Kee Community E

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Sand Dams in Kenya

Latitude -1.56
Longitude 37.46

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 and shallow well.

Below is project information direct from our partner:

The group was formed in the year 2002. The group has a membership of 92 people. The group is located in Kiambwa sub-location, Kiteta location, Kiteta division, Mbooni East District in Makueni County. Makueni County is one of the 8 counties in Eastern Kenya and one among the 3 counties in Ukambani region. The county borders Machakos to the north Taita-Taveta to the south, Kitui to the east and Kajiado County to the west.

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 a population of 888,527 and 186,478 households (Census 2009).

Reasons for group formation
• Safe Water access- In the months of July to November the community members experience water problem. Through coming together the group wished to have a sand dam along their stream.
• Personal Savings- The group wished to have welfare activities that would seek to improve their living standards. Through merry go round (internal lending and saving scheme) the group members help each other in dowry payments, payment of school fees and hospital bills.
• Road making- The group came together to make roads in the area to facilitate easy movement of people.
• Soil and environment conservation- The group wanted to dig terraces that would conserve soil on their farms and dig tree holes that they would plant trees in the farms to prevent soil erosion.
Economic activities in the community
• Farming
• Basketry
• Livestock keeping

The main water sources are Ngilani Springs and Tawa River. The distances of the water sources from their homes are 2km and 3km respectively. During the dry season most of the community members rely on the springs because river Tawa supports a large population as it’s also water source for Tawa market. During the months of July to November the water at the spring oozes slowly thus long queues and takes them 3 hours to fetch water. Women wake up at 4am in the morning to go to fetch water. Community members ration water to two 20-litre jerricans. “School going children support their parents in fetching water after school thus making them tired and even not completing their homework resulting to being punished by their teachers” says Rose Mbaluka.

Due to lack of water availability in the area the community suffers other challenges:
• Poor farming methods: Much of the time is spent in fetching water. The situation is extremely adverse during the dry season. This has led to the neglect of the farms and other areas of the community lives. By the time one gets from fetching water they are tired and cannot engage in farming or in any productive role.
• Low personal hygiene levels. Due to lack of enough water the community members even skip some days without bathing.
• Livestock. During the dry season our livestock our livestock even skip some days without water or they trek 5km to Kanthale Earth dam. Their health status is affected due to the dusty roads and long distance they trek in search of water.
• Lack of vegetables. Lack of insufficient amount of water the community members do not have kitchen gardens thus forcing families to buy their vegetables in Tawa market which is more than 4km from their homes.

The main types of crops the community farms are:
• Maize
• Cowpeas
• Beans
• Pigeon peas

The area depends on rain fed agriculture. Due to unreliable rainfall in the area has led to poor harvests hence food insecurity. Other reasons for poor harvest include:
• Poor fertile soils. Due to soil erosion has degraded their farms and affecting the soil fertility leading to poor harvest. Spending much time fetching water they neglect their farms.
• Pre-harvest and post-harvest losses. Pest and diseases destroys the crops before harvests. The group lacks knowledge on how to control and prevent pest from destroying their crops. Also they lack post harvest skills therefore weevils destroy their produce.
• Lack of tools: Due to poverty most of the members cannot afford tools that can dig well the terraces on their farms.
• Late planting. Due to lack of seeds forces the farmers to plant late after the onset of rains leading to poor harvest.

Community members plant various trees, which include:
• Paw paws
• Blue gum
• Mango
• Gruvellia

They face challenges in tree planting:
• Water Scarcity: Due to lack of water the survival rates still remain low as trees dry up especially during the dry season.
• Lack of knowledge on tree planting and care management: Most of the farmers lack knowledge on care management of trees. This necessitates the trees to dry often because the farmers dig holes which are not standard
• Termite infestation: Farmers lack the skills on to control the termites and the termite chemicals thus most of the trees are not surviving.

• Sand dam: The community seeks to create water security through sand dam building.
• Income: The group want to grow vegetables along the riverbank and farmers will be able to sell and get income.
• Increased tree planting: With water availability they will plant different trees species that can be used for income, fodder and firewood.
• Soil conservation: Through the support of tools the community members will terraces their farms.

Climate change is real. If you have any doubt about it visit Kee village in Tawa area. This is the home area for Kee self-help group.

“Our rivers never used to dry up. The river channel was the main economic hub for hundreds of families. This is where we used to grow crops (French beans) for export all year round The returns from the ventures enabled us to take our children to school.” Damaris Kaunda

In the last three years the river channel has been dry. Many families have been negatively devastated and this has led to increase in poverty and food insecurity in the area.

“Our interest is to bring the river back to life! With sand dams we intend to cause the river to flow again. The harvested water will enable farmers to go back to farming. This will revive the economy of the area which currently is under severe strain.” Joshua Mutua

After building the first sand dam already the group has reclaimed 2 acres back to farming. The water from the first dam is being used to support irrigation of horticultural crops such as French beans and vegetables.

“With a second and even a third dam we will definitely transform this area and region to what it used to be…a green belt for horticultural farming!” Joshua Mutua, Kee Self-help group.

A second sand dam in this area will allowed for continued development amongst the self help group and community members. Surrounding villagers will also benefit from the extension of a second sand dam further down the riverbed.


Construction Log:

  • Materials Collected: 4/17/2014 until 5/22/14 in which 43 men and 44 women worked.
  • Trenching: 5/23/14 through 5/30/2014 in which 41 men and 44 women worked to collect materials for construction such as sand, rocks, water
  • Sand dam construction: 5/31- 6/11.  40 men and 45 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 work.
  • Curing: 21 days

SHALLOW WELL STATUS: The water in the shallow well is an income generating activity as they can sell this water as well as selling produce that grows using the shallow well water.

Terracing: No terraces dug up to date. Due the group being involved in the harvesting of French beans from their demo plot most time was spend on this farm. However personal farm terracing is scheduled to start at the end of August. French bean harvest from the demo plot generated Ksh 98,000 for the self-help group. The group is using the funds for loans and savings project, which helps members to pay for their immediate needs.

Tree nurseries: The group has established a tree nursery with 3000 mango tree seedling, which farmers will be using to plant on their own farms. This in future will provide the community with income from the sale of the fruits and also food. (The farmers expect to sell the mango fruits, once the trees mature to, the county government fruit factory that is currently being built.)

Challenges:Trenching of the first sand dam was a challenge as it was the bed rock was not easily available for Kee self Help group

Solutions: To ensure that they didn’t take too many days in the construction the members of Kee SHG worked hard and availed themselves in good numbers Because of the high turn out of people to help build, the construction was a great success as the group spent few days constructing the dam compared to other projects. This is attributed to the large number of members in the self-help groups who turned up for work each day during the construction period.

Other activities of the group:

The group using water from their first sand dam established a vegetable farm where the planted had harvested French beans. The harvested crops enabled the group to get Ksh 149,000 ($1693). The money is being spent to re-establish their vegetable plot and also grow the group merry go round service. (Internal savings scheme among community members)

The group was trained on vegetable growing by ASDF field officers to provide the group with skills and knowledge on future large-scale farming. A total of 92 members were trained. (46 males and 46 females)

The groups 2nd shallow well construction is on-going and we expect the shallow well pump to be fitted by the end of August.

Project Photos

Recent Project Updates

04/15/2015: Kee SHG Project Complete

We know you have been waiting quite a while for news on the water project at Kee in Kenya. We are excited to report that all construction is finished. The sand dam is complete and has already started gathering water from seasonal rains. The shallow well has been constructed and is delivering safe, clean water. Imagine the impact all of this will have!

We just posted some new pictures of the project. Take a look, and Thank You for your help!

The Water Project : kenya4307-09-kee-2-shallow-well-complete

12/01/2014: New Pictures From Kee

Work continues on the water project in Kee, Kenya.  The sand dam that was built earlier this year is now overflowing with water.  A shallow well is already being built and seeds have been distributed for planting.  The quick update below from our partner in the field gives the latest status:

We are happy to share with you photos of the Kee #2 Sand Dam after the rains.  As you can see rains were abundant in this area where the sand dam is located and the dam is quite full.  We also happily share photos from a recent seed distribution for farmers that are part of the SHG and are learning environmentally sustainable approaches to farming. Seeds that were distributed were hearty seeds that grow well in this arid area of Kenya – such as  sourghum, pigeon peas and millet. 

Still to come is the completion of the shallow well, and instruction on terrace farming.  We’ll keep you posted.

Take a look at the new pictures, and Thank You for your help!

The Water Project : kenya4307-seed-distribution-22

08/26/2014: Kee Water Project Going Strong

We are excited to report that the project to construct a sand dam and shallow well for Kee Self Help Group in Kenya is making great progress.  The sand dam has been completed and the construction of the shallow well is underway.  We just posted a report from our partner in the field including lots of information about the community, especially the challenges  they face because of the lack of clean water.  We also posted lots of pictures of the work that went into building the sand dam.  As the work on the shallow well continues, we’ll keep you posted as new information becomes available.  Take a look, and Thank You for your help!

The Water Project : kenya4307-kee-sand-dam-02

Monitoring Data

Project Type:  Sand Dam
Location:  Kiambwa sub-location, Kiteta location, Kiteta division, Mbooni East District in Makueni County, Central Kenya
ProjectID: 4307
Install Date:  11/14/2014

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

Visit History:
06/24/2015 — Functional
02/01/2016 — Functional
04/11/2016 — Functional
07/13/2016 — Functional
12/14/2016 — Functional
05/22/2017 — Functional
09/14/2017 — Functional
12/21/2017 — 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.