Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - May 2016

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/16/2024

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).

Background Information

Kisaila Self-Help Group was formed in the year 2011 by 24 females and 14 males. The average size of each household is six. 32% of people are in the age bracket of 18‐35 years, while 36% are of the ages 35‐60 years and 32% are of the ages of 60 and over. This is a balanced group in terms of having both the youthful and the elderly; a perfect blend for executing heavy work such as building a sand dam! The elderly provide wise counsel while the youth use their hands and feet.

The population of this area is estimated to be 790 community members who come from 38 different households. (Editor’s Note: While this many people may have access on any given day, realistically a single water source can only support a population of 350-500 people. This site would make a great location for a second project. To learn more, click here.)

The group united to find ways of improving their living situation. The main activities that the group engage in include welfare services such as merry-go-round (collecting finances that are given to one member each month), and supporting each other with farming. Of particular concern to the group was the drying up of their main water source.

The Current Source

"This place is always very hot and dry during the dry seasons of the year. Usually, water becomes a major challenge in this time... Worse still is that this water is not clean for human consumption, but we have no choice. Cases of waterborne  diseases such as typhoid, amoeba are very high in this area. Am certain that with water from the sand dam which has a protected shallow well will be safe for us to drink. We will witness a drop of these diseases," says self-help group chairman Anthony Maweu Mwaluko.

River Mithini used to be permanent, and is the only natural source for the entire community. Degradation of the banks has affected the persistence of water in the river during the dry seasons. The water used to be available throughout the year but just recently started drying up during June. This leaves the community in desperation, spending more than one hour to fetch water from any alternative source. 84% of the respondents fetch water from the river. Alternative water sources in the area include a borehole where people are charged 30 Kenyan shillings per 20-liter jerrican of water, a price which very few can afford.

To access water at the river, community members dig scoop holes which are fenced with thorny bushes to prevent the entry of unwanted people and livestock. The livestock have their designated points where they go to drink water. Before fetching water at the scoop hole , an individual will scoop away stagnant water and allow the water to recharge. However, degradation of the river has increased the amount of time that water flows, so recharging a scoop hole can take quite a bit of time. During the dry seasons, even more time is spent in line as people wait for the scoop holes to refill.

Past experience with water shortage has taught the community to invest in reservoirs with large capacity. These are a common item within households, with most having a 200 to 300-liter water tank. Most of the group's families have children who are still in school. Most families are able to afford day schools, which afford children time to also help their parents fetch water. During the weekends, this is the main assignment of children: to fill the large reservoirs and spare their parents frequent trips to the water source. Waterborne disease has been reported after consumption of the river's water, especially during the dry seasons.

Sanitation Situation

100% of households have a pit latrine, most of which are made of mud walls and iron-sheeted roofs. The group is located near a main town, so the income of the self-help members is fairly stable. This was obvious in that the quality of latrines is far above normal, with a few walls painted and even some doors that lock! They are comfortable and cleaned regularly.

Over 75% of households have tools like dish racks and clotheslines. Most also have a dust bin kit within their homes, and a compost pit outside in the back of their yards. Because most of the group members received a formal education, they understand the implications and consequences of poor hygiene. Hygiene is perceived as a symbol of class and well-being.

Solution: Sand Dam

The self-help group has always wanted a sand dam. Of their own volition, members have already been able to gather stones at a designated point near the river. One member from the community attended a forum organized by ASDF, where they met and started a community-organization relationship. After visits from staff, it was determined that the group showed willingness and preparedness to have this sand dam constructed.

The dam is projected to be 21.2 meters long and 5.6 meters high. A hand-dug well is being built alongside this dam so that as the water table rises, this water will be a safe and accessible alternative to scoop holes.

Training Sessions

Group members will be trained over the course of three days:

Day 1: Members will see presentations about the consequences of poor hygiene and sanitation. Members will participate through providing daily experiences of the practices commonly used.
Day 2: Members will be introduced to some common hygiene practices such as hand-washing and the need for tippy taps (hand-washing stations), household cleanliness, water treatment, and many other topics.
Day 3: Members will come up with an action plan of implementing some of the practices learned, and will provide a schedule of when they will actually implement these.

The facilitator will use a mixture of PHAST (Participatory Health and Sanitation Training) and lectures to teach the above lessons.

Project Results: Training

The community decided that training should be conducted at a group member's compound. This was done to provide a conducive environment for the community to learn. The venue was chosen also because it is central to the community. It also has a kitchen for cooking the lunches that were provided by ASDF so that training could go uninterrupted. The training was organized in late April to allow the community enough time to work on their farms. The rains usually subside in May, hence the community could have time to attend training.

The community actively participated during training. By being arranged in smaller groups, each and everyone had the chance to contribute to each topic discussed. Each member gave examples of their daily practices regarding hygiene and sanitation in their households; this activity made training relevant and applicable for all participants.

The main topics covered were: common causes of waterborne diseases and how to prevent them, water treatment, sanitation facilities, and the community's role in maintaining clean and safe water points. The facilitator used demonstrations, discussions, lectures, and other PHAST methods to teach the above topics. The training team also demonstrated how to build a tippy-tap handwashing station. Community members could apply some of the practices they learned immediately after training, such as treating water, washing hands, and constructing dish racks and clotheslines. Farmer Agnes Pius, a woman who benefited from hygiene and sanitation training said, "I now now that clear water may not be safe water! It is only treatment of water that makes water safe for drinking."

Sand Dam

Construction on the Kisaila Self-Help Group's new sand dam began on February 3rd. There were many phases to construction, including these three main phases:

  • Mobilization of local resources
  • Trenching for the basement rock
  • Building up of the actual sand dam

The community members spent five hours, three days per week during January to collect all of the necessary materials. Using the same schedule in February, the community began trenching the riverbed to reach the rock basement. This proved challenging because this began immediately after rains subsided, so the riverbed was still flowing full of water. Construction of the actual sand dam began in late February and continued until mid-March.

The community members made huge contributions to the completion of this sand dam. The number of people showing up for work was above average, and they worked longer than required. They even chose to work six days a week! The majority of participants were young and had not done this kind of work before. They were eager to complete the task!

The main challenge during construction was a lack of sand. The community had to buy sand from elsewhere, and gathering the funds took longer than usual. There were misunderstandings about who should come forward with funds. Once ASDF stepped in to make sure the self-help group was held accountable for their financial management, these funds could be procured.

The sand dam ended up being 3.45 meters high and 51.7 meters long.

The community has also dug terraces on both sides of the sand dam to prevent erosion. They will also designate separate water points for humans and livestock. The self-help group has been registered with the Ministry of Water so that the community can also work with the government to develop and maintain their water projects.

The community members are very excited to have a sand dam at River Mithini. Once construction was completed, farmer Jackson Katumo said that "the sand dam will help in providing water to the community throughout the year. We intend to use the water to grow vegetables as income for generations."

Thank You for your generosity towards the Kisaila Self-Help Group and their community. You have provided hope for the future!

Project Updates

December, 2017: A Year Later: Kisaila Self-Help Group Sand Dam

A year ago, generous donors helped build a sand dam for the Kisaila Self-Help Group in Kenya. Because of these gifts and our monthly donors, partners are able to visit project sites throughout the year, strengthening relationships with communities and evaluating the actual water project. These consistent visits allow us to learn vital lessons and hear amazing stories – we’re excited to share this one from our partner Titus Mbithi with you.

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!

"The sand dam will help in providing water to the community throughout the year. We intend to use the water to grow vegetables as income for generations."

Jackson Katumo

A Year Later: Kisaila Sand Dam

December, 2017

Due to the water, we have established vegetable plots which provide us with vegetables, and our meals have increased from two meals a day to three meals.

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Kisaila Community 1A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kisaila Community 1A maintain access to safe, reliable water. Together, they keep The Water Promise.

We’re confident you'll love joining this world-changing group committed to sustainability!

A year ago, generous donors helped build a sand dam for the Kisaila Self-Help Group in Kenya. Because of these gifts and our monthly donors, partners are able to visit project sites throughout the year, strengthening relationships with communities and evaluating the actual water project. These consistent visits allow us to learn vital lessons and hear amazing stories – we’re excited to share this one from our partner Titus Mbithi with you.

Life for people living near this sand dam has greatly improved because they now have a clean water source that runs throughout the year. They have used the water at their homes, establishing kitchen gardens and making bricks. The vegetables planted at home are used for consumption, while any excess is sold to their neighbors. The money received and saved from these sales is used to pay other bills. The surrounding environment has become more serene, and the people are happy, healthy and clean. The water from this sand dam has even assisted them in constructing their second dam this year.

And thanks to the surplus of water this sand dam provides, the adjacent well is able to pump clean, safe water from the catchment area.

Anne Ngei is the chairwoman of the committee that oversees this dam and well system. She said, "Due to the water, we have established vegetable plots which provide us with vegetables, and our meals have increased from two meals a day to three meals. We have planted fruit trees as well as timber trees which give us income from selling firewood. Even the firewood we get from pruning the trees, as we were trained. Soon the fruit trees will be giving us fruits for selling and our own consumption. The tree survival rate has increased... Our school-going children no longer stay dirty because water is available, and they are usually comfortable in school and even in the church. Diseases have decreased due to improved nutrition, which came as a result of planting different varieties of foods and vegetables."

An ASDF field officer interviewing Anne Ngei.

Levi Mwnedwa was also there to fetch water. He said, "My school performance has improved because I find food at home, unlike before. I could come home only to find my grandmother has gone to look for water from as far as five kilometers away from our home. She could later come home late, and sometimes without water. When she would come home without water, this meant that we slept without cooking... but since the project inception, I find food ready. This enables me to eat, do my homework, then sleep early. My teachers have also commented on my performance and concentration in class and I am aiming to achieve higher marks in my next class. My grandmother and I have grown 14 trees, and they have all survived. We are planning to transplant during the rainy season. I use the water to bathe, wash my clothes, and our house. As a result I am now clean and healthy. Our livestock are healthy, and they produce good milk."

Levi Mwendwa fetching water from the well adjacent to this sand dam.

The surrounding environment has become green and cool. Soil and water are conserved through natural vegetation and terracing. Water is available throughout the year, and is being enjoyed by hundreds.

The Water Project and our partners are committed to consistent monitoring of each water source. Our monitoring and evaluation program, made possible by monthly donors, allows us to visit communities up to four times a year. Read more about our program and how you can help.

Navigating through intense dry spells, performing preventative maintenance, conducting quality repairs when needed and continuing to assist community leaders to manage water points are all normal parts of keeping projects sustainable. The Water Promise community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kisaila Community 1A maintain access to safe, reliable water.

We’d love for you to join this world-changing group committed to sustainability.

The most impactful way to continue your support of Kisaila Community 1A – and hundreds of other places just like this – is by joining our community of monthly givers.

Your monthly giving will help provide clean water, every month... keeping The Water Promise.


BJB Charitable Trust/Cathy Tai
Community Church of Barrington
Pak Ohana
Arnold Foundation
Lucky Seven Foundation/Isobel Fikso
Renaissance Charitable Foundation/Donald & Deanna Dyk Charitable Fund
Homestead Elementary School/Student Council
Xscion Solutions LLC
Schoellerman Foundation/Marco M Schoellerman
Bethany Presbyterian Church
Afropoint & Co
Canton School National Honor Society
Annie Van Denburg 15th Birthday
Gene & Ruth Posner Foundation, Inc.
Hibbard family
Response Church
104 individual donor(s)