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The Water Project: Ulaani Kwa Katwa Community B -
The Water Project: Ulaani Kwa Katwa Community B -
The Water Project: Ulaani Kwa Katwa Community B -
The Water Project: Ulaani Kwa Katwa Community B -
The Water Project: Ulaani Kwa Katwa Community B -

Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Program: Sand Dams in Kenya

Impact: 3,053 Served

Project Phase:  Installed - Dec 2013

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/20/2019

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:

The group was formed in September 2011.It has a membership of 35 members 18 male and 17 females. The group in found in Kanthuni sub location of Kanthuni location. The total population for Kanthuni sub location is 3053 with 1407 males and 1646 females.

Challenges that led to the formation of the group.

Water insecurity

The main water sources in the area are in River Kanyango and river Athi. Kanyango River is situated 5 kilometres away from the community. River Athi is 9.5 kilometres away. It takes three hours to fetch water from River Kanyango and 5-7 hours to get water from river Athi.

In order to access water from river Kanyango one has to dig deep scoop holes of more than three feet deep. This is why it takes long. The water at this water point turns saline during the dry period. The main use of water from river Kanyango is for livestock. Water is however available during the rainy season. Immediately after the rains end the water dries up leaving the community to fetch water from the River Athi.

Women and children bear the burden of fetching water. In the dry seasons of the year that is from July to November school going children have to miss school in order to offer support in the fetching of water. At the school the children are forced to come with water that is meant to cook for them. In most occasions the water brought to schools is not clean and thus there is a number of water borne diseases experienced in the schools. The immediate victims of water insecurity are the livestock that the farmers keep. Livestock keeping is the main livelihood pattern after agriculture. To the farmers the livestock act as source of assets that can be disposed off to meet immediate household needs such as food, school fees and even emergencies such as payment to access health services. During the drought/dry periods of the year most farmers lose their cattle because of lack of water and pasture.

Due to the lack of water in the area;

  • More time is spent in fetching water. Therefore more efforts and resources are underutilised thus leaving poverty lines in the area at a high rate.
  • Famine and drought. Most farmers depend on rain fed agriculture to grow crops. The lack of alternative methods for growing food has led to increased food insecurity in the area.
  • During the dry period of the year most farmers experience severe loss of animals. This is because the animals lack water for drinking. The livestock sometimes go for three days without water. This has affected their health and quality.
  • The tree planting program has also been affected. The lack of water has led to drying up of the trees that the farmers plant.

Crop Production

The main type of crops that the farmers grow includes maize, cowpeas, sorghum, pigeon peas and green grams.

The main challenges to improved farming include:

  • Increased incidence of pests and diseases. This has affected our harvests. The farmers do not harvest as required due to pre harvest looses.
  • The farmers also practise poor farming methods. Most of the farming methods that the farmer’s plant cannot enable the farmers to have sufficient harvest. The farmers grow maize and have reduced crop varieties. The farms have been massively eroded reducing the fertility rate of the soils thus giving low produce or harvest.
  • Lack of good seeds for planting. Frequent droughts have affected the ability of the community to preserve seeds for their planting needs. Due to this the farmers have reduced the size of land under farming and only plant reduced sizes of land.

Tree Planting

The group is currently doing a tree planting program. They however lack skills and knowledge to plant the trees. The lack of water in the area has also reduced the number of trees that the community can plant in a season. Termite infestation is also a big challenge to the tree planting program.

Future Plans

The community seeks to create water security through the building of sand dams. The aim of having the sand dam is to improve the availability of water for farming and improved incomes for the community. The community’s objective is to engage in commercial farming where they will have pieces of farms where they can grow crops for sale and for consumption. Due to the improved water table along the areas where the sand dams have been built the group shall also have shallow wells that will be used to provide water for the farmers and the community at a small fee that will enable the group to generate income and have income for maintenance of the wells.

The community also seeks to have knowledge and skills that can empower them so as to be able to have resilience against the changing weather patterns in the area.

The community also seeks to establish and improve on their animal husbandry skills through the keeping of dairy goats. This program will help in the improvement of local livestock breeds that can produce more milk and fetch increased income from the sale of the animals.

The community plans to undertake a massive environmental conservation project through terrace digging in areas affected by soil erosion and pasture re establishment along the river banks and farmers farms. They require seeds and tools that will enable them to terrace their lands and knowledge on how to do pasture establishment.

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

Project Updates

03/03/2014: Ulaani Kwa Katwa Sand Dam Complete!

We are excited to report that after some unfortunate delays, we have received reports from our partner in the field showing that the project to build a sand dam in Ulaani Kwa Katwa, Kenya, is complete.  The rains haven’t come yet that will fill in the dams with sand and water, but in the not too distant future, the pictures of the dry river bed will change, and there will be sand with water drops captured between each grain.  The report below from our partner gives the latest status of this work:

Ulaani kwa katwa was formed with a total of 8 families. The group has built four other dams and this year The Water Project supported the group to build its 5th dam.

“By coming together our objective was to address food and water insecurity challenges in our community. We wanted to work on how farms to conserve the soil through terracing and also look for donors to support us in establishing water harvesting techniques which we were too poor to provide for our selves. ”Robert Mwau Group chairman. The group has 21 members with 6 males and 15 females.


The sand dam started on August 1st 2013. One of the main challenges during this time period of construction was the excavation of bedrock to build the base of the wall.  The bedrock was unusually thick and very thick and therefor took over 5 days to excavate and then build. Scheduling was also an issue as certain days in the week, some members of the group were not available to help construct as they had obligations concerning their families, such as school meetings for children.   The main challenges were poor turn out of members because on Tuesdays is a market day and Monday they attend school meetings.  When all is going well, community members are organized and there is no geological issues, the construction of a Sand Dam usually takes 2 weeks, but b/c of the bedrock, this sand dame site took a little over 3 weeks to complete. On August 23 2013, the sand dam was completed. 

The sand dam is finished, but this is not the end of change for this community.  Our partner will continue to work with them to develop hygiene and sanitation practices and farming techniques.  We’ll keep you posted as the progress continues.

The Water Project : kenya4037-1

Project Photos

Project Type

Sand Dam

Seasonal streams (and the sand they carry) are trapped by dams, replenishing the water table and allowing for adjacent hand-dug wells. Almost completely led by community-supplied sweat and materials, and under the supervision of engineers, dams are strategically placed within those dry river-beds. The next time it rains, flood-waters are trapped.

With a sand dam, this trapped sand begins to hold millions of gallons of rainwater. Soon enough, sand reaches the top of the dam, allowing water to continue downstream – where it meets the next dam. The result? A regional water table is restored.


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