Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Program: Sand Dams in Kenya

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Nov 2012

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/07/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

This project is being implemented by our partner African Sand Dam Foundation, and includes the construction of a sand dam as well as agricultural activities including terracing, tree planting and the creation of a tree nursery and seed bank.

Below is unedited project information direct from our partner:


The group was formed in 2006 and formally registered in the year 2008. At the time of formation it had 36 members comprised of 7 men and 29 women. Kyeni kya thwake was formed due to the reasons listed below:

  • Lack of access to water
  • Payment of school fees and hospital bills
  • Poor housing
  • A desire to take part in community lending activities

Economic activities

Their economic activities include:

  1. Farming
  2. Basketry
  3. Trade
  4. Goat keeping

Current activities

The group is engaging in the following activities namely:

  1. Digging terraces
  2. Tree planting
  3. Goat buying
  4. Tree Nurseries establishment

Water security

The main sources of water are river Thwake and river Ngwane. The distance is 5km respectively for both rivers. On average during the dry period, one spends 6-7 hours to fetch water. During the dry season deep wells are dug across the river channels which pose a threat to the community members.

The members are not able to irrigate food crops and vegetables due to lack of water which if available would improve their food and incomes security.

There are isolated cases of school children who get raped when they go to fetch water in the evenings. Water from these rivers is relatively salty and often leads to water borne diseases hence not safe for drinking.

Food security

Food security in the area is relatively low. The main crops grown in the area include:

  • Maize
  • Beans
  • Green grams
  • Pigeon peas
  • Cowpeas

Crop production is low due to poor rainfall and lack of seeds. The group have the knowledge and practises concerning the following.

  1. Use of manure
  2. Digging terraces

The often practised method of agriculture is mixed farming and intercropping.

Environmental conservation

They have knowledge on and practise tree planting. They have planted the following species in their farms;

  • Eucalyptus
  • Bougainvillea

They have firewood shortage, some buy and others collect firewood from nearby bushes.

Climate change

In the recent past they have been experiencing changes in weather which has resulted to low farm yields. One of the coping strategies, the community is growing drought resistance crops.

There is minimal harvest due to drought. Famine has resulted to malnutrition to children and poor school attendance.

Income generation 

Their sources of income are:

  1. Basketry
  2. Farming
  3. Casual labour
  4. Trade
  5. Selling of vegetables

Low income has resulted in drug use and early pregnancies as people are not able to access higher education due to lack of fees.

Future plans

  • To construct water tanks and sand dams
  • To pump water to a tank near their homesteads.
  • To plant trees
  • To dig terraces
  • To buy goats for members.


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Project Photos

Project Type

Sand dams are huge, impressive structures built into the riverbeds of seasonal rivers (rivers that disappear every year during dry seasons). Instead of holding back a reservoir of water like a traditional dam would, sand dams accumulate a reservoir of silt and sand. Once the rain comes, the sand will capture 1-3% of the river’s flow, allowing most of the water to pass over. Then, we construct shallow wells on the riverbank to provide water even when the river has dried up, thanks to new groundwater reserves. Learn more here!

Light Of Thwake

December, 2013

They no longer go to Tawa market as buyers of vegetables but instead, they now sell vegetables at a profit.

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Kyeni Kya Thwake Community 1A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kyeni Kya Thwake Community 1A maintain access to safe, reliable water. Together, they keep The Water Promise.

We’re confident you'll love joining this world-changing group committed to sustainability!

With billions of litres of water harvested in their sand dam the Kyeni Kya Thwake Self Help Group members whose name directly translates to “Light of Thwake” have indeed seen the light.

Water has shed light into their livelihoods; they are reaping great yields from the sale of onions. Before they constructed the sand dam these farmers were not able to grow any vegetables and they depended on rain fed agriculture, which could not support vegetable farming.  They had to sell some of their livestock, so to be able to purchase food such as green grams, (legumes) beans and pigeon peas. They no longer go to Tawa market as buyers of vegetables but instead, they now sell vegetables at a profit.


Access to water was a daily challenge in the community and growing enough food to eat and for surplus sale was impossible. But after Catherine Mwongeli and the self-help group members built their first sand dam, they now have enough water for all of their domestic use and vegetable farming. They have been growing vegetable such as kale, spinach, tomatoes and onions. Their most profitable crop so far is onion, where they have earned thousands in Kenyan Shillings from selling them at market.

The income that they now earn from selling vegetables would not be possible without the sand dam.  Having the sand dam eliminates the need of queuing for water, Catherine explains that they are using the extra time saved to till and tend to their farms and dig terraces so as to increase their farm produce. The sand dam also allows them to be independent from erratic rain fed agriculture.

Catherine further explains, “We experienced hard economic times because of dependency on rain fed agriculture. Due to erratic rains our fruit trees dried up thus affecting our income. There was no water for vegetable farming meaning if the rains failed we ended up not harvesting anything. Before constructing the first sand dam, we experienced acute water shortages, as the level of the river channel was very low, very dry and rocky. We used to queue for many hours at the river at one scoop hole which was the source of water for the entire village. I used to wake up at 4am in the morning and return home in the afternoon carrying one 20-litre Jerri can. After constructing our first sand dam we now have water within close proximity to our homes and farms. Using water from the sand dam we have grown onions and so far we have sold onions worth Ksh 6,500.”


With funding from The Water Project, ASDF has been able to train and assist the self help group members on trainings for sustainable farming techniques, tree planting and standard farm terraces, from which they have witnessed an increase in their yields.

Catherine has now doubled her yields because the terraces ensure she gets year round harvest, as she further explains,“ I have terraced my farm and my yields have doubled from the drought tolerant seeds given to us by Africa Sand Dam Foundation. We dig three feet by two feet and these terraces have done magic to our farms. In the past we would dig very shallow terraces, which would be washed away by heavy down pour giving us the tedious job of redoing the terraces every rainy season. Now, we dig deep and wide terraces which harvest an abundance of water for our crops to yield even when the rains have gone.”


 Farm terraces leave a steep slope to capture rainwater and topsoil from running down and eroding the soil. Water seeps from the terrace into the soil beneath, irrigating the section of the field below the terrace and keeping the plants alive.

These farmers have incorporated sustainable plans for the future to improve their food and water security and their general livelihoods. Another woman farmer in the group states, “our future plans are to build more sand dams, grow more food to eat and sell and start a and goat project to improve the local breeds.”

The Kyeni Kya Thwake Self Help has a vision for the future ahead, but they will need your support to construct more sand dams to make their plans reality. Take the time to consider donating today to a sand dam project to radically transform the lives of women in Africa and help create sustainable farming practices around Kenya.

Navigating through intense dry spells, performing preventative maintenance, conducting quality repairs when needed and continuing to assist community leaders to manage water points are all normal parts of keeping projects sustainable. The Water Promise community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kyeni Kya Thwake Community 1A maintain access to safe, reliable water.

We’d love for you to join this world-changing group committed to sustainability.

The most impactful way to continue your support of Kyeni Kya Thwake Community 1A – and hundreds of other places just like this – is by joining our community of monthly givers.

Your monthly giving will help provide clean water, every month... keeping The Water Promise.


142 individual donors
Tracy Chan
HPU the water project
VA State U. School of Business students/faculty
Park Middle School
Duck Creek Community Church
Wells Elementary School Fund
Grover C. Fields Middle School
Oneonta High School
Wells Elementary
Coronado High School
Catalyst Connection
Pershing Global Studies 3rd Quarter
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Ulloa Elementary School
Lake Road Foundation-Scott Sandler
CWOW Discover Group
Fairway Elementary
South Meridian Youth
Peckville Assembly of God
York Suburban School District
Bourbon Middle School
Women's Giving Group
Westbrook Middle School
Church of the Transfiguration
Church of Love Faith Center
Skating Party
Bethel Mill Preparatory Christian Academy
Hohenwald Church of Christ Family Room