Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Program: Sand Dams in Kenya

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Apr 2014

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/13/2024

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:

Introduction and Project Background

The Kyalimba Self Help group was formed in the year 2007 by an amalgamation of two villages: Kyalimba and Kandulyu. It has a membership of 38 of which 10 are men and 28 are women. The group is located in Miau sub-location, Kako location, Kako division, Mbooni East in Makueni County.

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).

Challenges that led to formation of the group

Water insecurity

The main water sources in the area are River Kyalimba, River Kyengau and Kyandulyu Earth dam. Their distances are 1km, 2km and 3km respectively. During the dry season the community gets water from River Kyalimba and Kandulyu Earth dam.

River Kyalimba only holds water during the rainy season. In order to access water from River Kyengau one has to dig a deep scoop hole of at least 6 feet deep. Also the water point turns saline during the dry period. During this dry period water at the earth dam is rationed and sold at KES 2 thus making most of the community opt to fetch water from River Kyengau. One spends more than 4 hours due to long queues. Children need to assist their parents after school making it difficult to study and finish necessary schoolwork. This negatively affects grades and attendance.

Due to lack of water in the area:

  •  Tree programs have been negatively affected; due to the lack of water, trees the farmers have planted have not been able to take root and have been drying up.
  • Much time spent fetching water. This means the community members do not engage in casual labour, which is their alternative source of income after the rain fail.
  • Due to lack of water the community members have reduced their herds of cattle which are there economic assets thus increasing their poverty levels.
  • Poor farming methods. Due to spending much time in fetching, they do not have enough time for farm preparations before onset of rains.


The main types of crops that the community grows are:

  • Maize, Pigeon peas &sorghum
  • Cowpeas& Green grams

Unreliable rainfalls have been a major setback to rain fed agriculture, which is the farmers’ source of livelihood. Food insecurity in the area also is attributed to other reasons, which include:

  • Poor fertile soils. Long use of their farms without applying manure and soil erosion has decreased the soil fertility. This has led to poor harvest among the farmers.
  • Communities continue to practice archaic planting methods that have led to decreased harvest. For example reliance of maize which needs more rainfall and in the recent years the rainfall has been unreliable making them to harvest less or not
  • Lack of tools. Most community members cannot afford tools for terracing due to poverty thus not digging standard terraces in their farms. Terracing is one technique of conserving soil in farms and hence improving the harvest.
  • Pre harvest and post harvest losses. Pests and diseases destroy the crops before harvest and the community members lack the skill on how to control them.


Community plant the following tree varieties:

  • Mango
  • Paw paws
  • Oranges
  • Shade trees

Water problems in the area have led to low tree survival rates, as most trees dry up due to lack of enough water. Termite infestation poses a big challenge to tree planting. The community lacks the ability to control the termites from destroying their trees. Also they lack the termite chemicals, which are expensive.

Lack of knowledge and skills on tree management by farmers make unable to establish good nurseries and even caring of the trees. This has reduced the survival rate of trees.


The group seeks to do the following:

  • Sand dams-Through construction of sand dams the community will have improved access to clean water. Also they will establish tree nurseries and grow vegetables for sale, which can improve income.
  • Goat project -The group will start a dairy goat project that will be used to improve the local breeds and also generate income for the farmers.
  • Soil conservation - With the support of tools the community will embark on terracing on their farms, which will help to retain water in their farms thus improving harvest with minimal rainfall.
  • Poultry keeping-The group want to rear the local chicken breeds for sale, which act as income generating activity.

Presently, The group main activities include merry go round, (which is a internal savings and lending scheme amongst villagers that allows them to save and lend money to each other for emergencies.)  They had started terrace digging and tree planting as previously planned however, because of the water insecurity in the area, the tree planting projects have not been successful. Trees are dry up during the drought periods due to lack of water.

“We want to build dams along all the river channels in the village in order to have enough water to enable us to continue planting trees. The trees provide firewood and fruits.” – Village Elder, Mueni kithuka.


Kyalimba self help group sand dam is located in Kyalimba village, Miau sublocation, Kako Location, Kako Division of Mbooni East District in Makueni County.

This is the first sand dam constructed by this group with support from The Water Project to enable the community’s objective to improve water access and availability that allows for a higher production of and planting of more fruit trees. (The area is a fruit tree growing area).

While engaging this community they had already identified areas where they wanted to construct sand dams due to the water challenges they were facing. After the approval of the site by the ASDF technical team, the group put in place all that what was required to enable the implementation of the project. This included the collection of the local materials. Within no time the group was ready to go ahead with the construction of their sand dam as each member was committed to ensuring its success.

The sand dam construction was started on September 16th, 2013 ahead of the planned built date and completed on October 7th, 2013. Such a fast completion of construction is not very common, and despite this success the members found the work, at times, extremely hard, as it is heavy work and manual labour building a sand dam.

Despite the rigorous work, when the sand dam was complete, all you could see from the members was happiness. Their hopes now are that with the dam in place and with the next rain cycle, water will collect in the riverbed and they will have access to water year round to be able to water their tree seedlings. With healthy trees, community members will be able to plant such trees in the area around the sand dam as the newly emerging microclimate (due to the dam) will be more hospitable to trees and green plants.  They will also be able to sell tree seedlings, thereby increases other forms of income.

After the short rains in October –December 2013 the dam was filled with water and has been able to recharge the water aquifers around the dam. This is evident, as new streams of water have been seen flowing along the dam. The major impact of this dam is that the community has been able to plant over 2 hectares of vegetables that they will sell and consume in the area. Due to the availability of water more members along the sand dam have started clearing land (to farm) that previously was unusable before for vegetable farming.


Three days after the completion of their sand dam the community group started excavation of the shallow well. This was started on September 19, 2013 and completed on October 12 2013. As the community group carried out excavation they also collected the local materials, which were needed for the lining of the shallow well to enable hand pump installation. The lining of the shallow well started on October 16, 2013. The construction had to be delayed for sometime due to heavy rains in the area. Once construction resumed that shallow well was completed on the December 27th.

At the moment the community members draw water from the shallow well, which is used for drinking and other uses at home.


Project Updates

May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Kyalimba Community

Our teams are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us in our fight against the virus while maintaining access to clean, reliable water.

We are carrying out awareness and prevention trainings on the virus in every community we serve. Very often, our teams are the first (and only) to bring news and information of the virus to rural communities like Kyalimba, Kenya.

We trained community members on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19.

Due to public gathering concerns, we worked with trusted community leaders to gather a select group of community members who would then relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.

We covered essential hygiene lessons:

- Demonstrations on how to build a simple handwashing station

- Proper handwashing technique

- The importance of using soap and clean water for handwashing

- Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces including at the water point.

We covered COVID-19-specific guidance in line with national and international standards:

- Information on the symptoms and transmission routes of COVID-19

- What social distancing is and how to practice it

- How to cough into an elbow

- Alternative ways to greet people without handshakes, fist bumps, etc.

- How to make and properly wear a facemask.

During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point,

Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we also dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the disease and provide extra information where needed.

We continue to stay in touch with this community as the pandemic progresses. We want to ensure their water point remains functional and their community stays informed about the virus.

Water access, sanitation, and hygiene are at the crux of disease prevention. You can directly support our work on the frontlines of COVID-19 prevention in all of the communities we serve while maintaining their access to safe, clean, and reliable water.

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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