Kyalimba Community B

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Sand Dams in Kenya

Latitude -1.70
Longitude 37.63

500 Served

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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:


The group was formed in the year 2007 by amalgamation of two villages that is Kyalimba and Kandulyu. It has membership of 51 of which 20 are men  and 31 are women. The group is located in Miau sub-location, Kako location, Kako division, Mbooni East 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).

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 get 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 deep scoop holes of at least 6ft deep. Also the water point turns saline during the dry period. During the 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 assist their parents after school, which does not allow for them to finish home work or have adequate study time. This also limits the time they have to play.

Due to lack of water in the area:

  •  Tree programs has also been affected. The lack of water has led to drying up of the trees that the farmers plant.
  • Wasting a lot of time 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 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 and also the chemicals are expensive for them as they need to spray more than 3 times.


Community plant the following tree varieties:

  • mango
  • paw paws
  • oranges
  • shade trees

Water problem in the area has led to low tree survival rate 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 treatments, which are expensive.

Lack of knowledge and skills on tree management by farmers make them not 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 help them to access to clean water. Also they will establish tree nurseries, grow vegetables for sale, which will improve their income.
  • Goat project. The group will start a dairy goat project 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.


The first sand dam worked wonders. This was supported by The Water Project. The old members of the group admit that they have never seen cabbages been grown in the area. From this learning experience the group is thirsty for more.

“We intend to build more sand dams along the river channel. The sand dams will provide water for farming thus feeding the community at large.”

With more water the community also hopes to set up tree nurseries that will be used to plant fruit trees.

“The new county governor has promised to set up a new fruit processing farm within the area. We have identified that a new factory will require adequate raw materials i.e. fruits which many have not grown. This is because of lack of sustainable source of water and extension support, which will provide us with skills and knowledge on how to plant the trees.

We therefore require more adequate water to enable farming and planting of fruit trees for future economic development and gains.” MUTUKU KIOKO chairman for Kyalimba SHG.

With the conjoined efforts of Africa Sand Dam Foundation and The Water Project, a second well, will be constructed thus allowing for continued development in the immediate surrounding areas, it will contribute to farming activities and potential manufacturing jobs at the fruit plant as well as allow for continued sustainability and improvement in hygiene and sanitation practices amongst group and community members.

[Editor’s Note:  GPS coordinates for this project have not yet been obtained.]

Project Photos

Recent Project Updates

12/11/2014: Kyalimba Shallow Well Progress

Just a quick note to let you know we posted some new pictures of the shallow well constructed at Kyalimba.  As soon as we have pictures of clean water flowing from that well, we’ll post them and let you know.

Almost finished with this great project.  Thanks for your help!

The Water Project : kenya4300-67-shallow-well

10/06/2014: Kyalimba Sand Dam Completed

We are excited to report some great progress on the project for Kyalimba Self Help Group in Kenya. The first stage of the project, the construction of a sand dam, is complete. We just posted some great pictures of the construction process and the finished dam. Our partner will continue working with this group to build a shallow well, provide training in sanitation and hygiene, and help with improving farming techniques. The report below from the field gives the latest information from this project:


Construction Log:

 – Materials Collected: From 5/12/2014 until 20/05/2014 in which 16 men and 4 women worked.

 – Trenching: May 21 through June 6 2104 in which 11 women and 5 men worked to collect materials for construction such as sand, rocks, water

 – Sand dam construction: Construction of the sand dam commenced on June 9th and continued through July 16th. During this time 6 men and 10 women worked. Physical work during the construction is segregated into phases includes; breaking down large rocks manually with hammers and chisel. Men in the group normally conduct this work. Once the rocks have been broken down and are easier to carry women laborers carry the rocks closer to the construction site and then used to build the base of the sand dam. There is also the labor of manually mixing the cement and sifting sand for the cement mixture, which is done by both men and women.  Water also needs to be collected and carried close to the site for the mixing of the cement. Women usually do this.

 – Curing: 21 days

 Shallow Well Status: The group’s shallow well is ready and has water and they are using it for drinking

 Terracing: 117 meters

 Tree nurseries: 313 Mango tree seedlings. The local county government has started to develop a mango processing plant and the self-help group has consequently decided that growing mango tree seedlings will be the most profitable as there will be high demand at the processing plant one construction is completed.

 Challenges:The scheduled date for construction of Kyalimba sand dam was revised from August to May this lead to low turn out of members during the construction and material collection. Because of this, collecting materials took longer than usual as there were less people available for work during this period.


Kaylimba self-help group invited other members of the community who were not part of the self help group, to assist the group in the construction of the sand dam.


Kyalimba self-help group constructed their second dam funded by TWP in the months of June to July. The construction log for the projects was as follows:

 – Material Collection: 5/12/14-5/20/14; 20 members participating (16 women, 4 men)

 – Trenching: 5/21/2014-6/6/2014; 16 members participating (11 women, 5 men)

 – Sand Dam Construction: 6/9/2014-7/16/2014; 16 members participating (10 women, 6 men)

 – Curing: Takes 21 days following construction

Also the group has a vegetable garden at the first dam. In order to maintain the crops the group had to allocate some members to take care of the crops as the other members of the group engaged in the construction process. The construction process of the dam was marked by a number of challenges the main one being community unpreparedness for the construction of this particular dam. Initially the dam was scheduled to be constructed in the months of August and the community had not yet mobilised the materials to construct the process. Having shifted the dates for the construction process the material collection took more time than expected and this is why the dam took more than a month.

The other challenge is the farmers still had crops on the farm during the construction period and this happened to be harvest time for the crops. Members has to also skip days from work to engage in harvesting of their crops in the farms thus reducing the work force available each day on the construction site.

 Other group activities.

The first cycle for the vegetable farming generated Ksh 64,735($735.625).The group has banked the money and intends to plough back the profits into the second cycle of crop production. The have already re-established the vegetable nurseries and planting is on-going. To further empower the community the group visited one of the main vegetable demonstration plots in the area where they learnt on vegetable growing and marketing. This is to boost the morale and skills of the community in enabling them to further utilise the sand dam water for improved livelihoods.

The group has also established a tree nursery which has 313 tree seedling mainly mangoes trees. The county government has planned to open a mango processing factory and the group hopes to tap into these benefits by growing more fruit trees for future income generation. This is thanks to the first and recently completed dams.

On farm terracing for the group is expected to start in earnest in the month of August. The group has however dug 117 metres at the sand dam sites.

On going projects

The group is currently finishing on the excavation of the shallow well for the recently completed sand dam. The shallow well pump has already being procured and we await the group to finish on the excavation to fully fit the pump.

The Water Project : kenya4300-42-completed-dam

06/09/2014: Kyalimba Project Underway

We are excited to announce that a water project has been begun for Kyalimba Self Help Group in Kenya.  The project will include the construction of a sand dam, as well as training in sanitation and hygiene and 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 : kenya4300-09-kyalimba-dam-in-progress

Monitoring Data

Project Type:  Sand Dam
Location:  Central Kenya
ProjectID: 4300
Install Date:  09/19/2014

Monitoring Data
Water Point:
Last Visit: 12/21/2017

Visit History:
10/08/2015 — Functional
02/01/2016 — Needs Attention
04/19/2016 — Functional
07/25/2016 — Functional
12/19/2016 — Functional
06/05/2017 — Functional
09/06/2017 — Functional
12/21/2017 — Functional

Reversing the effects of climate change through sand dams: A case story of Kyalimba SHG

June, 2014

“It’s a miracle to see cabbage grow here” 

Makueni County is one of the forty seven counties in Kenya. It is classified as an arid and semiarid area since it receives less than 750 mm annually rainfall. The vast majority of the population is subsistence farmers depending on farming as their main source of income. In recent times these farmers are under the threat of climate change which has affected their life dramatically. More and more farmers have been pushed to depend on food relief from the good well wishers.

I don’t need to have gone to school to know that the climate has changed. The last time I harvested anything from my farm was three years ago” narrates Paulina Kaviti.
Her old wrinkled face tells us all. The situation is more desperate than what is visible to us.

My small 2 acre farm was giving enough profit to be able to take my six children to school and that was all from the harvested products, but today I even struggle to put a meal on the table for my grandchildren”.

The rivers have dried up and our men have gone to look for jobs in the urban areas. For us women who are left suffering and now working for our families it really has been a hard time with a lot of struggles. But not anymore!

At last a smile appears on the face of the old woman.

“I now am able to access clean water for domestic use. I used to spend 5 hours daily fetching water, but now I spend less than 1 hour. This has enabled us (the Self Help Group) to invest our time in horticultural farming”, Narrates Paulina

Behind the scene it’s all green. Crops of different varieties are growing,

“It’s a miracle to see cabbage grow here” explains the chairman of the group.
“Cabbages grow only in the highlands of Kenya and are sold to us at high prices, with the support from ASDF technical staff we are now able to grow cabbages and sell them to the community and local markets thus improving our livelihoods.

Though the climate has changed for the worse the sand dams and the training support by ASDF have enabled us to adapt and cope against the effects of climate change. We are no longer vulnerable; we have created opportunities through sand dams and assured much brighter future for all of us!”

Mutuku Kioko Chairman Kyalimba SHG.


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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.