Athiani Community B

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Sand Dams in Kenya

Latitude -2.60
Longitude 38.10

500 Served

Project Status:

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Stories and 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:


Athiani self-help group was formed in the year 2008 and it is made up of two villages that are Silanga and Athiani. The main reasons for forming the group were:

– The group wanted to improve their environment through soil conservation. By coming together the group wanted to dig terraces that would conserve soil on their farms and dig holes that they would plant trees in their farms to prevent soil erosion.

– The group also wanted to improve their living standards. By coming together the group would have merry go round (saving schemes) activities that would provide the group with income to cater for their basic needs.

– The area had water problems during the dry period of the year. Through coming together the group wished to have sand dams along their main river channel.

Economic activities

The main economic activities for the community are:

– Farming

– Livestock keeping

– Poultry keeping



Main water source are Kambu water pipeline, Railway water pipeline, Kambu River and Kamunyuni River. The distances of these water sources are 2km, 4km, 3km and 1km respectively.  The water from Kamunyuni River is saline thus the main use of the water from the river is for livestock. During the dry period of the year especially during the months of August to November they face a water shortage due to frequent break down of the water pipeline. Due to long queues at the water points make one to manage only one trip to fetch water. The cost of a 20-litre jerrican is KES 3, which is not affordable to most members of the community members who have no source of income. Most of them will only fetch water for cooking and drinking hence it has resulted to low hygienic standards Women and children bear the burden of fetching water.

Due to the lack of water availability in the area the community suffers other challenges.

Poor farming methods- Much of time is spent in fetching water. The situation is adverse during the dry season. This has led to the neglect of the farms. By the time one gets from fetching water they are tired and cannot engage in farming or in any productive role.

Women in the area continue to lag behind in development matters since the burden of fetching water remains on them. This is because most of their time is occupied in fetching water hence they have no time to engage in other activities.

Environmental degradation Due to lack of water most of the trees have continued to dry up hence tree planting has been a challenge.


The main type of crops that the community farms are: Maize, cowpeas, green grams, pigeon peas and sorghum. The area has experienced severe food insecurity due to lack of reliable rain to support food production. The area depends on rain fed agriculture.

Other reasons that have led to food insecurity are:

– The community has continued to practise traditional planting methods that have led to decreased harvest. The reliance on maize as a staple crop and also as a cash crop has led to decreased harvest due to unreliable rains. The community also lacks knowledge on farming methods that can be practised in the area.

– 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.

– Pre harvest and post-harvest losses: the crops are destroyed by pests before harvest. The group does not have knowledge on how to control and prevent pests from destroying the crops. After the crops are harvested they also lack post-harvest preservation skills. Weevils therefore destroy the harvest. To prevent further losses from the weevils most farmers dispose-off their produce at low prices thus returning to the viscous cycle of food insecurity and poverty.

– Increased drought and famine. During the drought period most of the incomes are reduced. Most farmers do not have seeds to plant in their farms. The farmers have to get seeds from unscrupulous dealers and the seeds that they plant cannot do well in the area.


The group has a tree nursery. The main challenges to tree planting are as follows:

– Termite infestation. The area has high incidence of termite that destroy the trees. The community lack the ability to control termite from destroying their trees.

– The lack of knowledge and information on tree management. Most farmers lack the skills on how to establish the tree nurseries and even care for the trees after they have planted them. This has reduced the survival rate of the trees in the area.

– Salinity of water. Due to water salinity the tree survival rate is still low.

With water availability of water the community plans:

– The farmers will increase the number of trees that they plant. Water availability will boost the planting of different species of trees.

– Increase their income levels. Through the planting of vegetable along the riverbanks the community and farmers will be able to plant horticultural crops that they will sell and be able to get income.


Athiani farmer’s self-help group as the name suggest is a group whose main activity is farming. The group uses Kambo River as the main source of water for farming. Many farmers along this river channel grow vegetables and other crops, which they sell to support their families. However heavy erosion of the river channel and poor rainfall in the area has caused severe strain on the existing channel. Many community members have been forced to abandon farming due to the drying up of the riverbed. The existing water points are heavily populated with both livestock and humans and this has led to long queues and water contamination by the livestock.

“This is why we need to build sand dams and shallow wells. This was meant to reduce the heavy human and livestock traffic at the water points. The shallow well would be used by the humans for getting clean water for domestic use while the scoop holes at the sand dams would be used for the animals.” Tabitha Mbeleete.

We still need more sand dams and shallow well up stream so as to avoid many of our members from relying on the one water point. This will bring water closer to the homes, open up the river channel to enable farmers to start farming again and save time lost due to long queues to invest in the farming activities.” Tabitha Mbeleete

Due to challenges in geology, a shallow well could not be built at this site. The funds expected to construct a shallow well were therefore used to build a well at another project site. To see the report, click here.

Project Photos

Recent Project Updates

04/22/2015: Athiani Farmers Update

We wanted to give you the latest news on the  water project for Athiani Farmers SHG.  As you know, this project was supposed to include a sand dam, which you know has been completed for some time, as well as a shallow well.  Due to some geological challenges, a shallow well could not be constructed at this sand dam.  The funds intended for this well were used to construct a well at another dam site.  To see that project, click here.

Construction is finished for this project, but our partner will continue working with them, teaching about sanitation and hygiene, and helping to improve farming techniques.  Imagine the impact!  Thank You for your help!

The Water Project : kenya4403-07-shallow-well

04/13/2015: Athiani Farmers Project Update

We know you have been waiting for quite a while to learn more about the water project for Athiani Farmer’s Self Help Group in Kenya. We just posted a few new pictures of hygiene training, teaching the community members to use a tippy-tap to safely wash their hands. We hope to receive confirmation very soon of the completion of the shallow well being built near the sand dam that was constructed earlier.  

We’ll let you know as soon as we receive word.  Thank You for your help.

The Water Project : kenya4298-65-hygiene-training

11/20/2014: Athiani Farmers Dam Complete

We are excited to report that the first part of the project for Athiani Farmers Self Help Group in Kenya is complete.  A new sand dam has been constructed, and is already collecting water and raising the water table in the area.  This will help not only with providing water for the community, but also improving agriculture in the region.  The report below is direct from our partner in the field:


This is the fourth dam for the Athiani Self Help Group.

This group is well organized and therefore can very easily mobilize to get the local construction materials that are needed to construct the sand dam. This group got additional manual labour assistance when a visiting expedition team arrived to learn more about ASDF and how sand dams were built.  In order to better understand how sand dams were constructed the visiting group assisted the Self Help Group with the manual labour of collecting rocks and mixing cement. This addition in manpower enabled the group to finish the construction of the sand dam ahead of schedule.  

This specific dam is also one of the biggest dams that the group has so far constructed so the additional help was well accepted. Due to the larger than normal size of this sand dam the community contributed in the buying of additional local stones so as to meet the expected quantity for the dam, as they would not have been able to collect such an amount on their own. 

Because this is the 4th dam constructed by this group, they were able to contribute a monetary sum, by purchasing the local stones, which is itself proof that sand dams are contributing to additional incomes for the self help groups. If this had been their first sand dam there would not have been extra income to spare for stone purchases.

  • Collecting of materials started mid June and was finished by the beginning of August.
  • Trenching then commenced and was finished by the first week in September.
  • Sand dam construction started in the 2nd week of September and was completed by September’s end.
  • The curing process of the sand dam was complete by October 20th.

Shallow well construction has not yet started due to the fact that the group is now involved in the planting season on their farms. Once they have finished planting they will mobilize to collect materials to construct the dam and commence digging.  This is anticipated to be done by mid December.

The shallow well is yet to come, and we’ll keep you posted as the work continues.  Be sure to check out the latest pictures of the finished well.  And Thank You for your help!

The Water Project : kenya4298-63-dam-complete

06/09/2014: Athiani Farmers Project Underway

We are excited to announce that a new water project has begun for the Athiani Farmers Self Help Group.  The project includes the construction of a sand dam, as well as training in sanitation and hygiene and development of improved farming techniques.  We just posted an initial report from our partner in the field including information about the community and pictures.  Take a look, and Thank You for your help.

The Water Project : kenya4298-41-third-members-kitchen-and-utensil-stand-2

Monitoring Data

Project Type:  Sand Dam
Location:  Central Kenya
ProjectID: 4298
Install Date:  10/08/2014

Monitoring Data
Water Point:
Last Visit: 12/20/2017

Visit History:
09/07/2015 — Functional
02/01/2016 — Functional
04/19/2016 — Functional
12/20/2016 — Functional
06/12/2017 — Functional
12/20/2017 — Functional


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Country Details


Population: 39.8 Million
Lacking clean water: 43%
Below poverty line: 50%

Partner Profile

Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF) supports self-help groups to harvest and conserve water through construction of sand dams & shallow wells, rock catchments and school roof catchments.