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Location: Kenya

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 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

Tei wa Nzung’u Self-Help Group lives in the upper area of southeastern Kenya. This area is regarded as the driest of Kitui County with little to no rainfall. Kitui temperatures range from 14 to 34C (57 to 93F), with July the coldest month and September the hottest.

Because of a lack of rainfall, there are limited water sources. There are seasonal rivers that form after a bout of rain, but quickly dry up after. The Athi River and Tana River are the only main rivers in the entire county, and form the borders for that area.

There are cultural practices that persist rather than progress; women are still not allowed to make decisions without the approval of men here. Tei wa Nzung’u Self-Help Group was formed with the goals of not only addressing water scarcity in the community, but of countering this retrogressive structure. Most of the members of the group are women who rely on farming as their main source of income.

This area has a huge population of 880 people from dozens of 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.  That’s why it’s so great that this community has agreed to a five year plan to build more sand dams and hand-dug wells. To learn more, click here.)

Water Situation

The Kamuwongo River is the seasonal source closest to this community. There is also an unprotected spring. Still, these sources are quite a distance away, forcing women and children to spend an average of four to six hours a day fetching water. There isn’t a safe water access point at the river either, so scoop holes are dug along the river channel to get to hit the water table underneath.

20-liter jerrycans are used for fetching water, and are carried back home. Once home, water is dumped into a larger, 200 to 400-liter plastic container for storage.

A lot of time is wasted on water, making the community sacrifice many income-generating activities.

Sanitation Situation

A little more than half of homes in this area have a pit latrine. They are both shallow and poorly constructed. We met one of the women from the self-help group, Priscah Muteti. She said, “Having a good toilet is a luxury many cannot afford. Many still use the bush to relieve themselves. We are now learning that will increase diseases among the population.” You can see Priscah Muteti and her household under the “See Photos & Video” tab below.

We couldn’t find any helpful hygiene and sanitation tools like dish racks, clotheslines, or hand-washing stations. Garbage is sorted between biodegradable and not, so that compost can be fed to animals and fertilize farms. Excess non-biodegradable is often burned.

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 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. Along with these sand dams, hand-dug wells will be installed to give locals a good, safe way to access that water.

This particular sand dam is projected to be 51.6 meters long and 4.38 meters high. The community has agreed that this is the best place to begin building; there are no property owners to interfere, and there is also good bedrock and a sand bank which will maximize water conservation behind the dam.

The members are ready and willing to contribute the local materials needed to begin construction, including sand, stones, and ballast. Once our artisans arrive, they are prepared to offer their time and strength to get this sand dam done right.

It is the girl child who will most benefit from a sand dam. She often misses school in order to help her parents fetch water. She also misses school because of hygiene-related challenges that result from a water shortage. With a new sand dam closer to home, less time will be wasted for fetching water. As the sand dam matures, there will also be enough water to use for personal hygiene and domestic chores, let alone enough to drink!

A hand-dug well is also scheduled to be installed adjacent to the sand dam, which will give people a safe way to fetch drinking water (click here to view that project).

Recent Project Updates

12/20/2017: A Year Later: Nzung'u Sand Dam

A year ago, generous donors helped build a sand dam for the Tei wa Nzung’u 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.

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12/05/2016: Tei wa Nzung'u Sand Dam Project Complete

We are very excited to report that, thanks to your willingness to help, the members of the Tei wa Nzung’u 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 in a group member’s compound central to all the others. By consulting early with the self-help group’s committee, we were able to set a good training date to ensure a high turnout. The group was already meeting every Friday, so we decided to start on Thursday and wrap things up Friday.

Training was well-attended, with at least three quarters of the members. We expected to miss some of the farmers who preferred to stay on their farms during the rain.

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We taught how to control germs and sickness at the household level. For this topic, the community was sensitized about how germs spread and how to reduce the spread of germs. The community was also trained on how to maintain household hygiene by using dish racks, clotheslines, and compost pits. A focus of training was hand-washing and its importance. The trainer demonstrated how to wash hands, when to wash hands, and how to use soap. We taught participants how to make their own hand-washing station. The group was also trained on water treatment and how to handle water to keep it safe and clean for use.

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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. The self-help group has also selected members to form a committee that will oversee the project’s management and maintenance.

Mrs. Mwende Mwinzi said that “this training was timely. Now that we have so much water, we want to educate others on how to use it and ensure it’s always clean.”

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Project Result: Sand Dam

Construction for this sand dam began in late September. The group took some extra time to gather construction materials, since most members are women, and the rocks and barrels of sand proved to be very heavy for them. They planned carefully and finally transported everything they needed to the site. Sand dam construction was simultaneous to construction of a hand-dug well which will give locals a safe method of drawing drinking water. As the sand dam matures and provides more water, more of that water will be accessible at the well. To see that project, click here.

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Trenching down to the bedrock was also difficult. Husbands and other community members were not helpful, and were even uncooperative. In fact, men told the women that they needed to stop working on the dam; they should not be allowed to do such intensive labor. The women persevered; the entire dam was built by less than 15 people in a little over a month. Other self-help groups in the area cheered the women on and encouraged them to finish what they started. Some even offered help with heavy labor. The chairman of Kyeni Kya Karuri Self-Help Group often visited Tei wa Nzung’u to regularly check on the project. He played a huge role in supporting and motivating the women.

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56-year-old farmer Monicah Nduni Muithya is one of the women who worked so hard. She said, “We never thought we could make it, but we are grateful that the effort and persistence of 15 women will provide clean water to more households. This is a journey that we will ensure we see its end.”

Such resilience and motivation helped the women accomplish the impossible. Their self-help group had started with 28 members, but shrunk to just 15 by the end of construction. The remaining members are all women, whose story is of hope and sheer determination.

One of the 15 women told us “I feel alive and proud. Many residents of the community are headed to the sand dam site today to see the huge amount of water that the dam has harvested. We have never seen such amounts of water!”

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The group faced severe discrimination and then pressure from their husbands not to work. Many women were physically abused and prohibited from leaving their homes. Other members of the community called them crazy because of their hard work to finish the dam. Now, the story is different. “Many times we wanted to give up due to pressure, but we would remember the pain of getting up early at 3AM to fetch water and then work. Now, our husbands who were even opposed to the project will reap from the benefits of the project,” said Tabitha Maluki.

Now that the community has water, the women hope more people will join their group as they prepare to construct their second sand dam in 2017.

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10/03/2016: Tei wa Nzung'u Sand Dam Project Underway

We are happy to announce that the Tei wa Muzung’u 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 hygiene and sanitation training to learn about practices that can improve their 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, Tei wa Nuzung'u
ProjectID: 4473
Install Date:  12/05/2016

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: Nzung'u Sand Dam

December, 2017

Initially, we used to get water from a river which is three kilometers away. We used to line up for long hours but currently, we only take 30 minutes.

A year ago, generous donors helped build a sand dam for the Tei wa Nzung’u 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.

Tei wa Nzung’u group members are very happy because the distance to water has been reduced to less than a kilometer after completion of their first sand dam. Just next to the sand dam, there are healthy and leafy kales and spinach growing. These act as the group’s source of income, for whatever they don’t eat themselves they sell in the local market.

Mrs. Mwendwa and her good friend, walking on all of the beautiful sand this dam has built up over the past year.

Kasyoka Mwendwa is the chairwoman in charge of this sand dam and its adjacent hand-dug well. She met us there to discuss the changes her group has witnessed since last year. “Initially, we used to get water from a river which is three kilometers away. We used to line up for long hours but currently, we only take 30 minutes. We now use the time saved to do constructive work like tending to vegetables. Watering our livestock is no longer a problem, and our cattle survive the dry season unlike before when water was a big problem. We have also established vegetable plots on our farms which act as a source of income,” she shared.

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.

Mrs. Mwendwa pumping clean water at the well adjacent to this dam.

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.


Van Buren Elementary School
Data Abstract Solutions, Inc.
Fusion Youth Ministry
Aquarion Water Company of New Hampshire
Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church
Halls Christian Church
Plymouth United Church of Christ
Miramar High School/Pan African High School
The Episcopal Church of St. Peter By-The-Lake
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
First Baptist Church of Lincoln, NC, Inc.
Hartland Lakeside school district
Gift for humanity
Ernest Hemingway
Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada Inc.
Care of The Gail Foundation
Christ Outreach Church Women of Faith
WaterSmart Software
67 individual donor(s)

Want to start your own campaign? Learn more »

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.