Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 254 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jun 2017

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/20/2024

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

The Mbuuni Self-Help Group is located in Mbuuni Village, Kaani sub-location, Iveti location, Kathiani Sub-County of Machakos County. The household size of the self-help group has an average of five members while the average age of the group is 45. Mbuuni Village itself has a total population of 254.

36% of the members said that their main source of income is casual labor, which is mostly available during the planting and harvesting seasons. Another 27% depends on farming as their sole source of income. 27% of the group members said that they rely on a salary at the end of the month, 7% of the members operate small businesses which act as their main source of daily income while a small percent (2%) rely on other sources. 1% of the whole group relies on livestock sales for income.

Water Situation

The Machakos government drilled a borehole in this region, which has become the safe, go-to source for the surrounding population of a huge circumference. Though many living in Mbuuni Village are drinking clean water from this borehole, they are doing so at an extremely high cost:

  • 21% of members travel over 1 km to this source
  • The majority line up at the borehole waiting for water for more than 2 hours
  • 27% wait for about 1 hour

Couple the travel time and the wait time together, and a majority of the day is spent focused on water access.

Thus, a majority of community members walk to the nearby riverbed where they dig scoop holes for water. Though many mothers boil water before serving it to their families, waterborne disease is still a common consequence of drinking scoop hole water. These open holes in the riverbed are subject to contamination from all directions!

When delivered home, water is poured into larger plastic storage containers.

Sanitation Situation

Sanitation and hygiene is not the predominant issue in Mbuuni Village, it is water access. People are doing their best to keep their compounds clean with the little water they have. 100% of homes have their own latrine, and those we observed were in fairly good condition. Everyone also has a dedicated facility for practicing personal hygiene.

A majority of families are also utilizing helpful tools like dish racks and clotheslines to safely dry their belongings up off the ground. However, there were only a few hand-washing stations observed.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training

To address gaps in hygiene and sanitation practices in Mbuuni Community, training will be offered to self-help group members on two consecutive days. The members will learn about useful practices and tools to improve health, and then will be able to share those with their families and neighbors. Water transport, storage, and treatment methods will be taught, and hand-washing will be a focus. Group members will learn how to make their own hand-washing stations with everyday materials.

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 55.2 meters long and 5.6 meters high. The group members first pointed out their preferred locations for the sand dam, and then our technical team followed up to ensure the viability of construction.

As the sand dam construction begins, community members will start excavating the first adjacent hand-dug well (click here to see that well project).

Project Updates

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

During our training, we met Janet Mutuku, a 44-year-old teacher who lives in the community.

Janet Mutuku

She shared with us the challenges she faces during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is not working right now since the schools are closed across Kenya. That has made her life more difficult. However, the set of sand dams and hand-dug wells that her self-help group constructed over the past few years is something Janet can rely on.

“Having a well and sand dam project at this time has been a great blessing and we are very grateful for the support granted by The Water Project. Times are hard and having a reliable source of water is very advantageous," she said.

Fetching water from one of the Mbuuni wells, before COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

Handwashing station

"We are expected to wash our hands frequently and this has been possible because our projects have been providing an abundant supply of water,” Janet said.

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.

September, 2018: A Year Later: Mbuuni Community Sand Dam

A year ago, generous donors helped construct a sand dam and hand-dug well for Mbuuni Community in Kenya. The contributions of incredible monthly donors and others giving directly to The Water Promise allow teams to visit project sites throughout the year, strengthening relationships with communities and evaluating the water project over time. These consistent visits allow us to learn vital lessons and hear amazing stories. Read more...

June, 2017: Mbuuni Community Sand Dam Complete

Mbuuni Community, Kenya now has a new source of water thanks to your donation. 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. Community members have also learned about 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: Hygiene and Sanitation Training

Hygiene and sanitation training was held at one of the group members' homesteads. Over 90% of the self-help group attended, setting the total attendance at 153 people!

3 kenya4760 training

Attendance was so large that several groups had to be formed for each activity.

The main topics we covered were:

– How to prevent the spread of germs

– Common diseases and germ routes

– Water hygiene: types of treatment

– Using the latrine

– Proper waste disposal

– Building sanitation facilities (dish racks and clotheslines)

– Hand-washing and how to build a hand-washing station

7 kenya4760 training

Groups also worked together to write action plans to implement hygiene and sanitation standards in their homes.

Local businesswoman Felistus Kioko was one of the 80 women who attended training. "The training was good and a success. I have learned a lot of new things as far as hygiene and sanitation is concerned. Some of the things that I have learnt that I didn’t even know are important include; How to construct a dish rack, Importance of digging a rubbish pit, cleaning water jerricans, cleaning compounds and burning litter, latrine hygiene and different methods of water treatment. I have also learned that I should cover my latrine with a lid," she shared.

Project Result: Sand Dam

The community members collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand that were required for successful completion of the dam. They also provided unskilled labor to support our artisans. Out of the entire process, collection of the raw construction materials takes longer than the actual construction. For a super large sand dam, material collection could take up to four months! But because of the hundreds of hard-working community members, there were no delays to this project.

27 kenya4760 construction

Community members form a line to easily transport stones from one location to another.

Before actual construction started, siting and technical designs were drawn and presented to the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) for approval. Once approved, we had to begin establishing firm bedrock at the base of the sand dam wall. In the absence of good bedrock, excavation is done up to a depth at which the technical team is satisfied that the ground is firm enough to stop seepage. Then mortar (a mixture of sand, cement and water) is mixed and heaped into the foundation. Once there is enough mortar to hold rocks available, rocks are heaped into the mortar. Barbed wire and twisted bar is used to reinforce the mixture. Once the foundation is complete, a skeleton of timber is built to hold the sludge and rocks up above ground level. The process is then repeated until a sufficient height, width and length is built up. Then, the timber form is dismantled and the dam is left to cure.

29 kenya4760 construction

The sand dam is now complete and can begin to store water. It measures 5.6 meters high and 55.2 meters long. 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 hand-dug well, click here.

Thank You for standing with Mbuuni Community to transform their environment and change lives!

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: Mbuuni Community

September, 2018

John Muia can now go out and fetch water on his own since the new hand-dug well is just a short walk from his home. Most importantly, he and his family are not drinking from open and contaminated scoop holes!

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mbuuni 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 construct a sand dam and hand-dug well for Mbuuni Community in Kenya. The contributions of incredible monthly donors and others giving directly to The Water Promise allow teams to visit project sites throughout the year, strengthening relationships with communities and evaluating the water project over time. These consistent visits allow us to learn vital lessons and hear amazing stories – and we’re excited to share this one from Joe Kioko with you.

Members of Mbuuni Community no longer struggle with digging scoop holes at Thwake River to find water to use at their homes and for watering their livestock. The sand dam and shallow well system provides the community with clean water throughout the year.

"Since last year, I have been able to walk to the shallow well with a 5-liter jerrycan to fetch water by myself. Before where it was only my mom who would fetch water for us, because of the long distance to the source," John Muia, a 6-year-old boy, said.

Construction of the dam and well is only one step along the journey toward sustainable access to clean water. The Water Project is committed to consistent monitoring of each water source. Our monitoring and evaluation program, made possible by donors like you, allows us to maintain our relationships with communities by visiting up to 4 times each year to ensure that the water points are safe and reliable.

This is just one of the many ways that we monitor projects and communicate with you. Additionally, you can always check the functionality status and our project map to see how all of our water points are performing, based on our consistent monitoring data.

One project is just a drop in the bucket towards ending the global water crisis, but the ripple effects of this project are truly astounding. This dam well in Mbuuni is changing many lives.

"Fetching water has been simplified since I no longer dig scoop holes or wait for hours in long queues. Water availability has freed up more time for me which I now use on my farm," Immaculate Muia said.

She said the availability of water has made it easier to ensure her children's school uniforms are clean. And it also led her to plant trees at her home for shade, fruit, and timber.

This is only possible because of the web of support and trust built between The Water Project, our local teams, the community, and you. We are excited to stay in touch with this community and support their journey with safe water.

Read more about The Water Promise 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 Mbuuni 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 Mbuuni 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 Underwriter - Alan and Lesley Pedersen
Learning Ninjas
Optimus Companies
Stone Family
Gary Alumnae Chapter of Dleta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
MeKo Travel
Crosstown Covenant Church
The Ajay Dayal Presidential Fund
In honor of Connor McGregor
68 individual donor(s)