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Location: Kenya

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 436 Served

Project Phase:  Installed

Functionality Status:  Functional

Community Profile & Stories

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.”

Recent Project Updates

12/20/2017: 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.

The Water Project : asdf_kyeni-kya-karuri_shg_yar_naomi-vundi-and-titus-mbithi-5

11/07/2016: Kyeni kya Karuri Sand Dam Project Complete

We are very excited to report that, thanks to your willingness to help, the members of the Kyeni kya Karuri Self-Help Group and their families in Kenya have a new source of safe, clean water. A new sand dam has been constructed on a local river, which will build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water. The self-help group members have also received training in sanitation and hygiene, and plan to share what they learned with their families and neighbors. You made it happen, now help keep the water flowing! Join our team of monthly donors and help us maintain this sand dam and many other projects.

The report below from our partner gives the latest details of the project. We also just updated the project page with new pictures. Make sure to click on the “See Photos & Video” tab to check them out!

Project Result: New Knowledge

Hygiene and sanitation training was held near the center of town, where community members normally meet for weekly announcements and fellowship. This area was also shady and peaceful, so participants could sit comfortably out of the scorching sun. The next-door neighbor also opened up their home in the case of rain and their latrine to be used as needed.

We had to meticulously plan out the training schedule since this community is approximately 400 kilometers away from the main office. It takes around five hours to travel here, so our trainers had to spend the night in a nearby town. To ensure our trip was valuable, we let group members know about the two days of training as soon as possible.

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Training was well-attended with all 38 members of the self-help group for both days. This was especially impressive, since we found out that the second day of training was market day. Everyone in the area comes together to buy and sell goods, which is one of the only ways these farmers can make money. Surprisingly, all the group members decided to skip market day to attend our second day of sessions.

We started by mapping out all water sources and sanitation facilities in the community, and investigated how people use these. We talked about what makes a practice good or bad for health and hygiene. These discussions and the illustrations we used helped participants realize the issues their community must deal with. We then presented ways the community can alleviate these issues. How can they block the spread of disease? Hand-washing is one of the most effective barriers, so we highlighted having and using hand-washing stations.

By the end of training, the group members had developed their own action plan that will guide them in implementing what they learned. For example, every household should have a latrine and hand-washing stations by a certain date. Farmer and mother Mrs. Wanza was excited about what she learned. She said, “Attending the training helped me learn how to prevent spread of germs at home. I am sure I will teach my young children on what I learnt today.”

The self-help group also has select members who formed a committee that will oversee the project’s management and maintenance.

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Project Result: Sand Dam

Construction began on May 8th.

The construction process was successful with no challenges. The group was highly motivated to construct a new sand dam because of their previous experience. They had seen the impact of sand dams! The group chairman exhibited great leadership, and all the local materials our artisans needed were delivered ahead of schedule. It took a record time of one month for the group to gather all the stones that would be used. The group did this for six hours each day for a period of 38 days.

Actual building work started in the early days of September and continued for 18 days until the dam was fully constructed. This included trenching (digging down to the bedrock) and ended with building the wall itself. The sand dam was measured to be 4.6 meters high and 54.7 meters long.

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Farmer Mr. David Ngui Maluki helped each step of the way. When construction was finished, he said “We are very happy to see the results of our work. Now it’s also important to plan how we will use the water harvested by the sand dam.” The group plans to monitor how water is gathered at the sand dam. Scoop holes are for livestock and domestic use, and the adjacent hand-dug well is for drinking only (click here to see the hand-dug well). These two projects will work as a system: The sand dam will build up sand over time, raising the water table and naturally filtering water, and the hand-dug well will provide a safe access point to that water.

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10/04/2016: Kyeni kya Karuri Sand Dam Project Underway

We are happy to announce that the Kyeni kya Karuri Self-Help Group and their community in Kenya will soon be transformed by the construction of a sand dam. The dam will help raise the water table in the area, providing clean water and helping with agriculture. The community will also attend an important training on daily habits that will prevent disease and improve health. We just posted an initial report including information about the community, GPS coordinates, and pictures. We’ll keep you posted as the work continues.

Take a look under the tabs above, and Thank You for your help!

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Explore More of The Project

Project Photos

Monitoring Data

Project Type:  Sand Dam
Location:  Kitui, Waita, Karuli
ProjectID: 4472
Install Date:  11/07/2016

Monitoring Data
Water Point:
Last Visit: 12/20/2017

Visit History:
06/12/2017 — Functional
09/06/2017 — Functional
12/20/2017 — Functional

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.

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.


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
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Country Details


Population: 39.8 Million
Lacking clean water: 43%
Below poverty line: 50%

Partner Profile

Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF) supports self-help groups to harvest and conserve water through construction of sand dams & shallow wells, rock catchments and school roof catchments.