Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Program: Sand Dams in Kenya

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Oct 2014

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/23/2024

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:


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.

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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!


Mary's Angels
Tajchman Room 310
Byron Center West Middle Eco Challenge Team
LSCC Awana
Jennifer & Mike Jackson
Mrs. Heft's 5th Grade Class 2013-2014
Jillian Hensley & Friends
Pro-Link Global, Inc.
UT Austin Lion's Club
Emily, Ellen, Sarah, Carissa
Brownie Troop 857, Ramstein Germany
North Carroll High School
Union Elementary School
Rolgard Casimir Sr
Total Deliverance Worship Center - Dallas (Pastor Quelan Portley)
Total Deliverance Worship Center - Dallas (Pastor Quelan Portley)
Horizontal Organisational Environment
Winchester Badminton Club
Tajchman Room 310
136 individual donor(s)