Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Program: Sand Dams in Kenya

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Mar 2014

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/11/2024

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. Below is unedited project information direct from our partner:

Sand Dam Project

Isungulini Mutomo self-help grouped was formed in the year 2013. The group has a membership of 57 of which 37 are women and 20 are male. It first task was to build the sand dam funded by TWP.

The group is located in Mange’lete sub-location, Nthongoni location, Mtito-Andei division, Kibwezi district in Makueni County.

Makueni County is one of the 8 counties in Eastern Kenya and one among the 3 that comprise Ukambani region. The county borders Kajiado County to the west, Taita Taveta to the south, Kitui to the east and Machakos to the north.

The county covers an area of 8,008.75km2 out of which 474.1km2 form the Tsavo West National Park and 724.3km2 forming Chyullu Game Reserve. It has population of 884,527 and 186,478 households Census 2009.

The district is characterized by extreme rainfall variability. Typically, good seasons are interspersed with extremely dry seasons and variations in the onset of rainy seasons add to the difficulty of ensuring adequate food production. The district has two rainy seasons which peak in March/April (long rains) and November/December (short rains).

The main reasons for formation of the group were:

  • Water problem. The community members experience water problems especially the dry season. Coming together the group wished to have sand dams on their river channel. The group has seen the impact of sand dams in the neighbouring community.
  • The group envisioned having welfare activities such as merry go round that would help them to improve their socio-economic welfare.
  • The group wanted to improve their environment through tree planting and soil conservation. Terracing was a major priority to them in order to conserve the soil on their farms hence improving their harvest and plant trees in their homesteads.

Economic Activities in the community

  • Farming
  • Livestock keeping



The main water sources of water are River Mbui imwe, Ivingoni water pipeline and Kwa Mutua Unprotected shallow well. These water sources are 1km away from the community members respectively.

The main water source is Ivingoni water pipeline in the dry season. The river channel and unprotected shallow well water is very turns saline especially in the dry season hence not good for human consumption. During the dry season they are long queues at the water Kiosk as one can spend more than 2 hours on the queue. The water retails at KES 3, which is out of reach to many community members who do not have an extra coin to spend due to frequent droughts in the area.

Water shortage comes with other challenges faced by the community members.

  • Tree planting. Due to lack of water of the community has continued to plant trees but they dry up because of lack of water. Also the salinity level of the water makes the trees to prone to drying out as well.
  • Wasting a lot of time. Due to the long queues at the water point much time is spent that could be used in doing other productive activities, such as income generating activities for adults and studying or attending school for children
  • Poor farming methods. Community members spent much of their time in fetching water. This leads to neglecting of their farms as they are supposed to dig terraces during the dry season before onsets of rains. Due to this there have been continued insufficiencies in food harvest.
  • Low personal hygiene levels. The water is not sufficient for domestic purposes thus their hygiene levels for such members are poor and at times they go without cooking because of lack of water.
  • Women are most affected by lack of clean water, as the burden of collecting water remains to them. This necessitates them to abandon other basic activities hence they remain a marginalized group in Kenya.  Many girls cannot attend school because they spend their days fetching water, when they should be studying, to end the cycle of poverty. Instead the cycle perpetuates and many remain uneducated.


The main types of crops that are grown:

  • Maize
  • Cowpeas
  • pigeon peas
  • green grams

The community depends on rain fed agriculture. In the last 5 years there have been unreliable amounts of rainfall, which have led to low harvest in the area thus making the community food insecure. Other reasons that have led to food insecurity are:

  • Poor farming practices. The community has continued to practise traditional planting methods that have led to decreased harvest. For example the community reliance on maize, which needs more rainfall, has led to decreased harvest due to unreliable rainfall.
  • Lack of good seeds for planting. Frequent droughts have affected the ability of the community to preserve seeds for their planting needs. Due to this the farmers have reduced the size of land under farming and only plant-reduced sizes of farms.
  • Poor fertile soils. The area has degraded soils due to erosion. Due to severe soil erosion has affected soil fertility thus leading to poor harvest.
  • Lack of tools. The group is currently digging terraces in the area so as to conserve soil from being eroded from their farms. Due to poverty most of the members cannot afford tools that can dig well the terraces on their farms.
  • Prolonged droughts. Due to prolonged drought in the area the farmers do not have seeds for planting hence they rely on unscrupulous dealers who sell uncertified seeds, which do not do well in their area.


The lack of sufficient water in the area has led to farmers not being able to grow trees, as they would want. Apart from inadequate amount water, termite infestation and lack of knowledge on tree planting and care management have limited their ability to plant trees. For example they lack skills on tree propagation and also they lack poly tubes.


The community seeks to create water security through the building of sand dams. The aim of having the sand dam is to improve the availability of water for farming and improved incomes for the community. The community also seeks to have knowledge and skills that can empower them so as to be able to have resilience against the changing weather patterns in the area. The community plans to embark on terracing their farms, which will help to conserve the soil in their farms. The group require seeds and tools that will enable them to terrace their farms. With water availability the community members will grow trees on their farms.


The dam construction was started in August 31st 2013 and was complete in September 14th 2013.  The digging for this sand dam foundation took longer than usual, as there was a challenge in finding solid basement rock, thus delaying the construction work. After some weeks, the community members were able to complete the foundation. There were other hurdles however.  It being the first dam for the community most members found it difficult to attend work on the sand dam on a daily basis as they had other responsibilities such as tending to farms, or other income generating activities. This led to below average attendance during construction works, though that’s expected for new groups doing their first sand dam.

We have seen time and time again, groups are more organized and committed after the first sand dam, once they have gone through the whole process and complete each phase of the sand dam. Even more so when they see the results and the positive effects that sand dams bring to their lives.

Isunguluni Sand dam in now filled with water and the self-help group are reaping the benefits of the sand dams.


Isunguluni SHG received seed support in readiness for the planting season. Farmers received five seed varieties to boost food security during this planting season. The varieties include green grams, cowpeas, pigeon peas, dolichos lab lab, sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet. All these are drought tolerant crops that mature fast and are able to withstand prolonged drought. After the harvest the groups shall return twice what each member received to a communal store where post harvest treatment shall be done.  25 males and 34 females received seeds.


Status: Complete

The group started preparing for their shallow well construction on the 2nd October, 2013.This involved excavation of the shallow well and collection of the local materials required for the lining of the shallow well.  Due to the short rains the shallow well construction to completion of the shallow well was delayed.  Construction resumed on 6th January, 2014 and the shallow well was built to completion with the installation of a hand pump on 14th January, 2014. At the moment the community members draw water from the shallow well, which is used for drinking and other uses at home.

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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!


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