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: 03/01/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

This is home for Kikaka Self-Help Group, which aims to help Kitandini Community, Kaliani Community, and numerous other villages. The group is comprised of farmers who believe that if they work together to address food and water scarcity in their area, they'll grow stronger. This is Kikaka Self-Help Group's first year in the relationship with us and ASDF, and they look forward to working on their first water project.

This area is quite a drive from our main office. It's 133 kilometers of easy driving on a highway through Wote Town, but then it gets difficult: 44 kilometers on bumpy, hilly Murram Road.

It is a rural, peaceful area. Most of the households dotting the terrain are made of brick walls and dirt floors.

Most of our baseline survey was conducted inside, for it started raining right when we arrived. A community member invited us into their home to talk, and it was very comfortable until it poured so hard that the roof leaked!

Kikaka Self-Help Group and their neighbors make up a relatively young community, with over half the people under age 18. The average family has six members who rely on agriculture to earn a living. Unfortunately, there are high rates of poverty here, resulting in malnutrition exacerbated by erratic weather, rising prices, and food production challenges. Many men move to other areas of Kenya in search of a better living, often just doing manual labor on more successful farms.

Each day begins early with children preparing for school and adults taking livestock out to graze. The rest of the day is spent on the farm.

There's a total of almost 4,600 people living in this region, who are part of 979 different households. (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 continue to work in the same region over a number of years. To learn more, click here.)

Water Situation

The main source of water for Kikaka group members and the surrounding villages is the Kinze River. This area is so dry that this river often looks like a sandy riverbed; community members have to dig holes to get the water underneath. The trek to this water source is about five kilometers, so community members bring a donkey to help bear the heavy water containers. Since a donkey can carry four 20-liter jerrycans at once, this can cut down the number of trips a family has to take if they strictly ration.

Because they're entirely out in the open, these scoop holes are contaminated. Animals are free to come and go, and rainwater washes dirt, fertilizers, feces, and so many other things into the water.

When delivered home, this water is poured into larger drums of 200 liters or greater.

We found that only one household bothers to treat its water; some believe that this water is safe, or others say that water treatment is just too time-consuming. Group members are aware that dirty water can result in sickness, but they seem resigned to their fate. Mr. Mwakavi Kimeu said, "Our children and community members have suffered a lot because of the water problem in this area. We hope that the implementation of this project will make things better."

Sanitation Situation

Over 80% of households have a pit latrine. Most of them are made of mud. In the particular households we were meeting, there were a lot of holes in the wall that compromise the user's privacy. The family members admit that they try and wait until there's nobody around.

From what we saw, this community needs to develop in the areas of water treatment, garbage disposal, and pit latrine cleanliness.

What we can do:


To address gaps in hygiene and sanitation practices in Kitandini Community, training will be offered to self-help group members. 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 handwashing will be a focus. Group members will learn how to make their own handwashing stations with everyday materials. To motivate participants, we must show the links between these activities and their health.

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 gather 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 Kitandini Village was also approved by our technical team because there is firm bedrock and wide banks at Wamua River. This particular sand dam is projected to be 56.1 meters long and 3.9 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 Kitandini, Kaliani, and other villages.

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

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

Project Updates

October, 2019: Giving Update: Kitandini Community

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

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

June, 2018: Kitandini Community Sand Dam Complete

Kitandini Community, Kenya now has a new source of water thanks to your donation. A new sand dam was constructed on a sandy riverbed, which will build up and 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 training was planned and organized by field officer Ruth Mwanzia in collaboration with other community members. After a series of meetings and deliberations on the best venue, they agreed to hold the training at the homestead of Kimuyu Kimeu. His land provided enough shade for people to remain comfortable sitting outside on a sunny day. Attendance remained open to group members and other interested community members.

Attendance was as expected, though it decreased a little on the second and third days of training since a few of the group members wanted to do construction work before it rained.

The trainer highlighted:

- Ways to treat water

- Proper handling and storage of drinking water

- Protecting water sources

- Food preparation

- Building and using a dish drying rack

- Building and using a handwashing station

Talking about contamination routes

Everyone was willing to learn and try new things. Some of the most interactive activities involved brainstorming and planning - community members worked with us to create an action plan that will be completed over the next few years. Each time we visit Kitandini, we'll check in on their progress.

Participants' favorites were the handwashing station and soap-making activities. They enjoyed following the trainer's demonstrations and then using the finished products to wash their hands. Some participants admitted that they had already been making soap for their families, but it would go bad after a few days. They were happy to learn the proper procedure to make soap good enough to sell in the local market.

"The training was a good one and will have a good impact on our health, especially on the issues touching hygiene we have learned that it is important to maintain a good personal hygiene like for instance, washing hands after visiting latrine, with clean water and soap and we have understood through the practice, diseases will go down," shared Florence Mwikali.

"We have also gained a lot of knowledge on soap-making. This will help us maintain a very high personal hygiene, thus enabling us to control a wide range of diseases. We will also generate money from this activity. We will not incur any other cost for buying soap as we have been spending."

Sand Dam

There were few challenges experienced during the construction process since the community group had collected all required sand, stone, and water on time for our cement and tool delivery. Their commitment to water projects drove them into working round the clock to complete the task.

Women carrying local materials to the construction site.

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.

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.

This sand dam is 56.1 meters long and 3.9 meters high and took 550 bags of cement to build.

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. 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. This is well worth the wait in such a water scarce region.

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.

All that space behind the dam will fill in with sand and water.

"This water project is a blessing to us at Kikaka Vision Self-Help Group as we are on course to realizing one of our long admired objectives - of unlimited water access in the village," Mr. Kioko Mule said.

"The dam is complete and now holds water for the whole community. Many people are motivated and remain committed to working on more water projects."

March, 2018: Kitandini Community Sand Dam Underway

Kitandini 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 Videos

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: Kitandini Community

September, 2019

A year ago, your generous donation helped Kitandini Community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Ruth Ngulu. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kitandini 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!

The environment of Kaliani and Kitandini villages has improved and regained its stature in the year since the completion of their sand dam and hand-dug well. The area is very green with most farms bordering the water source being full of food crops to harvest.

Community members are happy.

"The water we attain now is very clean and fresh for drinking," said Francis Mutua, Chair of the water committee for the well and dam.

"The sand dam has harvested volumes of water which we have used for farming and the plantation of French beans. This extensive farming has provided job opportunities for young adults in the area which has reduced robbery and drug abuse."

The people here are hard workers whose major activity is farming. The community members have harnessed the water harvested by their sand dam for farming of French beans which are sold to be exported to other countries. Thanks to the water project, the community members were identified by an international export company to farm French beans for sale. This is a big milestone for them as they are earning an income and can now sustain their families' needs.

One person who has experienced the benefits of the water from the dam is Ruth Ngulu, a 36-year-old farmer. She has a 2-acre plot of land that sat idle for many years because there was not enough water. Now, it is full of crops.

"Since the water project was constructed in this area, I farm exclusively for agribusiness," she said.

"I have planted French beans, maize, tomatoes, and kale. Using water pumps, I draw water from the river to my farm for irrigation."

Personal and household compound hygiene is easily achieved because the water project is near community members' homesteads. Thanks to the soapmaking and handwashing training, people here always wash their hands after visiting the latrine using soap and water, said Mr. Mutua. As a result, there are fewer cases of diarrhea and stomachaches being reported.

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 Kitandini 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 Kitandini 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 - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation