Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2017

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 12/26/2022

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

Kisaila Self-Help Group was formed in the year 2011. It now has a membership of 38 members with 24 females and 14 males. Many of the group members are from Kithama Village, where this project's sand dam will be located.

The average size of a member's household is six. A third of members are ages 18-35 years, another third are of the ages 35-60 years. The rest are over 60. This is a very balanced group in terms of youthfulness and the elderly; a perfect blend for executing heavy work such as building a sand dam!

Water Situation

The group built their first sand dam and hand-dug well system last year. Whether living near or far, all group members are walking to the oasis their first system has created. Some of these sand dams are truly the only water available for miles.

Drinking water is collected from a protected hand-dug well adjacent to the sand dam.

Water used for cleaning and watering animals is still drawn from holes dug in the riverbed, to avoid overcrowding at the well.

Most adults use 20-liter plastic jerrycans, which are then loaded onto donkeys or ox-drawn carts. If a household is too poor to afford either of those, then the last resort is to carry the water on their backs. However, most households will have at least one donkey. Of late, households that can afford it use motorbikes to carry their water home.

Once delivered home, water is poured in different storage containers depending on intended use. Some water is poured in barrels near the latrine, and a lot is sent to the kitchen. Some families have been able to afford small rainwater catchment tanks, and water can also be poured in there for storage. It's also common to keep a covered clay pot in the living area so that guests have cool water to drink.

Sanitation Situation

This is our second year of community engagement, with most members of the self-help group having attended training on hygiene and sanitation last year.

100% of group members have a latrine and a bathing shelter in their homes. Compared to other groups, Kisaila group members seem to have fairly good sanitation structures in their homes. And even though they are still a mixture of both permanent and semi-permanent structures, they are clean, neat and generally well kept. This is an indicator of a very positive attitude towards hygiene and sanitation.

Every single group member has a tippy tap (hand-washing station) outside of their latrine, and we verified that each one had soap or ash as a cleaning agent. Dish racks and clotheslines are also being used appropriately.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Review

We will still hold a day of review for Kisaila. We will applaud their great work on sanitation facilities, and encourage them to maintain them. We will continue to teach about household hygiene and water hygiene, teaching how to fetch, transport, and store water to keep it clean until consumption.

It is likely that due to recent cholera outbreaks in Kenya, we will hold a session on how to prevent cholera and recognize its symptoms.

Since this group has been so successful with hygiene and sanitation implementation, we can move on to covering income-generating activities like making and selling soap.

Plans: Sand Dam

The group has selected a spot down the river from their first sand dam, and our technical team has already verified the technical viability of this location. This sand dam will be located in Kathama Village, which has a population of 790.

This second dam is projected to be 62 meters long and 4.5 meters high.

This new dam will bring more water to families living far away from the first sand dam. 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.

Project Updates

09/20/2018: A Year Later: Kathama Community Sand Dam

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

08/14/2018: Kathama Community Sand Dam Complete

Kathama Community, Kenya has a source of water thanks to your donation. A new sand dam was constructed on a local river, which will build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water. Community members also attended hygiene and sanitation training, and plan to share what they learned with their families and neighbors.

We apologize for the delay in receiving this wonderful news from us. We have made improvements to our system to ensure that you always hear about your project as soon as possible!

We also updated the project page with new pictures, so make sure to check them out.

Progress and New Knowledge

Though we've been in relationship with Kisaila Self-Help Group for a while now, there's always ways we can encourage them. Last year, we really pushed hard for every household to have a latrine. Now, it's about cleaning those latrines on a daily basis and making sure the pit is always covered. We also meet together for review trainings, and follow up on the household level to make sure everything is being implemented.

We've had two recent sessions: the first was a review of many hygiene and sanitation practices the group is working on, and the second was a training on making soap. We made 11 random household visits to check where the group is at, learning about which topics they've made progress on and what areas of weakness still remain. We were so excited to find that the majority has dish racks, clotheslines, and hand-washing stations with soap.

55-year-old Ann Nguli attended both the review and training on soap. She said, "The training has always been good to us through the knowledge that we gain on hygiene. For instance, we have gained enough knowledge on the importance of keeping our homes clean, cleaning our latrines on a daily basis and having a latrine lid, having a tippy tap so as to wash our hands every time after visiting latrine, having a utensil rack to dry our utensils and always using soap when washing our hands. In addition to all that, today I have a learned a new and very important thing, and that is soap making. This will enable me to improve on hygiene at personal level and generally at my homestead for washing clothes, cleaning my house, washing utensils and for taking shower and washing our hands after visiting latrine. The knowledge of soap making that I have gained, I will use it to make soap for commercial purpose."

Participants took turns mixing soap.

Last but not least, group members were provided with the resources to start a tree nursery. As these trees mature, they will transplant them to their own farms.

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.

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 4.5 meters and the length is 62 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.

"Access to safe drinking water is the best thing that has happened to us. Nowadays, we walk for a very short distance to fetch drinking water. My livestock don’t go far in search of drinking water, and I have improved hygiene at different levels because of access to plenty of clean water. Sicknesses like amoeba and typhoid that were a big stress to us before are rare cases nowadays," shared Mrs. Nguli.

11/21/2017: Kathama Community Sand Dam Underway

Kathama 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 a review on last year's hygiene and sanitation training, as well as learn even more new practices to 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 Dam

Seasonal streams (and the sand they carry) are trapped by dams, replenishing the water table and allowing for adjacent hand-dug wells. Almost completely led by community-supplied sweat and materials, and under the supervision of engineers, dams are strategically placed within those dry river-beds. The next time it rains, flood-waters are trapped.

With a sand dam, this trapped sand begins to hold millions of gallons of rainwater. Soon enough, sand reaches the top of the dam, allowing water to continue downstream – where it meets the next dam. The result? A regional water table is restored.

A Year Later: Kathama Community

September, 2018

The environment has changed, and we are happy about it.

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kathama 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 Kathama 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 Lilian Kendi with you.

Mr. Amos Matheka and Mr. Musyoka Wambua celebrate that since the entry of water into Kathama Community, there have been improvements in many areas of life. Farmers are experiencing successful harvests of watermelons, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Less time is spent doing chores while more time is spent making an income. Improved hygiene has welcomed improved health.

Mr. Amos Matheka filling a jerrycan with water from the sand dam and well system.

"The biggest change I have experienced on a personal level is the distance covered. I used to go and fetch water very far which hindered me from working on my motorcycle business. I had to wake up very early to go and fetch water for the family when my wife was expecting. The well is very close," said Mr. Amos Matheka.

Mr. Amos Matheka

"Now we can engage in other activities such as farming because there is more time at our disposal and the house chores can be finished early enough. I have used the water from this well for farming watermelons, tomatoes and kales."

Mr. Wambua continued the thought, saying "The environment has changed, and we are happy about it. It is cool and serene with lots of green vegetation to look at. The water levels have increased, making the water table near and easily accessible. Our livestock can now get easy access to water, our domestic work is easier to perform and we have enough food because of the water."

Mr. Musyoka Wambua

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.

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 Kathama 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 Kathama 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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