Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 300 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jun 2016

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 12/19/2022

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

The Syakama Self-Help Group was formed in 2015, and now has 34 members. The members come from three different villages. The motivation for their coming together is to tackle water insecurity issues within the three villages.

The average age of group members is 42, so this group is still quite youthful and energetic. Some members have started "Zero Grazing" (dairy farming) as a means of income. Without sufficient access to water, this activity is bound to fail despite heavy investments during startup. After discussions with members, we learned they have a strong belief that investing in water projects like this shallow well and other sand dams will enable them to solve the water crisis; a huge burden which their parents also had to endure throughout their lives. With water nearby, the members plan to invest in initiatives such as farming and tree-planting, which have great potential to improve living standards.

The self-help group approached ASDF for support in constructing one sand dam and shallow well on River Miseke. The group is close neighbours to one of the communities that benefited from a water project in the past. Because of the improvements that the neighbouring community now enjoys, the Syakama Self-Help Group was also motivated to mobilize its members and follow the process outlined by the neighbouring community in order to access water.

The Current Source

The main water source is from River Miseke, a seasonal river; it only flows during the rainy season. The members must walk an average of two to three kilometers and spend a total of two to three hours to fetch water at this source. Several members have dug shallow wells on the river bank, but due to degradation of the river, the shallow wells often dry up. There are also private shallow wells there that have no water pumps. The average depth of these wells is between 30 and 40 meters. They are privately-owned, meaning that individual owners regulate and determine how often and how much one can fetch water. To fetch water, a long rope is tied onto a fetching bucket which is lowered down inside to scoop water. This can be a dangerous activity reserved for a few; without a cover over the well, locals are at risk of falling inside. It takes at least two people at the water point to fetch, and the manpower and time taken puts a big strain on everybody.

Usually 20-liter plastic jerricans are used to fetch water. The mode of transport is bicycle or donkey, which can carry up to four 20-liter jerricans of water per trip. The jerrican covers range from polythene wrapped around the container's top, or other improvised lids that prevent spilling during the journey home from the water point.

Once home, gathered water is usually stored in plastic jerricans for drinking purposes while the rest is added to high-capacity water drums that a portion of families can afford. For those who cannot afford the high-capacity water reservoirs, water remains in the fetching jerrycans until more is needed.

The depth of the improvised shallow wells and the manner water must be fetched is a big threat, especially to small children who often travel with their parents to the river. We heard of incidences of children falling into the well and suffering injuries.

Sanitation Situation

100% of households have pit latrines, and the majority of them are in great condition. The latrine superstructures are made of concrete and are well-roofed. Because of these good conditions, no open deification was observed during the initial visit. Owning a latrine is a cultural norm for families of these villages. It signifies dignity and success, so all households have invested the necessary time and resources in their facilities.

Garbage disposal has two levels: Within the main house there is a bin that is occasionally emptied into a compost pit at the back of the family compound. Because many of the community members are farmers, they have knowledge on how to make manure from these compost pits.

The community has not yet received any information on hygiene and sanitation. There is no particular standard set for hygiene, hence most practice hygiene and sanitation according to their level of exposure i.e level of education, status in the community. Basic practices such as treating water are more of a "feeling" than a standard practice, meaning people will treat water if they feel it is not safe. Some others said they don't treat water because they don't like the taste of chlorine or boiled water. The general attitude about hygiene is based more on myths and perceptions rather than information and facts.

Farmer Sarah Wayua admits, "Without sufficient water, entire households or children skip days without taking a bath. Even the grown don't shower daily!"

Training Sessions

The self-help group will be trained for three days using the PHAST (Participatory Health and Sanitation Training) method. Topics will include proper water treatment, hand-washing, and household hygiene.

Since the community has already been digging for water along the river, this sand dam is expected to raise the water table and increase access to water. The dam is expected to be 40.8 meters long and 3.8 meters high. There is a protected well also being constructed by this group, which you can see here.

For this community, availability of water will be a means to boosting other socioeconomic activities. This sand dam creates great excitement! However, there is a lack of available, local materials such as stones. The group will be forced to buy these materials from distant places, which could affect the completion date. We will keep you posted.

Project Results: Sand Dam

Construction of this sand dam began on January 16th. It is a three stage process, beginning with material collection. Finding all of the necessary materials took all of January, with stones being the most difficult to find. The community ended up finding the necessary stones from as far away as seven kilometers, and chose to hire a tractor for hauling. The next step was trenching of the bedrock, which is a basic requirement for making stable dams. This required bedrock was much deeper than anticipated, so step two took 15 days. Phase three, construction and building of the actual dam, took one and a half months. The community helped eight hours a day, six days a week to get this done!

Because of the long delay in finding stones, community members decided to labor through the rainy season on their sand dam project. In fact, they didn't even have time to tend to their farms! But the local farmers anticipate the positive changes a sand dam will have on their environment, raising the water table and making the land more fertile for successful harvests. Selina Mutune, one of these farmers, said "We really worked hard to have the project done! We have also learnt that for the next project, we need to prepare early in advance." This was another snapshot of how getting a sustainable, safe water source isn't always easy - but it will definitely be worth it!

The sand dam turned out to meet its proposed specifications: 3.8 meters high and 40.8 meters long.


Hygiene and sanitation training was held in a self-help group member's home for two days. This location was chosen because it is very close to where their sand dam was constructed. The home was also convenient for cooking lunches so that the sessions could go uninterrupted. Most of the self-help group members were in attendance because they were given a two-week notice before the date. 28 of the 35 members were able to adjust their schedules and RSVP in time. This was a great turnout, and all of the key members of the group were present. Trainers used demonstrations and group discussions, and encouraged group members to use case studies from their daily life experiences to keep them engaged.

The training concepts were selected to suit the conditions and life experiences of the trainees. Main topics included but were not limited to:

  • Personal hygiene
  • Keeping the home environment clean
  • Hand-washing and constructing hand-washing stations (check out the pictures!)
  • Water treatment
  • Dangers of open defecation
  • Blocking the transmission of contaminants

The trainings' success will be determined by what is observed in our follow-up visits. We set goals with the self-help group and help them develop a schedule for action. Are people washing their hands? Are they using latrines? These are all important indicators of whether or not there was positive impact. But as of now, it's at least obvious self-help group members are grateful for what they learned. Local farmer Serah Wambua said, "I really liked the trainings. The pictures used really communicated well with us. I expect to change my behaviors which may lead to diseases."

The self-help group has also selected a committee that will oversee their new sand dam and other water points. They have drafted a set of rules which will help them manage water usage. For example, no livestock will be allowed near the sand dam.

Thank You for gifting Syakama Self-Help Group with the opportunity to build a life-changing sand dam in their area!

We're just getting started, check back soon!

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.

A Year Later: Kavumbu Community Sand Dam

December, 2017

My life has changed positively because initially I couldn’t plant vegetables, and I was just a casual laborer. I am now able to grow vegetables which I sell. This month, I have made 8,000 shillings…

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kavumbu 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 Syakama Self-Help Group in Makueni County of Kenya. Because of these gifts and the contributions of 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 Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF) partner, Joe Kioko, with you.

This area has changed drastically since the installation of a sand dam last year. Before, people had to walk half the day to find water. Now, they have it close to home: The distance has decreased from five kilometers to less than a kilometer. Nearly everyone has planted trees that will conserve the environment.

Picture taken in August 2017

Time initially wasted is now used for other income-generating activities. The dam is filled with sand, and people from as far as three kilometers away come to this water point to fetch water. Washing clothes is much easier due to the soft water from the project.

The project has been supplying them with water throughout the year, which means they're no longer losing their livestock during the dry season. Because of the water availability, the children are cleaner and the environment is greener.

John Kyalo showing our staff the group vegetable plots they've successfully planted.

We met self-help group member John Kyalo at the dam. He said, "My life has changed positively because initially I couldn't plant vegetables, and I was just a casual laborer. I am now able to grow vegetables which I sell. This month, I have made 8,000 shillings from sale of spinach, kales and tomatoes. I no longer struggle paying school fees for my children... We also make bricks for sale and build better houses."

Field Officer Mutheu Mutune interviewing John Kyalo.

14-year-old Mwongeli Muswawa is happy that she can now run and fetch water on her own, which is used at home to help with chores. She said she's grateful for the "reduced distance to the water source. Initially, we'd walk seven kilometers to Miseke River in order to fetch drinking water, but now it tales less than 30 minutes."

Mutheu Mutune and Mwongeli Muswawa

However, it's worth noting that this sand dam and well system is still maturing. Since this is one of Syakama's newest projects, it was especially susceptible to the severe drought this last year. Though the dam and well are serving the community by bringing clean water close to home, there are still times when water is not available, and people have to travel to other sources.

As the young sand dam continues to mature through the rainy seasons, building up sand and storing even more clean water, the hand-dug well will become more reliable.

Most of our other southeastern Kenya projects are like this too; they are systems that need time to mature in order to provide clean, reliable water throughout drought. We look forward to this happening here, and are excited to monitor the transformation!

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 Kavumbu 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 Kavumbu 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!


Project Sponsor - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation