Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 436 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Nov 2016

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/02/2024

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).

Welcome to the Community

Kyeni kya Karuli Self-Help Group was formed in the year 1978. The purpose of the group was to tackle food insecurity and water shortage through the area of both resources. There was a major famine and drought at that time that caused a huge loss of livestock. The massive losses pushed many into poverty.

The members of this group mean to support each other in every way possible. Soon after its start, in 1983 the group was able to finish its first sand dam. However, because of weak structural design, the dam collapsed under the heavy storm rains of 1997. During the years between 1983 and 1997, the group's sand dam made water more accessible to farmers, and in turn provided more food. With its loss, food and water shortage threatened families once again.

This area is home to 436 people who will all benefit from a new sand dam.

Water Situation

No sand dam forces families to walk long distances in search of water. The closest source is a borehole three kilometers from the village. However, water at the borehole is sold at a fee of five shillings per 20-liter jerrycan, and not many community members can afford that price. The water from that borehole isn't even reliable; sometimes a person will make the long trek only to find out that the pump is locked. The alternative for those who don't want to pay is to dig a hole to access the water from the seasonal river.

The river scoop holes are separated between animals and humans. A farmer will bring his livestock to a different area to keep them away from scoop holes intended for human consumption. Moreover, these scoop holes set aside for human consumption are hedged with thorny bushes to keep animals away. As the seasons get drier, the community must dig these holes deeper. July through October, these scoop holes are at their deepest, and are actually very dangerous for small children to be around.

20-liter jerrycans are used to fetch the water and once home, dumped into larger containers varying in size from 200-400 liters. Water for drinking is kept inside and covered, and water for chores is left outside in the open.

A daily average of five hours is spent on fetching water, forcing these farmers to sacrifice time tending to their crops and animals. Ultimately, these farmers are sacrificing economic development just to get enough water.

Sanitation Situation

Over 75% of homes have pit latrines, but they are made with mud, the pits are shallow, and most have no doors for privacy. We noticed that because of these poor bathroom conditions, open defecation is an issue.

A few of the homes had hand-washing stations, and no more than half of homes had dish racks and clotheslines to dry things off the ground. Garbage is separated between a compost pile and a burn pile.

The community has a misperception that good sanitation and hygiene is only for the rich who have the money to build expensive toilets and tools. Many believe that since they are so impoverished, the government should step in and help. This idea is so strong that the community has been making little to no effort to establish good habits.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training

To address the concerns above, hygiene and sanitation training will be offered to self-help group members on two consecutive days. Once the members have learned about useful practices and tools to improve health, they will be able to share with their families and neighbors. Since open defecation is an issue, an emphasis will be placed on proper latrine construction and use.

Plans: Sand Dam

This sand dam will be one of many construction projects to come in the next few years. We will spend a total of five years unified with this community to address the water shortage. More sand dams will be built to transform the environment. As the sand dam matures and builds up more sand, the water table will rise. The sand collected behind the dam will also create a natural water filter. With good water available, plants and people in the area will thrive. Along with these sand dams, hand-dug wells will be installed to give locals a good, safe way to access that water.

We worked with the community to find the best location for all. They picked a location central to most households, and we verified the stability of bedrock at that part of the river. This sand dam will be an estimated 54.7 meters long and 4.6 meters high. We visited farmer Jeniffer Wanza who told us about the water shortage in her community. You can find pictures of Jeniffer and her home under the "See Photos & Video" tab. She told us, "The challenge of this community is lack of adequate water. We are willing to build a sand dam because no other water source has served us more than the previous sand dam. With water from the sand dams, we will not struggle and waste time like we are currently doing."

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Grace Muimi

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 Waita 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 is affecting their lives.

Grace Muimi

It was during this most recent visit that Grace Muimi shared her story of how the coronavirus has impacted her his life.

Field Officer Lilian Mutheu met Grace outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Lilian and Grace observed social distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Grace's story, in her own words. / Their questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

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

"Water has been available for hand washing, cooking, and all domestic issues. During this COVID 19 pandemic, we have been advised to avoid crowded places. If we didn't have this project, we'd be queuing at other water points, and it is risky to contract the virus."

Grace at the well.

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

"Water is available for regular hand washing as advised by the ministry of health, drinking, and general cleaning."

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?

"Yeah, things have changed because we have to keep a social distance at the water points. We used to meet there as groups and chat for a while before leaving. Nowadays, we rarely meet, and we don't even know how things are going on in our area."

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

"My family is highly affected since I have five kids, two are affected because they are candidates, and they hoped to finish their high school this year, and they are now almost discouraged. They no longer have the motivation to read because they are not sure if this year they will go back to school. I am afraid the kids will not perform well in their exams."

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

"We were planning to do a wedding before the pandemic with my husband in May, but tables turned, and here we are. We cannot have a wedding because the churches were closed. My husband lost his job, and he's currently at home."

Handwashing at COVID training

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

"In the projects we work on, we make sure that we have a tippy tap and soap for handwashing during the activities we do here."

What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?

"Churches being open and public transport."

Grace fetches water.

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

"I'm looking forward to Schools to be fully operational."

When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Grace listed the radio 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 team reminded us of social distancing and proper handwashing."

May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Karuli 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 Karuli, 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.

December, 2017: A Year Later: Karuli Sand Dam

A year ago, generous donors helped build a sand dam for the Kyeni kya Karuli 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 partners Titus Mbithi and Joseph Kioko 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!

A Year Later: Karuli Sand Dam

December, 2017

Right now, we take less than 30 minutes to get our water. We also grow vegetables at our farms which we consume and sell, as well as at the nearby market. Neighbors and vendors come to get vegetables from our farms.

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Karuli 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 Kyeni kya Karuli 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 partners Titus Mbithi and Joseph Kioko with you.

Students had to skip school because they were spending so much time in search of water. Moses Muthengi is one of the many people who have directly benefited from having water nearby. "Before the project, we used to walk for long distances close to four kilometers one way and line up for hours because people came from different regions to fetch water at Nthungu River. Right now, we take less than 30 minutes to get our water. We also grow vegetables at our farms which we consume and sell, as well as at the nearby market. Neighbors and vendors come to get vegetables from our farms. We have been able to make bricks using the available water and built good structures at our homes; bricks are also sold, fetching some money," he shared.

Naomi Mwenda standing in front of the sand dam.

Naomi Mwenda added that she used to have to walk six kilometers to River Tyaa to find water. "My cattle now only walk a short distance to access drinking water and this saves them from a lot of lung diseases caused by dust inhalation," Naomi said. The sand dam has brought so much water close to home that there's enough for all of the cattle, for farm irrigation, domestic use, cooking, and drinking. And now that there's a significant amount of water stored in the sand, grass has started growing along the riverbed. This provides a great grazing area for livestock.

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

Naomi pumping water for a little boy named Vundi.

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 Karuli 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 Karuli 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.


Chicago Math and Science Academy
York High School
Grace Loves Park Church & School
Chris B Godreau and Lynn Wadley
Thomas Fleming School
Data Abstract Solutions, Inc.
Immaculate Heart of Mary School
Rock Creek Presbyterian Church
PS 89
Atria Senior Living
National Association of University Women North Jersey Branch
Old Mill High School
Hillcrest Baptist Church
York Academy Regional Charter School
First Congregational Church of Chatham
Madison Valley Baptist Church
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. South Middlesex Alumnae Chap
HInsdale Middle School, Hinsdale, IL
Oyster Bay High School
Princeton Area Community Foundation, Inc/Penny Wilson and Richard Falkenrath
Thirst Drinkware
Aquarion Water Company of New Hampshire
10 individual donor(s)