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The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Sand Dam Plaque
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Finished Sand Dam
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Finished Sand Dam
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Finished Sand Dam
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Finished Sand Dam
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Finished Sand Dam
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Sand Dam Construction
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Sand Dam Construction
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Sand Dam Construction
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Sand Dam Construction
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Trenching
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Trenching
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Sand Dam Materials
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Sarah Muthiani
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Making Soap
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Making Soap
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Making Soap
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Soap Recipe
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Action Plan Review
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Garbage Site
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Latrine
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Drying Rack
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Kitchen
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Water Storage
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Water Storage
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Kyalo Household
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Kyalo Household
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Kyalo Household
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Catherine Kyalo
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Carrying Water
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  Syakama Shg Member Catherine Kyalo
The Water Project: Syatu Community -  A Well In Syakama

Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 300 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 07/02/2019

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

This is our third year working with the Syakama Self-Help Group. We worked with them to install a dug well and hand-pump alongside a sand dam to help households in Syakama Community access water. Before that, we brought water to people around Kavumbu. Now, Syakama Self-Help Group is planning to bring clean water to families living closer to Syatu.

However, we estimate a well can comfortably support a generous total of 500 people, so more work needs to be done to ensure this entire area can access safe water. That is why we work together with self-help groups for five years to build sustainable water and sanitation solutions, often spanning multiple communities.

The majority of people living in this area practice small-scale agriculture in their individual farms. The crop yields are often low due to low rainfall and erratic weather patterns, forcing a significant chunk of the population to work informal jobs in nearby Kathonzweni Town.

For majority community members, days start at 6am. The parents prepare the children to go to school. After that, the livestock are either taken out or tethered in the bush for grazing. Once that is done, the husband and wife are free to engage in the main income generating activities; farming, businesses, casual labor etc.

The Syakama self-help group members participated in the installation of two wells that are successfully producing safe water for many living around Syakama and Kavumbu. The construction of dams and wells eases the water challenges in the area with a substantial number of people now able to access water easily.

A good number of community members have been practicing treatment methods taught during the sanitation training such a boiling and chlorination. The majority of households now have latrines, but most of the latrines we visited were not well cleaned and had a bad smell. But things are getting better.

“There is improved hygiene and cleanliness at the household levels as the implemented projects have played a big role in providing water,” Mr. Bernard Wambua said.

Some members of Syatu Community live far from the already installed water projects. They must travel long distances to get safe water and tire as a result of lugging heavy containers of water. Syakama Self-Help Group reports that the majority of Syatu’s community members are elderly. Implementing more projects will help bring water closer to everyone.

What we plan to do about it:

Our main entry point into Syatu Community has been the Syakama Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 35 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 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 river 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 29.3 meters long and 2.25 meters high.

We are unified with these farmers 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 more accessible for hundreds living around Syakama, Kavumbu, and Syatu.

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

12/07/2018: Syatu Community Sand Dam Project Complete

Syatu 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 by Mr. Muendo Ndambuki, the field officer for this region. Trainer Veronica Matolo worked with him to find the best date for the community. Once decided, the self-help group leaders went door to door to invite everyone.

There were 20 participants in all. We had to meet outside with such a large group, but we at least tried to find the shade under trees. As the day progressed, the sun kept moving so the whole group would move their chairs along with the shade. Though it was hot outside, participation was excellent; everybody was willing to learn and take part in every activity.

Trainer Matolo conferred with the field staff about their visits to households and interviews with community members to determine which topics still needed improvement. They decided to train on:

– cleaning latrines
– water treatment
– waste disposal
– how diseases spread
– how to make soap

The community members really benefited from water treatment discussions. We reviewed the different treatment methods, how water gets contaminated in the first place, and the importance of treatment before drinking. Participants confessed that when the water looks clear, they don’t bother treating it in any way. Clear water doesn’t always mean it’s safe for drinking!

Everyone enjoyed learning to make soap. Community members said this soap recipe would bring in extra income. They’d make enough for their families and then sell the excess to their neighbors.

Trainer Matolo also brought out the action plan Syakama Self-Help Group had written during the last training. They went through item by item, determining how far everyone has come towards reaching their goals. Most of these goals pertain to household hygiene, as group members are trying to realize full latrine coverage, handwashing stations, dish racks, and other important facilities.

“This training has been done to us several times and we are very much grateful for the efforts that are always made to ensure that we get the content,” said Mrs. Sarah Muthiani.

“It has been of great importance making a tremendous change in our lives because since the first day when the training was done to us, we have improved our hygiene at the personal level and we will keep it at that level because we don’t want to be sick.”

Sand Dam

“Syakama Community is happy to have completed this project. It is a project that will be here for us and generations to come. We are proud of the project as it will come with great impact in terms of water access within our locality,” said Mrs. Muthiani.

“Water will now be available in adequate amounts as compared to the past.”

The only challenge building this sand dam was that group members like Mrs. Muthiani had to work extra hard alongside our team. All self-help group members are expected to work together on such a large-scale project, but some made excuses to stay on their own farms all day. Mrs. Muthiani and many others made this project a success.

The Process:

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

While we delivered more expensive materials like the cement, lumber, and work tools, community members gathered sand, stones, and water.

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.

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.

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 29.3 meters long and 2.25 meters high and took 430 bags of cement to build.

Sand dam construction was undertaken simultaneously with the construction of a hand-dug well that will give 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.

The Water Project : 18-kenya18184-finished-sand-dam

07/03/2018: Syatu Community Project Schedule

It won’t be long now before the construction of the sand dam begins. As you can imagine, coordinating all of the people involved in this kind of project is the key to success. The field officers meet frequently with the community to verify that all the materials and volunteers are ready. They need to prepare accommodations for our artisans, too. Based on their last meeting, the community has decided that they need a few more weeks to prepare. We’ve adjusted the expected completion date for this project, and we look forward to keeping you updated as the artisans and trainers get to work in the coming months!

The Water Project : 2-kenya18184-carrying-water

05/22/2018: Syatu Community Sand Dam Underway

A clean water shortage around Syatu Community still affects hundreds of lives, draining 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!

The Water Project : 6-kenya18184-water-storage

Project Photos

Project Type

Sand Dam

Seasonal streams (and the sand they carry) are trapped by dams, replenishing the water table and allowing for adjacent hand-dug wells. Almost completely led by community-supplied sweat and materials, and under the supervision of engineers, dams are strategically placed within those dry river-beds. The next time it rains, flood-waters are trapped.

With a sand dam, this trapped sand begins to hold millions of gallons of rainwater. Soon enough, sand reaches the top of the dam, allowing water to continue downstream – where it meets the next dam. The result? A regional water table is restored.


Project Sponsor - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation