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: 02/21/2024

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

The Masola Kaani Self-Help Group was formed in the year 2011 and has grown to a group of 49 farmers.

The main reason for forming the group was to bolster the economic prosperity of its members. These families live in one of the most densely populated areas of this county, which has a total population of 3,000 people. (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 five-year partnership with this community to construct accessible clean water points. To learn more, click here.) Originally, the area was famous for its massive production of vegetables, thanks to the River Ikiwe that could provide enough water for many crops. The group’s priority was to increase the harvest of vegetables so they could sell more and earn more. However, in the last years, drastic changes happened.

Their main source of water, River Ikiwe, eroded and no longer provided water throughout the year. This affected the availability of water for farming, for domestic use and other household water requirements. Many of the people that had been employed on vegetable farms had been rendered jobless, and many families struggled to meet their daily income needs. Longer queues at the water points and higher prices for buying drinking water became normal experiences. A jerrycan of water (20 liters) cost 30 shillings during the dry season; a price which many households cannot afford. By coming together, the group hopes construct several sand dams along the river channel. These will be used to provide water for all their household and agricultural needs, and restore the jobs that were lost.

Water Situation

The group finished their first sand dam (picture included on this page) last year, and it's been a great success:

Benjamin Makewa, 63 years old, is one of the members of Masola Kaani Self-Help Group. He is a retired teacher and a farmer in his village. Benjamin shared with us about the first dam, saying, "We are thankful to our donor and we are ready to work on many [more] projects. We have benefited alot from the water harvested from the sand dam. We have planted vegetables (sukuma wiki, cabbage, and tomatoes) which we sell and earn income for our group. We no longer suffer from waterborne diseases. Some of the income we get from the sale of the vegetables is used to buy waterguard for all group members. This is meant to ensure that every group member treats his or her drinking water."

Everyone travels to the oasis that the first sand dam has created (you can find the picture on this page) . There is also a hand-dug well there that pumps clean drinking water. Though this is a blessing to all, there are still community members living far away who not only have to wait for the crowds at the dam, but have to walk that long distance to and from. We visited two of those households to learn about their water, sanitation and hygiene needs. Check out the pictures from our tours with Rose Nduku and Angelica Mulatya.

Homes that can afford pack animals have them, loading them up with 20-liter jerrycans. Those who can't have no other choice but to carry containers on their backs. Luckily, most households have at least one donkey.

Water quality tests have been done on the hand-dug well's water, and they came back with zero coliform. The group is excited that as they build more dams and wells further down the river, they will bring more clean water to even more people in the villages of Kyanzasu and Kaani.

Sanitation Situation

Since the beginning of our relationship with these villages, we've seen pit latrine coverage go from 75% to 100%. The quality of these structure depend on the economic status of each household; the more money they can spare, the more permanent the structure. Some even have a cloth curtain hanging as a door. Because of this complete coverage, open defecation is no longer an issue here.

Now, over half of households have hand-washing stations, though the majority still needs to construct helpful tools like dish racks and clotheslines.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training

The group will meet for one day to review weaknesses in their practice of hygiene and sanitation. The trainer has visited with and talked to these households, and they've agreed together that they should go over latrine care and hand-washing.

Hand-washing will be highlighted as one of the most effective ways to prevent disease, and locals will be taught how to build their own hand-washing station. The construction and use of latrines will also be strongly encouraged, and the group will agree on a plan to implement what they learned.

Plans: Sand Dam

The group has selected a spot down the river for their second sand dam, and our technical team has already verified the technical viability of this location.  This second dam is projected to be 89.2 meters long and 4.8 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

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 now has a new clean water system thanks to your generous 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 review, 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 Training

A hygiene and sanitation review session was held for the members of Masola Kaani Self-Help Group after a follow-up visit to assess current gaps in their practices and behaviors at home. Our trainer also took requests for particular topics the group wanted to review.

1 kenya4770 training

Some of these included:

-Food hygiene

-Personal hygiene

-Water hygiene and water treatment

-Compound hygiene

-Disease transmission routes

-Hand-washingSanitation ladder

-How to prevent cholera

-And finally, they requested to learn how to make soap

Due to current cholera outbreaks in some parts of Kenya, the group members were taken through a brief training focusing on cholera. We went through the signs and symptoms of cholera, how cholera is transmitted, and how it can be prevented. Our trainer presented, facilitated review, and arranged participants in groups to discuss some of these topics. Each group got a piece of poster paper to enable them to review and draw out the disease transmission process, and then brainstorm the ways to build barriers to disease.

We polled group members and found that every family represented has a latrine, more than half have hand-washing stations, and 15 out of 20 families are treating their water before drinking. For those who are missing facilities or not treating water, we made an action plan to see these items realized.

In order to improve and promote sanitation and hygiene of community members, the group was taken through the soap-making process. This liquid soap is used in schools, hotels, at the household levels etc. Soap-making will not only improve their sanitation and hygiene but will also function as an income-generating activity to boost their finances. The initial investment of soap making materials (ingredients), enough to make 60 liters of soap, was provided by us. Community members provided water and containers for their soap.

4 kenya4770 training

The trainer oversees as community members try their hand at making soap for the first time.

The group was very excited to participate in this activity. Each group member took turns to participate in every stage of the process. The members agreed to sell the soap at 40 shillings per liter, and they all agreed that additional ingredients will be bought at Masii Town.

63-year-old Benjamin Makewa is one of the members of Masola Kaani. He is a retired teacher and a farmer in his village. Benjamin had this to say about the training: "The training was good, we have reviewed the training on PHAST that we learnt ealier this year. We will now earn more income from the soap-making business and also improve hygiene in our families. We are thankful to our donor and we are ready to work on many projects."

ASDF_Masola Kaani SHG_PHAST Refresher_Benjamin Makewa, 63 (2)

Mr. Makewa

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!

5 kenya4770 construction

Community members collecting sand and beginning the trenching process.

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.

9 kenya4770 construction

The finished height is 5.7 meters and the length is 47.9 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.

15 kenya4770 finished sand dam

The only challenge was the weather; right after foundation excavation, rains pounded the village and its river, flooding the trench and halting work for two months.

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.

Mr. Makewa also reflected on the impact sand dams are having on his environment, saying, "We have benefited alot from the water harvested in the sand dam. We have planted vegetables (sukuma wiki, cabbage and tomatoes) which we sell and earn income for our group." This sand dam will continue to unlock the potential of hundreds of families living in this area.

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 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: Kaani Community; Masola Kaani Sand Dam

September, 2018

Our homesteads are now clean owing to the increased availability of clean water. Our clothes, latrines and houses are washed on a regular basis.

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Kaani Community 3A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kaani Community 3A 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 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.

The sand dam and shallow well system hold gallons upon gallons of water in the sandy riverbed. The locals now have easy access to water within a distance of less than one kilometer, unlike before when they would trek for more than 13 kilometers to Thwake River to fetch water.

People have also engaged in commercial agriculture as a result of water at the sand dam and shallow well. For instance, Mary Muinde, a member of Masola Kaani Self-Help Group, has grown kales at her farm which she sells at Kaani Market to meet the needs of her family.

We spoke with community members Dorcas Muinde and Richard Kioko to hear more about how life has been over the past year.

From left to right: Titus Mbithi, Dorcas Miunde, and Richard Kioko

"Nowadays, I walk for less than one kilometer to a shallow well to fetch water unlike before... The available water is clean and safe for human consumption which has improved the community's health and sanitation levels," Dorcas shared.

This nearby improved water source has not only improved the health of the community but its cleanliness too.

"Our homesteads are now clean owing to the increased availability of clean water. Our clothes, latrines, and houses are washed on a regular basis," said Mr. Kioko.

"Men have joined women in fetching water since the distances involved are less and the process is simple with fewer lines in pursuit of the commodity."

Mr. Richard Kioko

Because of the interconnected nature of a sand dam and hand-dug well, you will also find these interviews at the bottom of the hand-dug well project.

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.

And the water doesn't only benefit the people who drink it, but the animals, too!

"My cattle, on the other hand, are healthy as they no longer have to walk for long distances in search of drinking water," Mr. Kioko continued.

"Our group is planning to start commercial vegetable growing to ensure maximum utilization of the available water."

Kaani Community is definitely taking advantage of the benefits that nearby water brings. The sand dam and well system already sustain the entire community for a very long while after the rains. The environment is becoming greener, fertile, and more peaceful because of water.

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 Kaani Community 3A 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 3A – 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 - Jadetree Foundation