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Location: Kenya

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  Installed

Functionality Status: 

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

Ivuka Self-Help Group was formed in January 2016 with the objective of developing and enhancing the social welfare of its members. The group now has a membership of 25 members who come from Ivumbu, Kasioni and Kaani Communities which have a total population of 4,220 people. Their greater region hosts 14,000 people coming from 1,650 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 we’ve formed a relationship with this group and plan to support them to do multiple water projects over the next couple of years until adequate water is available. To learn more, click here.)

We visited with and interviewed two different families. At the first household, we met with 70-year-old Teresia Kilonzo who takes care of her grandchildren during the day. At the second household, we spoke with 41-year-old mother Mbithe Nzomo.

Water Situation

The majority of people living in this region must travel to the Thwake River to find water. Some families are able to decrease these trips with the collection of rainwater – if they are able to afford a tank and gutter system (you will see one of these 3,000-liter tanks in the pictures from our visit to “household 1”). Of course this is entirely contingent on the weather, and unfortunately there are rainless months in western Kenya. Both rainwater and the water collected from the river is used for drinking, cooking, irrigating farms, and cleaning.

At first look the river appears dry, but community members know that if they dig a hole in the sand, they’ll hit water. These holes are muddied by the surrounding sand, and are open to contaminate from many other sources. The water in the riverbed is especially dangerous during and after heavy rains. Feces, chemicals from local farms, and other waste is washed into the water. These scoop holes are also unguarded and open to wandering animals that need a drink (or a bath!).

Women carry a plastic jerrycan and a smaller container to the river, using one to fill the other. Most households have at least one pack animal to help them carry their full 20-liter containers back home. After drinking, community members suffer from waterborne diseases.

(Editor’s Note: Please note that the scoop hole picture included in this report is an example taken from a different project.)

Sanitation Situation

Latrine coverage here is impressive; every household has at least one pit facility where they can properly dispose of waste. Over half of all the Ivuka Self-Help Group members have hand-washing stations and helpful tools like dish racks and clotheslines. 65% have dug a pit for their garbage, which keeps it from blowing around and polluting the environment.

Farmer Muthama Nzioki still notices lots of room for improvement, telling us that “Although all members of our group have pit latrines in their homes, most lack the basic knowledge of proper sanitation. Most people don’t wash hands after visiting the latrines and very few treat drinking water because they think spending 30 shillings on “water guard” (water treatment chemicals) is a lot of money. We are therefore looking forward to the sanitation training which will be an eye opener to most if not all group members.”

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training

To address gaps in hygiene and sanitation practices in these three communities, training will be offered to self-help group members on three 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. To motivate participants, we must show the links between these activities and their people’s health. To further develop group members, we will work together to draft an action plan that will realize good sanitation and hygiene in each home, the overall villages, and their water points.

Plans: Sand Dam

Members of Ivuka Self-Help Group heard about us from a neighboring self-help group that we are working with. They then approached our field officer with a request for support, and after verifying that they had the relevant registration documents, they were put on our mandatory six-month probation period. During this time, locals are expected to seriously take development to heart and begin constructing hygiene facilities and gathering local materials to be used in the construction process. After that, we returned to verify their water challenges and their need for additional support. The evidence to warrant our support was sufficient, and the group was taken on board. Their first proposed site for a sand dam was also approved by our technical team because there is firm bedrock and wide banks. This particular sand dam is projected to be 24 meters long and 3.95 meters high.

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 self-help group to address the scarcity of clean water in their three communities. 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.

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

Recent Project Updates

10/17/2017: Kaani Community Sand Dam Complete

Kaani 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 attended hygiene and sanitation training, 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, so make sure to check them out!

Project Result: New Knowledge

Hygiene and sanitation training was held at a self-help group member’s homestead. Group leadership corresponded with our field officer, Veronica Matolo, to plan this schedule. Attendance and participation was good, with members more than willing to learn new things and put them into practice.

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

By the end of training, the group had developed their own action plan to implement the hygiene and sanitation practices they learned. Mr. Onsemus Nzyoki said, “The training was very educative and also enjoyable. We have had a chance of three days to learn a lot of things – and especially on a lot of mistakes that we do knowingly and unknowingly in our homes. From the many things that were trained in the three days, I have learned the importance of treating drinking water and the different methods of doing it. I have also learned that it is very important to have a latrine at our water sources to prevent contamination of our drinking water with human feces, as well as constructing latrines in our homes. Still on the latrines, I gained knowledge on the site where latrines should be constructed as well as how to keep them clean. I have learned the importance of having other sanitation infrastructures for instance, having a tippy-tap (hand-washing station), utensil rack and a rubbish pit among others.”

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!

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Harvesting the sand and stones needed for construction.

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 vertical timber beams are dismantled and the dam is left to cure.

14 kenya4761 construction

The finished height is 5.2 meters and the length is 31.7 meters. As soon as it rains, the dam will begin to build up sand and store water. However, it could take up to three years of rain (Because sometimes it only rains once a year!) for this huge sand dam to reach maximum capacity. Sand dam construction was simultaneous to construction of a hand-dug well which gives locals a safe method of drawing water. As the sand dam matures and stores more water, more of it will be accessible as drinking water from the well. To see that hand-dug well, click here.

20 kenya4761 finished sand dam


This sand dam was particularly difficult for Ivuka Self-Help Group, not finding much usable sand and water near the construction site; they had to travel to a different length of the riverbed to find these materials. Further along in the process, a group member passed away from old age, so everyone had to organize and attend the funeral.

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Hard workers!

The group’s committee is now entirely responsible for management and maintenance of this project. They are armed with both technical skills and social skills for proper project management. Any gaps that exist can be identified through ASDF’s monitoring visits (which are always ongoing), and corrective measures will be planned through continued engagement and trainings.

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08/21/2017: Kaani Community Sand Dam Underway

Kaani 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 improve health. We just posted an initial report including information about the community, maps, and pictures. We’ll keep you posted as the work continues!

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Explore More of The Project

Project Photos

Project Data

Project Type:  Sand Dam
Location:  Machakos, Iveti, Kaani
ProjectID: 4761
Install Date:  10/15/2017


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11 individual donor(s)

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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.