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: 05/10/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

Mbindi Self-Help Group is made up of farmers who united to address water and food shortages in their region. We've come alongside them to give them the support and tools they've needed, and they've already completed two clean water systems in Mbindi Village. Now, they're looking to improve living standards for their neighbors in Kathuni.

The group was formed in 2015 with a membership of 27 people; 12 males and 15 females. Their home of Mbindi has a population of 832. The average age of members is 47, and the average household size is seven. The majority of members, since farmers, rely on agriculture as their main source of income.


The main sources of water for the area are two sand dam and well systems we've built in Mbindi. But with a region of about 1,500 people relying on them, the systems get extremely busy at times. Furthermore, both are still far away from many families living on the other side of the village.

Those who don't have the time or who are farther away fetch their water from open sources. These are completely open to contamination, and users still suffer from waterborne diseases. That's why Mbindi Self-Help Group is continuing its partnership with us to install even more clean water systems in different areas.


Having a usable pit latrine has always been important for people living in Mbindi; when we got there, we found 100% coverage. Instead, weaknesses were discovered in areas like hand-washing (less than half of families have a dedicated place for personal hygiene), and bathing. There has been some improvement since our first trainings, though. For example, everyone now has a pit for proper waste disposal.

Here's what we're going to do:


We will continue to focus on daily habits that are difficult to monitor. Though we can check up on households to see how clean they are, we're not able to observe daily water treatment, personal hygiene, and food preparation. We'll check in with community members' knowledge of the proper practices and review them together.

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot further down the river will bring water closer to hundreds of other people. Mbindi Self-Help Group chose a construction site in neighboring Kathuni Community, and our team confirmed the viability of a sand dam by finding a good foundation of bedrock.

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 Mbindi and Kathuni.

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 (formatted and edited for readability) thanks to the hard work of our friends in Kenya.

Project Updates

October, 2019: Giving Update: Kathuni Community

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

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

June, 2018: Kathuni Community Sand Dam Complete

Kathuni 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

Our field officer visited Kathuni earlier this year to visit households and check up on their progress since last year's training. These follow-up visits revealed that there were some gaps in the mastery of particular hygiene and sanitation topics. The field officer recommended a review training to highlight these topics. Community members agreed and asked not only for a review opportunity but for a chance to learn how to make their own soap.

Community members agreed on an action plan last year, and spent the beginning of these latest sessions to review their progress.

The group met with us at Mr. Bernard Muia’s homestead on a hot, sunny day. They reviewed ways to treat water since the trainer found very few families were treating their water since last year's training. Beyond detailed different methods, the trainer taught about some maintenance tactics too. For example, animals should be kept away from drinking water sources.

The group was taken through the various steps of making soap. Each group member took turns participating in every stage of the process. Despite the whole process taking a long time (around two and half hours) the members exercised a lot of patience until the entire batch was made.

"The training was good. Our hygiene at home will improve because of the soap and the training. We will also sell some of the soap and earn income to benefit us. For example, we will pay for our children's school fees. Our income will greatly increase both individually and at a group level,"Mr. John Mulwa said.

Mr. John Mulwa

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.

Women carrying stones to the construction site.

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 43 meters long and 3.3 meters high and took 790 bags of cement to build!

Sand dam construction was simultaneous to the 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.

May, 2018: Kathuni Community Sand Dam Underway

A shortage of clean water sources in Kathuni Community, Kenya drains people's time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know this 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: Kathuni Community

September, 2019

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kathuni 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!

"We are delighted to report an improvement in our community since the completion of this project," said Bernard Ngui, a member of the self-help group that contributed to the construction of the sand dam and hand-dug well in Kathuni a year ago.

The water project has amounted to immense change, growth, and development in Kathuni village. The environment is very green and serene. A variety of fruit trees and food crops have been planted such as bananas, pawpaws, avocados, maize, beans, mangoes, and timber trees. Their water is fresh for drinking and the water table level is high - meaning there is a lot of water at the shallow well.

Community members access clean water easily at a distance of fewer than 500 meters. The water table level has increased and there is a lot of sand along the river bed which enables further water storage.

"Initially, there was no water nearby to use for drinking or to carry out household chores. Currently, it takes us less than 30 minutes to get to the water source and less time is expended on the task of fetching water. This has enabled more members to indulge in other income-generating activities such as farming," said Mr. Ngui.

"I have benefited most from this project because my farm is adjacent to the water project; I have planted French beans for sale which has earned me a great income enabling me to cater [to] my family needs."

Bernard Ngui

Farming is progressing well with most members venturing in agribusiness, especially in the sale of French beans and vegetables such as kale, cabbage, and spinach. Hygiene and sanitation have improved since the training that was conducted with the group members. The members reported having frequent showers, the maintenance of clean latrines, and improved hygiene habits.

"Life has changed and the difference is highly appreciated. I used to walk for more than 3 kilometers to fetch water. Most of my duties would get postponed for days because of insufficient water. There were also many diseases that were contracted from drinking water fetched from open water sources," said Rose Mbithe, a 60-year-old user of the well.

"At my age, I can boast of a very comfortable life thanks to the water projects."

Rose Mbithe fetches water at the well

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 Kathuni 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 Kathuni 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.


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