Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Program: Sand Dams in Kenya

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 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 project information direct from our partner:


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. 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 884527 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 problems 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 (internal lending and savings group) 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 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 dry up.
  • Wasting a lot of time. Due to the long queues at the water point we spent a lot of time that could be used in doing other productive activities.
  • Poor farming methods. Community members spent much of their time in fetching water. This makes them to neglect their farms as they are supposed to dig terraces during the dry season before onsets of rains. Due to this we have continued to have insufficient amounts of 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 the first culprit as they lag behind in development matters since the burden of water remains to them. This necessitates them to abandon other basic activities.


The main types of crops that they grow are:

  • maize
  • Cowpeas
  • pigeon peas
  • green grams

The community depends on rain fed agriculture. In the last 5 years have unreliable amount of rainfall, which have led 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.


Isunguluni self-help group main objective to have sand dams in their area was to provide sufficient water to the community for domestic and household purposes. This was especially so since the existing water sources ie shallow wells, and the water pipeline sources were turning to be expensive.

“Its not that we want free things. At the moment our main source of income i.e. agriculture is almost collapsing. We have barely harvested anything in the last two years. Our economic base is heavily eroded. Many families are not able to afford daily buying of water.”Kitavi mutua

Currently the price of 20 litre jerrican is between ksh 3 and ksh 20 from either the shallow well or pipeline. The daily household cost for having at least 4 20 litre Jerri cans is between ksh 20-80.The community hopes have again been dashed by the stalling of the world bank water pipeline project which was supposedly expected to supply the community with water from Umanyi springs.

“Sand dams are our only saviour. We may not have money to buy water or invest in big water projects but surely we have hands and local material’s to invest in creating sustainable water supply in our area. With enough water in our areas even when rains don’t fall sufficiently our lives will not be as gloomy as they are now.”

[Editor's Note:  GPS coordinates for this project are not yet obtained.]

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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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100 individual donor(s)