Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Feb 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/09/2024

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

Kakwa Self-Help Group was formed in the year 2016 by 10 members. Over the course of one year, total membership shot up to 26.

The group members come from Kithatu and Kithumba villages, which are in Makueni County, Kenya, and have several hundred of residents. The group has also established a leadership committee made up of seven members; three women and four men.

The average age is 46 years, while their mean household membership is five people. 58% of the respondents interviewed said that their average income is below 3,000 shillings a month; 27% reported that they earn an average of between 3,100 and 5,000 shillings, and 15% respondents said that they earn income between 5,100 and 10,000 a month, regardless of the income source. None of the respondents earn above 10,000 shillings.

Water Situation

The main sources of drinking water for the respondents are; open springs, a hand-dug well, and water piped to a kiosk. Only 4% of the respondents get their drinking water from the kiosk - each container of water must be paid for there. The other 96% get their drinking water from either surface water or the well. The distance covered to the water source depends on the nearness of the respondent to the water source. The longest distance covered is four to five kilometers, with the shortest distance being less than a kilometer.

Because of the long distances traveled to the well, donkeys are especially helpful to bring along. A typical donkey can shoulder four 20-liter jerrycans full of water. But if a household can't afford a donkey, an adult must hoist a 20-liter jerrycan upon their backs and haul it all the way home.

We talked to Margret Kavinya, who said "We fetch water from a community well dug in our village. It's the sole source of clean water in our area and this therefore places a lot of pressure on this single point as it attracts people from Kithumba and the neighboring Kithatu village. I don't practice any water treatment methods so I drink and use the water straight from the source."

It's obvious that many community members either aren't able to make it to the hand-dug well because they live far away, or find the well overcrowded and the wait unbearable. At the time of our interviews, there were six waterborne diseases reported: two cases of amoeba and four cases of typhoid.

Sanitation Situation

100% of households have a pit latrine. Most of these lack doors and instead have a curtain. After touring the environment, it also seems that community members are using these latrines. Open defecation is not an issue here.

However, there are no hand-washing stations to prevent he spread of bacteria via hands. A little over half of households have a dish rack and clotheslines, and some have even dug a pit to throw their garbage. There is a general appreciation for sanitation and hygiene, but the community has also acknowledged room for improvement.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training

To address gaps in hygiene and sanitation practices in Kithumba 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.

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 in Kithumba was also approved by our technical team because there is firm bedrock and wide banks. This particular sand dam is projected to be 32.3 meters long and 5 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 dams mature and build up more sand, the water tables will rise. Along with these sand dams, hand-dug wells will be installed to give locals a good, safe way to access that water.

With these projects, clean water will be brought closer to hundreds living in Kithatu and Kithumba.

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

Project Updates

October, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Matthew Mulandi

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.

Matthew Mulandi and his family.

Our team recently visited Kithumba community to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training and monitor their well and dam. Shortly after, we returned to check in on the community, offer a COVID-19 refresher training, and ask how the pandemic affects their lives.

During this most recent visit, Matthew Mulandi shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting her life and his community.

Field Officer Lilian Kendi met Matthew outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Lilian and Matthew observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Matthew's story, in his own words.

What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?

"A lot has changed since the installation of this water point. We have plenty of water to plant trees and vegetables such as kales, spinach, onions, and tomatoes for domestic use at our homes and sale. Generally, farming projects have intensified thanks to this water project. Community members no longer have to walk for long distances to fetch water. This has enabled them to save more time to engage in other income-generating activities."

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

"Having a clean water point has helped us provide water for drinking, bathing, washing clothes, and other household uses at our homes."

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?

"Yes, a lot has changed for me since the outbreak of COVID-19. Following the restrictions provided by the government, I have had to practice handwashing before and after using the shallow well's hand pump, observe social distancing at the well to avoid contact, and wear a mask whenever I leave the house to go and fetch water."

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

"The economy has become unstable since the onset of the virus. Casual labor jobs are not well paying as they were before, which has reduced the income earned at the household level. I had to send my wife and family to live with the extended family at my matrimonial home due to the changing times as I could not provide for them as consistently as I did before."

What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

"Our income is unstable due to the lack of jobs. The economy is still rocky hence making it hard for us to engage in businesses as usual. My daughter was to join school this year, but that is not possible due to its closure."

Matthew watering his farm with water from the well.

What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community has taken to stop the spread of the virus?

"We took the following hygiene and sanitation steps to stop the virus: wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands with soap and clean water, and avoiding crowded places."

Like most governments worldwide, the Kenyan government continues to set and adjust restrictions both nationally and regionally to help control the spread of the virus.

What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?

"There were age restrictions set when going to church, but they have been lifted, which has allowed all age groups to attend church. The elderly can now provide counsel to the young generation. The opening of the marketplace has allowed businesses to start picking up gradually."

Matthew Mulandi

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

"I look forward to the opening of schools so that my daughter can officially join pre-school."

When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Matthew listed the radio and our team's sensitization training.

What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?

"Through this sensitization training, I learned the importance of handwashing at all times, social distancing, and proper hygiene and sanitation."

May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Kithumba 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 Kithumba, Kenya.

We trained community members on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19.

Before there were any reported cases in the area, we worked with trusted community leaders and the Water User Committee to gather community members for the training. At the time, social distancing was a new concept and one that challenges cultural norms. Although community members were hesitant to adopt social distancing during the training, we sensitized them on its importance and effectiveness in combating the spread of the virus

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.

November, 2018: A Year Later: Kithumba Community

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

February, 2018: Kithumba Community Sand Dam Complete

Kithumba 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.

Project Result: New Knowledge

The field officers worked closely with the self-help group chairman to arrange for hygiene and sanitation training. They wanted the best dates to ensure the attendance of all group members. Even community members who weren't a part of the self-help group were invited to attend. We all met at Justine Daudi's homestead, where group members constructed an awning for shade.

In the first session, we had the participants share their expectations. What was it that they wanted to learn about most? Participants shared that they wanted to learn how to prevent waterborne disease, more about personal hygiene, and how to work better with their group.

Two ladies take part in a role play that teaches the importance of working together

We also taught about hand-washing; when to wash, how to wash, and how to build a hand-washing station.

We compared and contrasted different daily habits and how they impact health. Many people were participating in the spread of germs and didn't even know it. The participants were active in their learning, and were dedicated to putting together an action plan to implement everything they learned.

To cap it all off, we taught group members how to make soap. This will not only help each household to stay clean, but will give them an opportunity to earn money by selling the soap.

Mr. Nzunga said, "The training was very good. I have learned a lot of new things. I learned about latrine hygiene and I will build a better pit latrine at home. My family doesn’t know how to wash hands. Once I get home I will teach them on the method I learned here. I wish my wife attended the training too, but I will try to train her on the details of this training. I also learned about diseases and how I can prevent them."

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) and a survey sent to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) 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 5 meters and the length is 32.3 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.

Mr. Nzunga said, "We had a big water problem in our area. I used to have to walk for two kilometers in search of water, but after we constructed the sand dam and well I just have to walk for 200 meters to fetch water. We are happy and grateful for the new source. We have plans to plant fruits and vegetables using the water in the dam."

November, 2017: Kithumba Community Sand Dam Underway

Kithumba 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 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: Kithumba Community

November, 2018

“The shallow well has fresh water! There’s also more sand along the riverbed and the water levels have really increased.” – Mr. Richard Muunge

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kithumba 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 system for Kithumba Community in Kenya. The contributions of incredible monthly donors and others giving directly to The Water Promise allow our local 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.

There's a new serenity to the area and green vegetation has developed over time.

Plenty of farming is progressing near the water source, and the members have established a tree nursery with a variety of crops such as mango tree seedlings, moringa, and avocado tree seedlings. The water that's gathered at the sand dam provides sufficient water for their livestock. The members have managed to achieve good hygiene and sanitation levels due to the availability of water near their homes.

From left to right: Richard Muunge, Lilian Kendi, and Veronica Munini

We spoke to Richard Muunge and Veronica Munini about some of the other changes they have witnessed over the past year.

"The distance covered in a bid to access the water is shorter compared to the one we walked initially. Therefore, more time is conserved for other income-generating activities," shared Mr. Muunge.

"The shallow well has fresh water. There's also more sand along the riverbed and the water levels have really increased."

Mr. Richard Muunge

Most households have installed tippy tap handwashing stations near their latrines and the women of the group make soap which is supplied to other community members at a low cost. This enhances better hygiene and sanitation practices for all.

Construction of the 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.

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 water system in Kithumba is changing many lives.

"My life has improved since the implementation of this project. Initially, I would borrow a neighbor's donkey to go and fetch water about three kilometers from my home at a spring. I used to wake up very early and the queue would be so long, lasting me two to three hours at the water source," Mrs. Munini recalled.

Mrs. Veronica Munini

"Now the situation has changed. I spend less than an hour fetching water. I have managed to buy my own donkey and I also have time to take my products to the market. The water I attain from this shallow well is very fresh for drinking and cooking."

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 Kithumba 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 Kithumba 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