Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Sep 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/19/2024

Project Features

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This is our second year working with the Katalwa Twooka Oyu Self-Help Group. We installed a dug well and hand pump alongside a sand dam to help households in the community access safe water in Nzalae Community last year, and plan to work in Ilandi this year.

However, since we estimate a well can only support 500 people at most, more work needs to be done to ensure this region of more than 2,000 people can access safe water. That is why we work together with a particular group for five years to build sustainable water and sanitation solutions in group members' villages.

Water in most parts of Kitui County is collected from unsafe open scoop holes in sandy seasonal rivers using 20-liter plastic jerrycans. This group draws water from their first shallow well. It is then loaded onto donkeys or some carry on their backs - especially those from households which cannot afford a donkey.

Some self-help group members from different villages live too far from the well in Nzalae. They're exposed to long distances and the fatigue arising from journeys to the source. It also means that they are more likely to collect water from nearby open water sources. Implementing more projects evenly within this area will help bring water closer to everyone in the region.

"Over the past year, things have been doing pretty quite well with our first dam and well providing us with substantial amount water," Mrs. Mary Nzoka said to us.

"However, some of us are still far from the project and we are looking to implement the next projects near those affected so as to bring water close to everyone"

This community has high levels of poverty with the majority of households unable to afford high capacity storage containers for their water.

The community showed commendable commitment to work on development projects, and after asking for another project it was easy to approve and continue working with them. Their goal is to bring water close to all of their group members in order to improve life in the region.

What we plan to do about it:

Our main entry point into Ilandi Community has been the Katalwa Twooka Oyu Self-Help Group, which is comprised of local farming households that are working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. These members will be our hands and feet in both constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.


We’re going to continue training group members and their communities on hygiene and sanitation practices. Though our visits to households were encouraging, we want to ensure that community members are practicing the day to day habits we’re not able to observe. Food hygiene, water hygiene and treatment, personal hygiene and handwashing will all be a focus during our next review.

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot further down the Kiluu River in Ilandi will bring water closer to hundreds of other people. After the community picked the spot, our technical team went in and proved the viability by finding a good foundation of bedrock. Now, our engineers are busy drawing up the blueprints. We estimate the dam will be 50.7 meters long and 4.62 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 in this region.

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 clarity) thanks to the hard work of our friends in Kenya.

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Jane Maitha

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 Ilandi Community 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 Jane Maitha shared her story of how the coronavirus has impacted her life.

Jane Maitha

Our team met Jane outside her home to conduct the interview. Both our staff and Jane observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Jane’s story in her own words.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

All my children who were working and supporting me from other towns are currently at home and jobless which has affected us, again, I used to have a small shop here at Nzalae market. I had to use all my savings and capital on food purchases at home, which led to the closure of the shop as the operating capital and stock were used at home.

What steps is Kenya taking to prevent the spread of the virus?

The government has imposed movement curfews across the country with no movement of people being allowed past 7 PM up to 9 PM. Counties with high cases of the virus have also been locked down. No travel is allowed in and out of the counties to control its spread to other areas. The government is also encouraging the regular washing of hands and wearing face masks in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

Jane washes here hands.

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?

We were supported in the construction of two dams and shallow wells. These projects are helping us in the times of this pandemic. We can get clean water from within the village with fewer interactions with people from outlying areas. Again, the water is helping us maintain regular hand washing as advised in the prevention of the corona disease.

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

I am one of the families living nearest to the water projects in our locality, having unlimited access to water from the well has been helpful to us, we are using the water for handwashing, drinking and cooking at home. Water access is crucial to using tippy taps at home for constant handwashing.

How has getting food been at this time?

Now that I am no longer working and earning money from my business at the local market, I depend entirely on my small farm produce to feed my children who are at home. I had made a good harvest in the previous rain season, which is helping me sustain my family. The biggest challenge has been getting industrial products from the shop because they require money.

May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Ilandi 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 Ilandi, 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: Ilandi Community Sand Dam Complete

Ilandi 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

Hygiene and sanitation training was planned and organized by the Mumbuni Area Field Officer, Paul Musau, who communicated with the community members and settled on a date when Instructor Christine Lucas could conduct sessions. The members decided to meet at their sand dam construction site for the training. The reason for choosing the site as the venue was that they wanted to continue with construction as soon as the training hours were over. The training would begin at exactly 9:30am and end at 4pm so the members could use the remaining hours of the day to work.

Training started with a word of prayer from a group member followed by introductions with names, position in the group, and expectations for the training. Instructor Lucas used various methodologies to ensure each person's understanding. She used group discussions, demonstrations, drama/role plays, brainstorming sessions, and question and answer summaries.

Instructor Lucas brought an easel and poster paper to record things as they were discussed.

The group worked together to learn more about:

- health problems they face

- differences between good and bad hygiene

- how germs spread and how to build barriers

- planning for change

- handwashing

- soapmaking

Mixing soap

The participants' favorite activities were on problem analysis and handwashing. The members met together in a group and discussed illustrations of daily habits, discussing what was being done and how it might impact health.

Different people had different opinions on the illustrated activities, but by the end of the discussion, they were of common agreement. There was laughter during this activity, but most importantly, the women have agreed about best practices for carrying out their daily chores.

The handwashing demonstration began by constructing a tippy tap with local materials like a jerrycan and sticks. Once they learned this simple process, all the members resolved to construct a similar tippy tap in their own homesteads. One woman climbed a very tall tree to cut the forked sticks used to hold up the jerrycan.

The other women were very happy to see her climb a very tall tree to cut these sticks down. This activity will always be remembered by the women because climbing tall trees is an act associated with men. The climber shared her experience as she was climbing the tree to the rest, and they all shared laughter and excitement.

"The training was very good that’s why I attended all the sessions. I have learned a new method of water treatment and from today, I will no longer drink untreated water. I have also learned how to construct a tippy tap and learned the importance of having one. I also learned about diseases and how I can prevent them," shared Mrs. Lenah Syupata.

Mrs. Lenah Syupata

"I have also been trained on soapmaking today. I will use the soap to wash utensils, latrines, and my house."

Sand Dam

Katalwa Twooka Oyu Self-Help Group has only female members, who are all working hard to alleviate the water crisis in their location. These women were not accustomed to the difficult tasks like lifting large stones. This led to construction moving at a slower pace than most other projects as they did their best to support our sand dam artisan.

Siting and technical designs were drawn and presented to the Water Resources Management Authority and a survey sent to the National Environment Management Authority 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.

The trench that was dug down to bedrock

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 50.7 meters long and 4.6 meters high and took 550 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 sand, a huge supply of water will be available for drinking from the adjacent hand-dug well.

To see that hand-dug well, click here.

June, 2018: Ilandi Community Sand Dam Project Underway

A severe clean water shortage in Ilandi Community 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 area 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!