Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Program: Sand Dams in Kenya

Impact: 455 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Sep 2015

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/14/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

This project is a part of our shared program with Africa Sand Dam Foundation. Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).

Because this sand dam is being constructed, another project is made possible in the same location. A shallow well is being dug which will only be a success because the sand dam will help raise the water table in the area. To see the shallow well project, click here.


The group has 26 members with 10 men and 16 women .The group was formed in the year 2013 and registered in 2014.It is located in Ndumbu village with a population of 75 male,130 women and 250 children. Mangani sub location with 1800 people, Kisau location, Kisau Division Mbooni East district Makueni County.

The average household size is 6.3 members and an average age of 47.18 years.

Economic Activities
• Farming
• Small business
• Livestock keeping

Reasons for group formation
Working alone one cannot do much therefore the members saw that the by forming a group they would be able to solve some of the needs that they were facing alone at their various home. They face water shortage therefore began by collecting materials and constructed a sand dam to raise the water table. They have a merry go round programme going on in the group.


The main source of water for the group is Waani river.

50% of the members interviewed travel a distance of less than 1 km, 31% distance of 1-2 km, and 19% travel a distance of 2-3 km respectively. All the members queue for more than 30 minutes each day during the dry season for water with 44% queuing for 1-2 hours, 44% queue for 1-2 hours, while 12 % queue for 30min-1hour.The members said that they spend more than two hours each day in search of water. This is because though some members are near the water source they have queue for a long time in the river as the water table during the dry season is low. This makes the have to dig deep scope holes to get to the water. Due to lack of sufficient water they said that small business is affected as they do not get to open their work in time because first they have to go and get water. The river supports the whole location and hence there are many people getting water from the river.


The community rely on rain agriculture for food production. They grow food mainly for subsistence. The area under food production is 3.34 acre.

The main food crops grown are
• Maize
• Cowpeas
• Pigeon peas
• Green grams

Challenges to food production
• With the change in climate the communities said that the rainfall is not reliable any more. The rainfall is usually erratic and unreliable.
• Lack of seed. They do not have seed to plant timely and their cost is high in the agro vets shop of which some of the members are not able to afford.
• All the members said that they had not had training in the last two years on improved farming practices. This means that they continue to practise the old methods of planting which are not able to yield much with the change in climate.

Environmental conservation

81% of the members plant trees while 19% said that they do not plant trees.

Challenges faced in tree planting program are:
1. Termite. The trees planted are infested by termite and they do not have cash to buy the insectides to control the termite.
2. Lack of knowledge on tree management. The members said that at times they dry because they are not well taken care of.
3. Lack of water in the dry season. Lack of enough water lead drying up especially in the dry season.


July 2015
There were delays in the preparation for Nzalu Sand Dam as unseasonal rains prohibited self help group members from collecting the local materials needed for construction. As of beginning of July the group has now started to collect the stones and sand needed for construction. As you can see from the photos, the stones are collected and broken by hand, which can be demanding physical work, but the group is determined to see the sand dam begun. We will keep you updated as we receive more updates from the field.


After some delays, Nzalu Self Help Group was finally able to begin construction on the sand dam for their community.  One of the major challenges faced was a difficulty in finding all of the needed materials. The rocks and other materials needed were not available in the immediate area of the dam, so they had to be brought in from 8km away, one truck load at a time. Community members raised funds for this task by selling livestock and other possessions. The sacrifice is significant, but clean water is such a necessity.

In the face of difficulty, the people of Nzalu persevered, and that sand dam is now complete.  Now the process of maturing begins.  As rains come and wash water down the dry river bed, it will pick up sand, and then deposit that sand on the upstream side of the dam. As the dam fills with sand, that sand holds on to water like a sponge, raising the water table in the area. Our partner will continue working with this community during and after the maturation process, helping with sanitation and hygiene training and improving farming techniques.


Project Updates

September, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with John Sila

This post is part of a new series by The Water Project meant to highlight the perspectives and experiences of the people we serve and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting them. We invite you to read more of their stories here.

Our team recently visited Ndumbu Community to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point. Shortly after, we returned to check in on the community, offer a COVID-19 refresher training, and ask how the pandemic affects their lives.

It was during this most recent visit that John Sila shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting his life.

Field Officer Dorcas met John outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Dorcas and John observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is John's story, in his own words.

What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?

Since the sand dam and shallow well installation, we do not have to travel long to fetch water. We are now planting vegetables, and families have saved the money they used to buy them. People are making bricks, both sale and home construction, with the water, found in the sand dam.

How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?

With clean water and have it in plenty now we don't queue for long as opposed to before where we would queue for long hours, and you would find many people at the same pointing. In the shallow well now, we spent less time, and there is less crowding.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, has fetching water changed for you because of restrictions, new rules, or your concerns about the virus?

We have sufficient water in the shallow well, which is a blessing to our community. We keep a social distance at the water source and make sure we wash our hands regularly.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

When the COVID came to the country, my children came home as most of the places of work have been affected, the children have now stopped going to school, and their education has been affected.

What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

We cannot meet in groups as frequently as we used to.

What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?

The country was on partial lockdown, restricting movements to urban areas. We are washing hands regularly, self isolate at home to reduce the risk of infection, and testing centers for people to find out their status were put up in the country.

Like most governments worldwide, the Kenyan government continues to set and adjust restrictions both nationally and regionally to help control the spread of the disease.

What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?

The government opened the borders of the urban areas. That allows for the movement of my children to look for work.

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

The age limit of those going to worship centers is 58 and below age 13. I would like to attend services, and this is lifted I will be glad

When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, John listed the radio, television, and our team's sensitization training.


What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?

Emphasis was done on how we should wear our masks, wash hands, and this will encourage me to continue making sure that my family is protected from infection. Eating healthy foods and foods rich in vitamin C

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 Underwriter - Jenifer Beaudean-White
Rose W. Goode
Monroe Christian School
The Steve Perry Foundation
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. DCP Alumnae Chapter
Corte Madera School
John Strange Elementary School
Sharon High School Interact Club
Riverside Woman's Club
Zion Lutheran School
Thomas C. Boushall Middle School
Turtle Rock Elementary School
Stow-Munroe Falls Student Council
Jordan and Filip
Susan B. Anthony Academy - IS
Community of Faith UMC
Mr. Hertzog's Class, Adams Elementary, Seattle, WA
St. Anne Catholic Church 214
Southside School
Data Abstract Solutions, Inc.
Saint Cecilia Catholic School - Home of the Tigers
Elena Confirmation Project Fundraising Page
Mr. Young's 3rd Grade Class Fundraising Page
East Noble Gets Involved
AQua Enactus's Fundraising Page 2014-2015
CCSA 6th Grade's Fundraising Page
Brownie Troop 3355
CIS Fundraising Page 2015
May Rocha's Fundraising Page
Help Global Feminism
Kathleen Watson's Fundraising Page
41 individual donor(s)