Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Program: Sand Dams in Kenya

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Nov 2015

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/14/2024

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).

The construction of this sand dam will bring great change to this region. As the dam matures, the water table in the area will rise. Among other things, this means another project, a shallow hand-dug well, can be constructed near the dam. To see the shallow well project, click here.


The group was formed in the year 2007. The group has a total membership of 24 of which 11 are men and 13 are women. The group members hail from 4 villages namely Imale, Kyone, Mithini and Mavinga. The group is located in Kalawani sub-location, Kalawani location, Tulimani division, Mbooni West district 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 8,008.75 square kilometersout of which 474.1 square kilometers form the Tsavo West National park and 724.3 square kilometers forming Chyullu Game reserve. It has a population of 884,527 and 186,478 households according to a 2009 Census.

The county has two rainy seasons, which peak in March/ April (long rains) and November/December (short rains).

Income from agriculture constitutes 75%, income from rural self-employment constitute 15% and urban self-employment 8%. The county relies on mixed farming for their livelihood (coffee/dairy/irrigation or food crops/cotton/livestock).

Reasons for group formation

Tree planting. The group members wanted to conserve the environment through tree planting in their area.

Terracing. Due to decreased yields the members wanted to dig terraces in order to conserve soil and retain water in farms in order to improve their harvest.

Merry go round. The members wanted to raise their living standards through merry go round fund-sharing activities and table banking.

Economic Activities

Basket Making
Casual labour
Livestock keeping



The main water source is the River Tawa. The distance is 1kilometre away from their homes. During the dry period the community members depend on the River Tawa for their water supplies. During this time the water is saline in some locations, and less saline in others. This makes the community members to queue for more than 2 hours at the water points which are less saline to get this precious commodity. Also, Tawa market depends on the same river for their water supplies. Community members have to dig deep scoop holes, which pose a threat to them in case they collapse. From of July to November women wake as early as 5 o'clock in the morning to go and fetch water. They use the water for watering livestock, washing, drinking and cooking. Children support their parents by fetching water after school thus making them not finishing their homework.

Due to lack of water the community suffer other challenges:

Time wastage. Community members spend more than 4 hours in getting this precious commodity. During the dry season the sun is very hot and one is tired due to the long distances travelled, thus not being productive after fetching water.

Low personal hygiene. The water is not enough to cater to all domestic needs, thus forcing people to ration the little they have. During this period they are limited to washing fewer clothes and not taking daily showers.

Less time for farm preparation. Most of the people have less time for preparing their farms before the onset of rains. They do not have enough time to terrace their farms in order conserve the soil.

Horticulture. With less water the community only grow French beans during the wet season, thus affecting their income generation during the dry period.

Livestock. "Our livestock are fed poorly in the dry season because we spend more time collecting water," says Kilonzo Maleve.


The main crops grown include:

Pigeon peas
Green grams

Food insecurity in the area is attributed to the following reasons:

Pests and diseases. Due to climate change there have been new pest and diseases affecting the crops. In particular, the green grams and pigeon peas are affected by blight. Many of the farmers are not able to buy the chemicals needed because they are expensive and the crops require regular spraying.

Lack of seeds. Most of the farmers spend a lot of time in search of seeds and most depend on unscrupulous dealers who are there to make money. This makes the farmers to plant late hence as a result have lower yields. Sometimes they buy seeds that cannot cope with climatic conditions of the place.

Unreliable rainfall. Due to climate change, rainfall in current years has been unpredictable as compared to earlier years. These days it rains intense for a short period of time leaving at a stage where they require another rain for better yields thus leading to low yields.

Lack of knowledge. Most farmers continue to practise archaic farming methods which have led to low yields. Most of them do not terrace their land and those who do have not done it properly, hence they cannot retain water in their farms.


The main types of trees grown are:


Paw paws


The main challenges to tree planting include:

Knowledge and skills. Most of the farmers have not had any training on tree planting hence they need to be trained for future successful tree planting.

Termites. The farmers experience termite infestations which affect their morale on tree planting. They lack chemicals for termites as they are expensive.

Due to the lack of water, tree planting has been a challenge for the community members. The survival rate still remains low as some trees dry up.


Soil conservation. The community, through the support of tools, will embark on aterracing program on their farms. This will enable them to improve their harvest as the lack of terraces contributes to low harvest.

Tree planting. After having water from the sand dams they have reliable water and will establish tree nurseries and plant trees.

The community members want to create water security through the construction of sand dams. Also they want a shallow well beside 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 near their homes.

Capacity building of the group members. The group would like to be trained on water conservation, agricultural farming methods and soil conservation.

Sand dam construction updates

The groups, through well-wishers and the entire community, received support in the collection of materials. Local business men contributed monetary support for hiring transport to take the materials to the site. Apart from this the community has contributed local unskilled labour that is being used to construct the dam. The process of construction includes digging down to bedrock to provide a stable foundation for the dam, supplying building materials such as rocks, sand, and cement, and building a form which shapes the dam while the cement cures. The construction is ongoing and is expected to be done by the end of next week. (9/18/2015).

Project Result

Trenching began on 8/10 and was completed by eight workers.

Construction went from 8/21 to 11/4 and was done by an average of 11 people. The construction of this particular dam took more time than usual due to the lack of local stones needed for the structure.

Now that construction is complete, the sand dam will mature, collecting sand that soaks up water into the riverbed. That water will then be protected, accessible by two shallow wells built alongside.

Project Updates

September, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Daniel Muli

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 Imale 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 Daniel Muli shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting his life.

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

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

Community members are happier and more developments have been observed over time. Farming activities have increased and improved because there is easy access to water at the sand dams. Almost all community members have vegetable gardens where they have planted kales, spinach, onions, tomatoes, and coriander for their household consumption, which has been enabled by the availability of water.

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

Having a clean water point has been helpful because we have gotten abundant water supply for handwashing and other uses at home, such as maintaining high standards of hygiene and sanitation. My wife has been making soap for sale during this period, generating some income for her.

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?

Yes, fetching water for my family and me has changed as a result of the novel coronavirus. Now, whenever we go to bring water at the shallow well, we ensure we wash our hands before handling the pump. The well has a lot of water, and there are rarely long queues. However, when we find other community members already fetching, we ensure we adhere to social distancing. Also, to contain the spread of the virus, we must wash our hands at all times. Hence our rate of fetching water has increased as we need more water now than before.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

My family has been affected negatively by COVID-19. I have one child who is in class seven and has not been attending school, as they were closed indefinitely since the onset of the virus here in Kenya. This has resulted in idleness and also exposes the child to chances of adopting strange behaviors from bad company. I am not at home all the time, and monitoring him all day is impossible. I'm hoping for life to normalize.

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

Before the onset of the novel coronavirus, I was engaged in many casual labor jobs, which were very dependent on other people. Now, there are no jobs because the virus has affected everyone. Financial flow is difficult because the towns we would do business are on lockdown, such as Nairobi town. Lack of finances causes a lot of feuds at home. Some of the regulations that we are expected to follow are easy to forget, such as wearing masks and social distancing. We were used to a very social life. At times we forget distancing measures and hug/greet our friends when we meet in public.

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

As a community, we observe various regulations, such as having a handwashing station at all the entrances of retail shops or shopping centers, whereby the locals are expected to wash their hands before being served. Wearing face masks is a requirement for everyone in the community whenever going out in public. We are observing social distancing and avoiding social gatherings.

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?

Initially, we operated on a nighttime curfew that ran from 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM, and it limited our work time in a great deal. The nighttime curfew was adjusted to run from 9:00 PM to 4:00 AM, making it more accommodating for us to run errands and do business.

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

I anticipate the restrictions barring us from the movement of one town to another to be lifted as this will enable me to progress with the businesses that I carried out before the onset of the virus.

When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Daniel 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?

The training has been helpful because it has enlightened us on the virus, its effects, symptoms, and ways of containing its spread among ourselves. We were refreshed on how to wash our hands with soap and clean water for twenty seconds to ensure we had rid ourselves of the chances of contracting the virus. We were used to wearing the masks recklessly as some would hang it around their necks and wear it well when they see the police officers around. Through this training, we have learned the importance of wearing face masks and how to wear it in the right way while covering the nose and mouth.

July, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Imale Community

Our teams are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us in our fight against the virus while maintaining access to clean, reliable water.

We are carrying out awareness and prevention trainings on the virus in every community we serve. Very often, our teams are the first (and only) to bring news and information of the virus to rural communities like Imale, Kenya.

We trained community members on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19.

Due to public gathering concerns, we worked with trusted community leaders to gather a select group of community members who would then relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.

We covered essential hygiene lessons:

- Demonstrations on how to build a simple handwashing station

- Proper handwashing technique

- The importance of using soap and clean water for handwashing

- Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces including at the water point.

We covered COVID-19-specific guidance in line with national and international standards:

- Information on the symptoms and transmission routes of COVID-19

- What social distancing is and how to practice it

- How to cough into an elbow

- Alternative ways to greet people without handshakes, fist bumps, etc.

- How to make and properly wear a facemask.

During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point,

Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we also dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the disease and provide extra information where needed.

Water access, sanitation, and hygiene are at the crux of disease prevention. You can directly support our work on the frontlines of COVID-19 prevention in all of the communities we serve while maintaining their access to safe, clean, and reliable water.

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!