Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Program: Sand Dams in Kenya

Impact: 2,100 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Nov 2014

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/24/2024

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:

Background Information:

The group was formed in the year 2006. It has a membership of 31 people. The group is located in Ulilinzi sub-location, Kibwezi district in Makueni County. The members hail from three villages namely Ingola, Wandei and Nguumo. The population of the villages are 1100, 600 and 400 respectively.

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 888,557 and 186,478 households Census 2009.

The area is characterised by extreme rainfall variability. Typically, good seasons are interspersed with extremely dry seasons and variations in the onset of rainy season 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).

Reasons that led to group formation:

• The group wished to alleviate poverty among them. They wanted to have merry go round, rear goats and farm the land adjacent to river Athi to improve their living standards. The ministry of Youth and sports gave them some funds to start rearing chickens. Due to lack of knowledge of how to properly manage such programs, led to minimal performance of the projects.
• Environment conservation. The group wanted to conserve their environment through planting of trees and digging of terraces in their farms. Environmental degradation led to poor harvests and perennial food insecurity in the area. Failure of rainfall led to poor harvest. Due to majority of the people depending of farming, poor harvest meant that the population seek alternative income sources. This led to charcoal burning, which led to massive cutting of trees to burn charcoal. In the long run soil erosion intensified in the area.
• Water problem. One of their main challenges is water insecurity in their area. The community members experience water problem.

Main Challenges In The Area

1. Water Insecurity

The main water sources are River Nthange and River Athi. The distances of the water sources from their homesteads are 1km and 2km respectively. It almost takes 2 hours to fetch water from river Athi. During the dry season majority of the community members rely on River Athi, which is a permanent river. In November, River Nthange becomes salty it cannot even be used to cook food. River Athi water quality is poor since the river is heavily polluted from human as well as animal use. Even the government has banned the use of River Athi water but there is no alternative thus forcing communities continue to fetch and to use it. This has led to high incidences of water related and water borne diseases in the area.

River Athi is also a dangerous point of fetching water. The river is highly invested with crocodiles and hippopotamus. A number of our livestock especially goats and children have lost their lives as they fetch water from River. Ndululu Kilolo told us she lost a child who she had sent to fetch water.

Due to the lack of water availability in the area they face other challenges.
• Tree planting. Due to lack of water the community has continued to plant trees but they dry up because of lack of water. Also the salinity level of the water makes them to dry up, as one cannot manage to fetch water for livestock, for home use and for trees.
• Poor farming. The community members spend much of their time fetching water. This necessitates them to neglect their farms. Most of them do not prepare their farms well by digging terraces and putting of manure in their farms. Hence reduced harvests from their farms, which can leads to malnutrition, food insecurity and health problems.
• Wildlife animals. During the dry period elephants from neighbouring Tsavo East national park cause problem to us while fetching water.
• 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. Because of not having the time for casual labour and therefore earning some form of money their livelihoods and health are at risk.

2. Crop Production

The main types of crops that the community grows are:
• Maize and pigeon peas
• Cowpeas and green grams

Unreliable rainfall has 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 farming practices. The farmers lack knowledge on the correct farming practices like on how to space their seeds while planting, they fail to realise that more mixing of in a small farm they are going to harvest from the land.
• Lack of tools. Most community members cannot afford 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 their harvest.
• Poor fertile soils. Long use of their farms without applying manure and soil erosion has decreased soil fertility. This has led to poor harvest among the farmers.
• Wildlife animals. Wildlife animals from the neighbouring Tsavo East national park destroy our food crops on our farms thus leading to low harvest.
• Pre harvest losses. Pest and diseases destroy the crops before and the community members lack the skill on how to control them and also lack the chemicals, which are expensive, and they need to spray more than 2 times.

3. Tree Planting

The community plant the following trees species:
• Mellia volkensii
• Neem
• Mango
• Paw paws

The community faces challenges in tree planting which include:
• Termite infestation. Termites attack their trees, which end up drying and are able to buy chemicals for termites, which are expensive.
• Due to lack of water tree planting has been a challenge to the community members. This is because the survival rate still remains low as some trees dry up.
• They lack knowledge on tree planting and care management. Also they lack poly tubes for propagating seedlings.

4. Climate Change

In the recent years climate change has affected them in one way or the other. It has brought negative impacts on their livelihood pattern. This has made the community members have some coping mechanisms such as charcoal as the alternative source of income and casual labour. Also it has affected the education of their children as they lack school fees because most of their monies are used to buy food. Also during the drought period they sell their important assets that is livestock in order to make ends meet thus increasing their poverty levels.

Future Plans

• Soil conservation. The community through the support of tools they will embark on terracing program on their farms. This will enable them to improve their harvest as lack of terraces contributes to low harvest.
• The community members to create water security through constructing of sand dams. Also they want a shallow well along their sand dams. They will use the sand dam water to grow vegetables for sale and for home consumption. Also they will be able to get clean water within proximity.
• Tree planting. After having water from the sand dams they have reliable water and they will establish tree nurseries and plant trees.
• Bee Keeping. With water available in the sand dams they will be enough water for bees along the river channel. They will start bee keeping to support their income as a group.
• Galla goat project. This program will enable them to improve their breads and also improve their income through the sale of the goats.

Justification for New Projects-Sand Dam Project

For an area that heavily depends on livestock keeping as the main source of income, water security is key towards supporting this venture. The main source of water is river Athi that flows from Nairobi passing into the area. This industrial waste and pollution of this water source has greatly contributed to high disease incidence i.e. water borne diseases. Members within the group have lost children or relatives due to crocodile attacks, which are found in this water point. For this community safe water mean fetching water without fear from wildlife attacks!

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!


Project Sponsor - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation