Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/21/2024

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

Katalwa Jipe Moyo Self-Help Group was formed in 2009 and later registered in 2013. It currently has 24 female members, making it an all women's group. Most of the women are from Katalwa Village which has a population of 43 people. Their larger area is home to 2,256 people.

The average age of these women is 53 years, and their average household size is six.

Their main reason for forming was for social welfare activities, farm terracing, table banking and poultry keeping.

Water Situation

Water in most parts of Kitui County is collected from scoop holes in sandy riverbeds. There's no water flowing aboveground, but if community members dig deep enough they'll find it. This is no exception for the women of Katalwa Jipe Moyo, who walk to the Katalwa kwa Kutu River to fetch water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, and all other needs. However, they do have an unprotected shallow well located in the riverbed that gives them a select place to fetch water. When not being used, a cover is placed over the hole. When being used, a bucket is lowered for water and raised with a rope.

20-liter jerrycans are filled and transported on dokey or ox-drawn carts. Other households are able to afford motorbikes - people are getting really good at balancing heavy loads as they ride their motorbikes! But those who cannot afford any of the above must resort to hefting these heavy containers on their backs.

The unprotected well has a large contamination entry point at the hatch. This open well does not keep bugs or litter out of the water, and the bucket and rope themselves directly introduce new contaminants.

Rampant waterborne disease is a daily reality for people who rely on this dirty water for drinking. Any money that was saved from farming is instead used on treating these sicknesses.

Sanitation Situation

We were able to visit with Agnes Mwende and Tabitha Munywoki at their neighboring homesteads to talk about hygiene and sanitation in their community.

A little over half of households have at least some sort of pit latrine, though most of the lack doors and just have a curtain hanging in the opening. The materials used for the latrine walls depend on a household's economic status. But because so many people still don't have their own latrine, open defecation is an issue in this community. Waste left out in the open like this attracts flies that spread germs throughout the community, endangering all.

A handful of hand-washing stations were seen, along with dish racks and clotheslines for drying things safely off the ground. Half of households dispose of their garbage in an open area, while only a third have a pit.

As for water hygiene, 20 out of 23 people surveyed don't treat their drinking water.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training

To address gaps in hygiene and sanitation practices in Nzalae Community, 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. Open defecation certainly won’t be overlooked; everyone will be aware of how not using a latrine endangers the entire community. Since it's such an issue here, we will be leading the community through CLTS (community-led total sanitation).

Plans: Sand Dam

Members of this 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. It will be located in neighboring Nzalae Community, since this is actually most central for all self-help group members. This particular sand dam is projected to be 50.6 meters long and 4.25 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 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.

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

Agnes Mwende told us, "We have consumed dirty water all our lives. But this is a sure answer to better health and less waterborne diseases in our village. When we saw cement being delivered on site, we saw God. We can't be more grateful!"

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Mary Kitheka

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 Katalwa Community 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 Mary Kitheka shared her story of how the Coronavirus has impacted her life.

Our team met Mary outside her home to conduct the interview. Both our staff and Mary observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Mary’s story in her own words.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

All my working children were sacked and others their companies closed, sending them home with no pay, this has brought a lot of financial challenges at home. In the past rain season, I only had a handful harvest which has been depleted because of the increased consumption at home, the situation is terrible because market days are now suspended, and I cannot even sell livestock and get money for upkeep.

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

The government has imposed movement curfews across the country with no movement of people being allowed past 7 PM up to 5 AM. Counties with high cases of the virus are locked down. No travel is allowed in and out of the counties to control its spread to other areas. Our local members of the county assembly supported us with masks in our village so that we can be able to protect ourselves while in public places.

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?

As a community, we had implemented two sand dams and shallow wells over the years in our village. Water is now accessible to all from within. I only walk to the well with my children and grandchildren, draw water, and walk back home. Having water from within is helping us avoid interactions with people from outlying areas while also making the stay at home guidelines easy to follow.

Mary washes her hands

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

The shallow wells are fully functional and have been providing us with clean water all the time. We put to use our knowledge of handwashing and soap making. We make soap for use in our tippy taps to enable regular handwashing with soap as a way to protect ourselves from the Coronavirus.

How has getting food been at this time?

I depend on my small farm produce as the primary source of food for my family. The food is little compared to the population at home and with no adequate extra funding. Getting supplies from the local markets has been a challenge as the markets are closed, while others have taken advantage of raising the prices of essential food commodities.

May, 2019: A Year Later: Nzalae Community Sand Dam

A year ago, your generous donation helped us construct a sand dam for Nzalae Community in Kenya. The contributions of incredible monthly donors and others giving directly to The Water Promise allow our 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...

January, 2018: Nzalae Community Sand Dam Complete

Nzalae 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

The training officers communicated with self-help group committee members to plan four days of hygiene and sanitation training. Total attendance was wonderful, with both the area chief and his assistant chief there. It was held at Janet Musili's homestead, which was a central meeting point for participants.

The first day was set aside for sharing expectations, discussing issues common to Nzalae, and taking a transect walk. This walk around the community and its homesteads revealed both the strengths and the weaknesses that we would need to focus on the next few days.

On the transect walk

The next day, we met to talk about how much waste the community generates, and how much that waste can then contaminate the environment and cause illnesses. We also calculated the medical costs to show that yes, properly disposing of waste is worth it! It may require capital investment when building a latrine, but community members will save money in the long run.

The third day we focused on the transmission of germs. How are germs spread, and how can we build barriers for those routes?

Last but certainly not least, we gathered together to make an action plan for implementing all of these new things. We also taught how to build hand-washing stations and how to make soap.

Mixing soap

69-year-old Jedidah Mue expressed her gratefulness by saying, "It was a good training. There are two activities that we did during the training: the transect walk and the water contamination activity that have challenged us to construct latrines. I’m sure that open defecation will no longer be practiced in our area. Calculation of medical bills has made us realize that we spend a lot of money for treatment that we are supposed to be utilizing on developing ourselves. During elections, I spent over 8,000 shillings on treatment. This was as a result of drinking dirty water. From the knowledge I have gained, I’m sure that our water has been contaminated with feces. I have already started warning my family not to practice open defecation and lied to the young ones that some police officers have been deployed to monitor those defecating in the open."

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!

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.

Digging a trench down to the bedrock

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.

The finished height is 4.25 meters and the length is 50.6 meters. As soon as it rains, the dam will begin to build up sand and store water. With this water, the surrounding landscape will become lush and fertile. 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.

Jedidah Mue said, "We are very grateful because of the new water source that we have through the help of ASDF. We could walk for around eight kilometers to get water. Our water will no longer be contaminated because the hand-dug well is fully covered. From the knowledge that we’ve gained, we now know how to take care of our water sources through using latrines." None of this would be possible without the water a sand dam brings!

November, 2017: Nzalae Community Sand Dam Underway

Nzalae Community in Kenya will soon be transformed by the construction of a sand dam. The dam will build up sand and eventually catch rainwater to 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: Nzalae Community

October, 2018

“There is easy and fast access to water. There are no more lines and the distance we walk to access water is very short.” – Mary Kitheka

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Nzalae 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, your generous donation helped us construct a sand dam and hand-dug well for Nzalae Community in Kenya. The contributions of incredible monthly donors and others giving directly to The Water Promise allow our 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 Lilian Kendi with you.

One of the most impressive things about Nzalae Community is how far they've come concerning hygiene and sanitation. Households are clean, with good latrines and handwashing stations right outside.

The water from the hand-dug well is clean and fresh. People in the community prefer this well over any other source because of its good taste, and have been more than willing to pay fees to keep it running.

We spoke with Mrs. Mary Kitheka and Mrs. Florence Munyoke about the changes they've witnessed over the last year.

"Since the completion of this project, we have experienced many changes and developments in our community," shared Mrs. Kitheka.

"Life has become easier. There is easy and fast access to water. There are no more lines and the distance we walk to access water is very short. Less time is wasted."

Mrs. Mary Kitheka

She continued, "We have also noted that there are minimal cases of waterborne diseases such as typhoid."

Construction of the sand dam and well system 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.

From left to right: Mrs. Kitheka, Lilian Kendi, and Mrs. Munyoke

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 sand dam and well in Nzalae are changing many lives.

"I have planted vegetables such as kales and spinach on my farm which are doing very well due to the sufficient supply of water. I also planted 20 mango trees and 25 shade trees," said Mrs. Munyoke.

Mrs. Munyoke

"The walking distance I used to cover has reduced due to the proximity of the water source. I have also used the soap-making skills at my home. My kitchen is organized, I have installed handwashing stations which help in maintaining good sanitation," she added.

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 Nzalae 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 Nzalae 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.


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