Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jun 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/20/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

Mbuuni Self-Help Group was formed in 2010 and currently has a huge membership of 254 people; 194 men and 60 women. The group is located in Mbuuni Village, which has a population of 1,978 people.

The average household size is five, and the average age of the group members is 45. The main sources of income are farming and casual labor - if one doesn't own their own farmland, they'll look for work on someone else's farm. Most people earn less than 10,000 ($100) shillings each month.

This self-help group has been involved with us for two years now, and their aim is to bring much-needed water to their region. We stand alongside them, providing the tools and finances needed to achieve this goal: To see all of Mbuuni Self-Help Group's undertakings, click here. 


Mbuuni Village has a population that's nearing 2,000 people - and they all used to rely on one borehole. This was installed by the Machakos County government, which would charge people for each jerrycan of water collected from the pump. Those who couldn't afford that water dug holes in the sandy bed of Thwake River to access its water.

There isn't only one clean water source in Mbuuni, thanks to our partnership with self-help groups. We built a sand dam and hand-dug system that supplies clean water. This water isn't free. The fees paid by users are kept in the community for pump maintenance and development opportunities. But with such a large population, these two wells are not enough. And there are still families living a great distance away. (One water point can only reasonably serve a few hundred people. That's why multiple projects in one community are important. To learn more, click here.)

As of now, many families spend a lot of time walking to and waiting at these clean water points. Thus, we have accepted the self-help group's application to construct two more sand dams and well systems in Mbuuni.


Continuing hygiene and sanitation trainings are a big part of our relationship with Mbuuni. They're doing a great job implementing everything they've learned, including building and using latrines, bathing shelters, and handwashing stations. There's 100% latrine coverage, and almost everybody has a bathroom for washing every morning. Almost half of household have a hand-washing station called a "tippy tap," a jerrycan that pours water as a string tilts it.

About 75% of people are treating their water before drinking it. Though water from these wells is clean when gathered, it should be treated after transportation and storage.

Here's what we're going to do:


We recently visited over a dozen households to check on sanitation and hygiene standards. One of the most impressive households we visited was that of Mrs. Nduku Mutua (pictures on this page). These visits inform our trainers on what they might need to review with the community during their next trainings. We will continue to teach about the importance of handwashing, for though Mrs. Mutua has a tippy tap, many of her neighbors still don't.

Sand Dam

The location for this sand dam is on the same river as the first dam, but further down. Our engineers are currently working on the blueprints for this dam, but they're estimating it will be around 55.2 meters long and 5.6 meters high.

We are unified with this community to address the water shortage. As more sand dams are built, the environment will continue to transform. As the sand dams mature and build up more sand, the water tables will rise. Along with these sand dams, hand-dug wells (check out the hand-dug well being installed next to this dam) 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 around Mbuuni.

This project is a part of our shared program with Africa Sand Dam Foundation. Our team is pleased to provide the reports for this project (edited for readability) thanks to the hard work of our friends in Kenya.

Project Updates

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

During our training, we met Janet Mutuku, a 44-year-old teacher who lives in the community.

Janet Mutuku

She shared with us the challenges she faces during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is not working right now since the schools are closed across Kenya. That has made her life more difficult. However, the set of sand dams and hand-dug wells that her self-help group constructed over the past few years is something Janet can rely on.

“Having a well and sand dam project at this time has been a great blessing and we are very grateful for the support granted by The Water Project. Times are hard and having a reliable source of water is very advantageous," she said.

Fetching water from one of the Mbuuni wells, before COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

Handwashing station

"We are expected to wash our hands frequently and this has been possible because our projects have been providing an abundant supply of water,” Janet said.

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.

October, 2019: Giving Update: Mbuuni Community B

A year ago, your generous donation helped Mbuuni Community in Kenya access clean water.

There’s an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Mbuuni Community. Month after month, their giving supports ongoing sustainability programs that help this school maintain access to safe, reliable water. Read more…

June, 2018: Mbuuni Community Sand Dam Project Complete

Mbuuni Community, Kenya now has a new source of water thanks to your donation. A new dam was constructed on the riverbed, 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.

New Knowledge

The first hygiene and sanitation training done for this area was in March 2017. Trainings thereafter are intended to cover weaknesses we notice during household visits. After a follow-up conducted in July 2017, there was a clear need for a review because very little had been achieved by the group members.

Reviewing the group's progress in establishing good sanitation facilities at home.

Training was in the homestead of Gideon Kiilu and attended by 210 group members over the course of a few days. It was very sunny during training, so everyone kept shifting their chairs around to be in the shade.

We informed group members of different ways to treat water. They were very curious about learning the pros and cons of each method.

As for weaknesses, we realized the majority of latrines had open pits that allowed odors to escape and flies to enter. For new content, we taught group members how to make their own soap. Many members had already been mixing their own soap but admitted that after a few days it would spoil and have to be thrown away.

This session was particularly interesting for group members who wanted to fix their process and produce good soup for sale.

"According to how group members expressed interest in the training, I think it will change our lives,"70-year-old Gideon Kiilu said.

"For instance, on the issue of diseases, we have learned how we can prevent waterborne diseases. That knowledge will help us. We have also learned about making soap, which is a very important activity. It will help us change our hygiene standards and increase incomes."

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. The collection of the raw construction materials takes longer than the actual construction. For a super large sand dam, materials collection could take up to four months.

Men using pickaxes and mallets to break off stones that will fortify the sand dam wall.

This group really took advantage of its large membership to make a big impact this year. Not only did they finish this particular sand dam in a timely manner, but they split people up to work on another dam at the same time.

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 before construction started. Once approved, we established 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. Rocks are heaped into the mortar once there is enough to hold. Barbed wire and twisted bar are 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 are built up. The vertical timber beams are dismantled and the dam is left to cure.

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 sand dam to reach maximum capacity. It is 55.2 meters long and 5.6 meters high and took 431 bags of cement to build.

Sand dam construction was undertaken simultaneously with the construction of a hand-dug well which gives community members 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.

April, 2018: Mbuuni Community Sand Dam Underway

A severe clean water shortage still affects hundred of families living in Mbuuni Community. Families are having to walk long distances to find clean water, wasting hours of time and tons of energy. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point nearby and much more.

Get to know your community through the introduction and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with more good news!

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!

Giving Update: Mbuuni Community B

September, 2019

A year ago, your generous donation helped Mbuuni in Keya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Joseph Mutua. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Mbuuni Community 2A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mbuuni Community 2A 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!

"Our environment is greener and cooler due to the availability of water and the increased water table," said Titus Kiemu, reflecting on the changes in the year since the completion of the dam and well in Mbuuni Community.

The environment here is now serene and very green. There are many trees which have grown by the river bed making the area very cool. Farming practices are easily managed due to the availability of water. A lot of farming projects have been initiated by Mbuuni Community members over the past year.

"Normally, at such times, the area's topography is usually very grey and dry as hunger pangs beckon at us. Now we have plenty of food on our farms and all the group members are in agribusiness," said Mr. Kiemu.

"The harvests are massive. This project has created job opportunities for young adults as they can be employed to work on our farms."

The group members of Mbuuni Water Project self-help group are very excited about this project and the benefits reaped from it. There is plenty of water at their shallow well which has resulted in improved hygiene and sanitation levels personally and in their households. Frequent cleaning of the latrines using soap and ash and a handwashing culture has also been established as most homesteads have tippy taps mounted near their washrooms.

"After long working hours at the farm, it takes less than 5 minutes to fetch water and take a very cool shower," Mr. Kiemu told us.

People do not travel as far and no longer waste as much time or energy accessing water thanks to the proximity of the well and dam to households.

"It takes less than 300 meters to access the water point and at most 30 minutes to fetch water. The water is plenty and our livestock do not have to walk for miles to access water," said Joseph Mutua, a local farmer.

"Our wives are no longer complaining about the exhaustion of carrying jerrycans of water for very long distances. There's a lot of peace at our homes."

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 Mbuuni Community 2A 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 Mbuuni Community 2A – 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 - JM Smith Foundation/Weaver Family
3 individual donor(s)