Group and other community members to teach essential hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community levels. This training will help to ensure that participants have the knowledge they need to make the most out of their new water point as soon as the water is flowing.

One of the most important topics we plan to cover is handling, storage, and water treatment. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated when it is consumed. We will also emphasize the importance of handwashing.

The community and we firmly believe that all of these components will work together to improve living standards here, which will help to unlock the potential for these community members to live better, healthier lives.

We typically work with self-help groups for 3 to 5 years on multiple water projects. We will conduct follow-up visits and refresher training during this period and remain in contact with the group after all of the projects are completed to support their efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene.

Project Updates

October, 2023: Ithambangwao Community Hand-Dug Well Complete!

Ithambangwao Community, Kenya, now has a new water source, thanks to your donation! We constructed a new hand-dug well adjacent to a new sand dam on the riverbed. The sand dam will build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water, while the well will provide a safer method of drawing drinking water for the community.

Community members at the new well.

It could take up to three years of rain for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity because sometimes it only rains once a year in this region! As the sand dam matures and stores more sand, the surrounding landscape will become lush and fertile, and the well will fill with water.

"I am very grateful that this water point has been set up in our community because I used to spend most of my free time helping my mother draw water from Ndalani Earthdam, about six kilometers away. I always knew when coming home for holidays that I would be fetching water most of the time, and this was frustrating," said 17-year-old Jackline N.

Jackline, standing near the new well.

"I will now easily draw water from this water point because it is close to my home. I will even help my family nurture a vegetable garden because we will have enough water," she continued.

"I will easily draw water from the shallow well. I will have more time to play with my friends or go through my notes and improve my academic performance. I am also happy that there will always be enough water at home to drink, and I will always find meals prepared on time," concluded Jackline.

Hand-Dug Well Construction Process

Construction for this well was a success!

We delivered the experts, materials, and tools, but the community helped get an extraordinary amount of work done, too. They collected local materials, including sand, stones, and water, to supplement the project. When all the materials were ready, it was time to dig in!

First, we excavated a hole seven feet in diameter up to the recommended depth of 25 feet. (Most hand-dug wells do not reach that depth due to hard rocks between 10-18 feet.) The diameter shrank to 5 feet as planned when the well-lining was complete. This lining is made of brick and mortar with perforations to allow water to seep through. When the well is finished, sand builds up around its walls, filtering the rainwater stored behind the dam.

Once the lining reached ground level, we laid a precast concrete slab on top of the lining and joined it to the wall using mortar. The concrete dried for two weeks before installation. We fixed four bolts onto the slab during casting in preparation for the hand pump's installation.

Next, the mechanics arrived to install the pump as community members watched, learning how to manage simple maintenance tasks. We installed the pump level with the top of the sand dam. As the dam matures, sand will build up to the top of the wall. Until then, people will use concrete steps to get their water. After installing the pump, we gave the well another few days to let the joints dry.

We worked with the Kaliluni Mtunze Punda Women's Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed tremendous amounts of materials and physical labor.

"Although the group did not hold a dedication event, they were very happy about the project. They were very proud of it because they would no longer be walking several kilometers to draw water. They thanked the partners who assisted them in building the sand dam and shallow well project," said field officer Alex Koech.

New Knowledge

Our trainer conferred with the field staff about previous household visits and interviews with community members to determine which topics the community could improve upon.

The training was held at Kaliluni Catholic Church because it was centrally located and close to the project. All of the members of the self-help group were in attendance, with the exception of one person who couldn't attend.

We trained the group on various skills, including bookkeeping, financial management, project management, group dynamics, and governance. We also conducted hygiene and sanitation training to teach skills like soap- and detergent-making and improve behaviors such as handwashing.

We also touched on health problems in the community, good and bad hygiene behaviors, the spread and prevention of disease, and sanitation improvements. And we covered natural resource management and the operations and maintenance of the sand dam.

The community was also shown how to construct a simple handwashing station called a tippy tap that uses a jerrican so they can construct them to use outside of their latrine at home to maintain proper hygiene and prevent the spread of disease.

Tippy tap construction.

"The training will bring a positive impact on our lives since we have had poor hygienic practices in the past. For instance, litter has been everywhere in our compounds since we thought there was no need for a rubbish pit. Other sanitation infrastructures like having a utensil rack, [and] squat hole cover have always been ignored until this training came and taught us their importance. This training has really lifted us to a higher level of hygiene. Diseases will reduce at a greater rate. We are grateful," said 60-year-old farmer Lucy Francis.


"[The] poverty level will definitely go low since we now have a skill that can bring us money. Soap and latrine-making skills will really lift our income. We will be making and selling the soap, and that way, [we] have a small income to cater for our basic needs," concluded Lucy.


This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members. When an issue arises concerning the well, the group members are equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure it works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact their local field officers to assist them.

Also, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our monitoring and maintenance program. We walk with each community, problem-solving together when they face challenges with functionality, seasonality, or water quality. Together, all these components help us strive for enduring access to reliable, clean, and safe water for this community.

With your contribution, one more piece has been added to a large puzzle of water projects. In Kenya, Uganda, and Sierra Leone, we're working toward complete coverage. That means reliable, maintained water sources within a 30-minute round trip for each community, household, school, and health center. With this in mind, search through our upcoming projects to see which community you can help next!

Thank you for making all of this possible!

August, 2023: Ithambangwao Community Hand-Dug Well Project Underway!

The lack of adequate water in Ithambangwao Community costs people time, energy, and health every single day. Clean water scarcity contributes to community instability and diminishes individuals’ personal progress.

But thanks to your recent generosity, things will soon improve here. We are now working to install a reliable water point and improve hygiene standards. We look forward to sharing inspiring news in the near future!

Project Photos

Project Type

Hand-dug wells have been an important source of water throughout human history! Now, we have so many different types of water sources, but hand-dug wells still have their place. Hand dug wells are not as deep as borehole wells, and work best in areas where there is a ready supply of water just under the surface of the ground, such as next to a mature sand dam. Our artisans dig down through the layers of the ground and then line the hole with bricks, stone, or concrete, which prevent contamination and collapse. Then, back up at surface level, we install a well platform and a hand pump so people can draw up the water easily.


Project Sponsor - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation