Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Oct 2017

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/15/2024

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

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).

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Peter Muthusi

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 Kaani to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training and monitor their water point. We checked in on the community and asked how the pandemic is affecting their lives.

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

Our field officer met Peter outside his home to conduct the interview. Both our staff member and Peter observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Peter's story, in his own words.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

"Fear and anxieties around the disease and the future have been heightened due to the closure of businesses. Following the rise of cases daily, we are afraid of contracting the disease, and this has led to loneliness as we are not interacting with our neighbors as we used to. Unreliable source of income at this time has resulted in family conflicts and disagreements because of lack of money. Not being able to speak to friends and meeting them regularly is hard. We feel like we are disconnected from society, and we are wondering when the situation will normalize."

What steps is Kenya taking to prevent the spread of the virus?

"To stop the spread of the virus, Kenya has been conducting sensitization training of health care workers in Kenya. Frequent health education campaigns have been airing on media outlets to inform citizens on how to protect themselves by wearing masks all the time, washing their hands and avoiding crowded places. Quarantine facilities have been set up to ensure the victims of the virus are isolated for fourteen days. Contact tracing has also been going on to prevent the spread of this virus."

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?

"When going to the water sources we have been observing government regulations like wearing masks and social distancing. We have established handwashing stations near the wells to ensure each member washes their hands before handling the pump."

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

"Despite the challenges, we are very thankful to The Water Project and Africa Sand Dam Foundation for empowering us with skills that have been applicable during this pandemic. Training such as smart agriculture practices, soap making, and construction of tippy taps have all boosted our survival capacity during this time. Both sand dam and the well are saving us time and enabling increased food production and tree planting for soil conservation. We have been using the water to plant vegetables such as kales, spinach, onions, and tomatoes, which have helped in supplementing our diets during this period."

How has getting food been at this time?

"At the onset of the virus in our country, we had a great harvest which I stored in my granary. Had there been market days, I would sell some of my farm products to get some income. Unfortunately, we had no funds to purchase pesticides. Weevils have destroyed our food in stores, and we are currently facing starvation."

June, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Kaani 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 Kaani, 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.

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

A year ago, generous donors helped construct a sand dam and hand-dug well for Kaani 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...

October, 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!

6 kenya4761 collecting materials

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.

8 kenya4761 tool distribution

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.

August, 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!

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: Kaani Community, Ivuka SHG

September, 2018

Pumping the well to collect water is fun, says six-year-old Caleb.

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Kaani Community 2A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kaani Community 2A 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 Kaani 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 Titus Mbithi with you.

Community members within Ivuka Village are no longer traveling to Thwake River, more than two kilometers away, to fetch water from scoop holes. The water project implemented in their village last year has been supplying them with clean water all year round.

Time initially wasted in the pursuit of water is now being utilized for farming. The majority of people here report having substantially increased their food production during this harvesting period.

"This project has brought clean water close to everyone within the village and all of us are reaping the fruits of its existence," Patricia Mbithe said.

"Water from the well is always clean and sweet; the project has brought joy to all of us."

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 and well in Kaani is changing many lives.

"Before the implementation of this project I had never been involved in fetching water because the distances involved were large," Caleb Wambua, a six-year-old boy, said.

"Nowadays, mum has been sending me to the well to get water because it is near our home. I enjoy the process of pumping!"

Caleb pumping the well

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 Kaani Community 2A 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 Kaani Community 2A – 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.


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