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Location: Kenya

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 300 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

The Syakama Self-Help Group was formed in 2015, and now has 34 members. The members come from three different villages. The motivation for their coming together is to tackle water insecurity issues within the three villages.

As of last year, the average age of group members is 42. Some members have started “Zero Grazing” (dairy farming) as a means of income. Without sufficient access to water, this activity is bound to fail despite heavy investments during startup. After discussions with members, we learned they have a strong belief that investing in water projects like this shallow well and other sand dams will enable them to solve the water crisis; a huge burden which their parents also had to endure throughout their lives. With water nearby, the members plan to invest in initiatives such as farming and tree-planting, which have great potential to improve living standards.

The self-help group approached ASDF for support in constructing another sand dam and shallow well further down River Miseke. The first system was built last year in Kavumbu, and now they’d like to increase water access in Syakama.

Water Situation

The first sand dam and well system were built in a location along the riverbed that was closest to a portion of group members. However, there are still members who live further down the river who must spend a huge portion of their day fetching water. To cut down on trips to the first hand-dug well, these far-away group members load up their donkeys to carry as many water containers as possible.

Sanitation Situation

Though from different villages, all of the self-help group members were trained together last year (click here to see that). Revisiting a year later has encouraged our trainers; it is apparent that members taught their families valuable hygiene and sanitation practices, and shared those with their neighbors.

All Syakama households still have their own pit latrines. 100% of these families also have dedicated bathing rooms for practicing personal hygiene. Every home has a dish rack and clothesline for drying things up off the ground, and over 3/4 of families have a hand-washing station.

As we visited these families, they were enthusiastic to receive us and show us their homes.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Review

Because of the obvious positive uptake of knowledge shared last year, we’ve decided to hold review sessions for two days. Our trainers will continue to stress the importance of treating water before consuming it. We will also strengthen the committee in charge of water point management and maintenance, equipping them with the skills to ensure there’s clean water for generations to come.

The group members who have not yet constructed a hand-washing station will be reminded of its importance in preventing communicable diseases.

Plans: Sand Dam

The Syakama Self-Help Group has decided that this second sand dam and hand-dug well system should be constructed further down the river in Syakama. As of now, folks living in Syakama Village have to walk to the first system in Kavumbu.

The group members worked with our staff to find the best place along the riverbed where it is convenient for locals and viable for construction. We estimate that the sand dam will be 37.4 meters long and 3.3 meters high.

As the sand dam matures, it will build up sand and naturally filter the river’s water and the rainwater supplied during the rainy season.

It will raise the water table and transform the land, making it fertile for farming. With the ongoing installation of a hand-dug well (click here to view that project), water from this sand dam will be safely used for drinking.

Recent Project Updates

07/11/2017: Syakama Community Sand Dam Complete

Syakama 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 a hygiene and sanitation review 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: Hygiene and Sanitation Review

The training attendance was great, as most of the members were present. All group members were engaged with what they were learning and promised to change their behavior and practices.

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Group members gather together to review what they learned last year, focusing on areas of needed growth.

There were quite a few topics that the group and their communities were struggling with, and the trainer worked with them to pick out an agenda that would be most helpful. They decided to review:

-Environmental sanitation

-Latrine sanitation

-Water treatment and storage

-Food preparation and storage

-Kitchen and utensil hygiene

-Tippy tap construction (hand-washing station made from a jerrycan, rope, and sticks) and hand-washing

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Some group members still hadn’t built a hand-washing station, so our trainer reviewed how to construct, maintain, and use one.

When looking through the pictures attached to this report, you’ll find some of both last year’s training and this year’s review.

There was also an activity that taught group members how to make their own soap. The soap will serve three different purposes:

-Sanitize hands and protect people from germs
-Unlock opportunities for group profit: A total of 40 liters of soap was made during training, much of which the members plan to sell to neighbors in their community and at markets
-Increase household income: Some group members plan to teach the other adults in their households how to make this soap, turning it into a regular business
The training staff was sure to share on how to best procure materials and set fair prices for this soap.

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The group took turns mixing large buckets of soap!

After the review and the soap making activities, a short interview was conducted to gather impressions of the training and current standards of living. One member was chosen to represent the rest of the group. Esther Wayua Mutuku had the following to say:

“The training has been a good one to me and I have learned alot today since in the last training, I was not present. Among the new things that I have learned is the construction of a tippy tap, different methods of water treatment and above all, the knowledge that I have gained on soap making. On the other hand, as far as the quality and quantity of water is concerned, there’s a great change and we are grateful for that. The distance to water sources has been shortened and we fetch the water for free. On the side of nutrition, things have improved because we get our vegetables from within at affordable prices.”

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Esther Wayua Mutuku

Project Result: Sand Dam

Syakama is the second village in which Syakama Self-Help Group decided to build a water project. Although this would only be a small dam, it took quite a long time to build. Participation of the self-help group was low, without many motivated individuals helping to transport the sand, stone, and water needed for construction. We also needed able bodies to dig the trench to the bedrock, but only a few group members consistently made an effort.

Look at all of the cement bags delivered to help this group build a dam in Syakama Village!

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.

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The finished height is 3.3 meters and the length is 33.9 meters. As soon as it rains, the dam will begin to build up sand and store water. However, it could take up to two years of rain for the 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.

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04/13/2017: Syakama Community Sand Dam Underway

Syakama 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!

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Explore More of The Project

Project Photos

Project Data

Project Type:  Sand Dam
Location:  Makueni, Syakama
ProjectID: 4763
Install Date:  07/11/2017


Project Sponsor - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation

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.