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: 03/07/2024

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

The Twone Mbee Muselele Self-Help Group was formed in the year 2011. It has 47 members of which 45 are women and two are men. It is located in Muselele Village, Mulala, Nzaui District of Makueni County. Muselele Village is home to 800 people.

Since we've been working together two years now, the group already has a water and sanitation committee of 12, of which 10 are women and two are men.

The average household size is six, and the members have an average age of 42.6 years.

The group members came together for common purposes:

- Assist each other in projects of large scale, such as making rods. They say it is much better to work together because they can achieve much more than working alone.

- Construct gabions to help retain water after it rains.

- Establish a merry-go-round financing group (fund share) which supports individuals at certain times, and helps the group bond and develop trust.

Water Situation

The group has worked hard to finish two sand dams and two hand-dug wells since 2015. Whether living near or far, all group members are walking to the oases these systems have created. Some of these sand dams are truly the only water available for miles. (Click to see the first sand dam; second sand dam.)

Drinking water is collected from the protected hand-dug wells adjacent to the sand dams.

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

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

We visited Josephine Kiilu and Annah Muia to hear firsthand about their community's strengths and weaknesses when it comes to hygiene and sanitation.

Thanks to previous hygiene and sanitation training, this group has fulfilled their action plan to have 100% latrine coverage. These are a mix of permanent and semi-permanent structures, depending on the economic status of each household. Some families could only manage to hang a curtain in the doorway.

Over half of group members' families have a hand-washing station, while less than half have useful tools like dish racks and clotheslines.

We were encouraged to discover that women are cleaning their kitchens daily, and most compounds are cleaned on a daily basis too.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Review

We will be holding a day to three days of review to address gaps in the group's implementation. We will applaud their great work on latrines, and encourage them to maintain them. But we will continue to teach the importance of other facilities such as hand-washing stations, dish racks, and clotheslines.

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.

If time allows, we could also move on to covering income-generating activities like making and selling soap.

Plans: Sand Dam

For every group member to be within one kilometer of a water source, the group must move forward with a third sand dam. The group has selected a spot down the river from their first and second sand dam, and our technical team has already verified the technical viability of this location.

This third dam is projected to be 30.5 meters long and 3.75 meters high.

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

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

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

December, 2017: Muselele Community Sand Dam Complete

Muselele 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: Important Reminder

We've been working with this group since 2015, when we met for three days of hygiene and sanitation training. Since the beginning, our goals have been to show the relationship between sanitation and health, encourage community members to take care of their water source, motivate them to build sanitation facilities like latrines, and improve hygiene behaviors. The community left their first sessions with a concrete action plan in hand, aimed at developing healthy habits and adopting new sanitation facilities like dish racks, hand-washing stations and latrines.

Recently, a hygiene and sanitation review was held outside of a group member's homestead after the schedule was agreed on by our staff and participants. The sessions were well-attended with most members present, all of who listened intently and asked questions for clarification. In fact, training even attracted neighbors who aren't members of the self-help group.

Everyone was eager to learn, and at the end of training they promised to continue adopting healthy habits and maintaining sanitation facilities. 53-year-old Grace Asuman is a mother who sacrificed her time to be there for the review. She said, "From the last training that we had, I learnt a lot of new things that I did not know. Today, what we have learnt is a reminder, and it will be of great importance to our lives. For instance, we did not take seriously the importance of having a rubbish pit, utensil rack and a latrine lid. And that water treatment is one of major ways of blocking transmission of waterborne diseases. We have learned different methods of water treatment that one can use in case he/she is not comfortable with one. I now well understand why I should have a latrine at my home and how to keep it clean. Today, I have gained more knowledge from the sessions. I have learned how to make soap, and from that, I will be able to generate income after selling it."

Grace Asuman

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.


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.

Filling in the framework with stones, rebar, and cement.

There was one unexpected challenge: the group had to excavate down 15 feet to find solid bedrock! This was extremely hard work, but they persevered and found a firm foundation for their dam's wall. Secondly, there were no stones nearby so we had to hire transportation help to have them delivered from a different location.

The finished height is 3.7 meters and the length is 30.5 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.

November, 2017: Muselele Community Sand Dam Project Underway

Muselele 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 review training to to be reminded of 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: Muselele Community

September, 2018

Unlimited clean water is now available from within the center of the village within short distances to every homestead.

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Muselele 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 Muselele 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 of Muselele Village never have to walk to Yandia River anymore. They used to have to journey more than three kilometers away to get water from river scoop holes. But since a water project last year, there is a sand dam and shallow well installed in their village which provide clean water to the entire population.

Locals have planted fruits trees using the available water resources, and these are doing quite well. The community group is also running a tree nursery and are preparing these trees for planting at their individual homesteads during the upcoming short rains.

We spoke with Mr. Mbaluto Mavoi and 12-year-old Mwongela Kiilu about how their own lives have changed over the past year.

From left to right: Mr. Mbaluto Mavoi, Titus Mbithi, and Mwongela Kiilu

"Unlimited clean water is now available from within the center of the village within short distances to every homestead. We are no longer walking to Yandia River with donkeys alongside our wives in the morning looking for water since the project has handled our water needs," said Mr. Mavoi.

"I have planted fruits trees in my shamba (field) using water from this water facility. They are doing well and this is a trait which was never possible before because of water shortages!"

Mwongela Kiilu talked about how the availability of water has impacted his personal hygiene.

"The availability of water within a short distance has come with increased bathing times for me. Nowadays, I take a shower on a daily basis because water is available in plenty unlike before. Then, I could only shower thrice in a week as water was hard to get," he said.

"My mum now ensures I wash my hands before all meals and after visiting latrines as a way of maintaining high cleanliness."

Mr. Mavoi pumping water to fill Mwongela's jerrycan.

The environment is truly beautiful now, with lush green surroundings. The community is really enjoying the clean water supply from the sand dam and well system!

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 Muselele 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 Muselele 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.


Project Sponsor - The Lifeplus Foundation