Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/15/2024

Project Features

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This is our second year working with the Ivuka Self-Help Group. It was formed in January 2016 with the objective of developing and enhancing the social welfare of 25 members who come from Ivumbu, Kasioni, Kaani and other communities.

We installed a dug well and hand pump alongside a sand dam to help households in the Kaani area access safe water last year.

However, we estimate a well can comfortably support 500 people, so more work needs to be done to ensure this community of more than 5,000 people can access safe water. That is why we work together with the community for five years to build sustainable water and sanitation solutions.

An elderly woman in the community, Mrs. Magdalene Mwende, told us how exhausting it is for her to make the journey to Kaani to fetch water. She finds the trip back home with heavy water jerrycans to be the worst part. She said it is fine for young people because they are energetic.

That leads her and others who can't make the journey to use other nearby water sources. Though the water is easier to collect, it is unsafe. These open sources harbor waterborne diseases that cause the people who drink from it to fall ill.

"The distance to go and fetch water is far since it is too steep for someone my age. At times we get typhoid, bilharzia or even amoeba because of drinking the water that is nearer," Mrs. Mwende said to us.

"My nephew has been diagnosed with amoeba many times. We do not have the techniques to treat this water."

This is a rural area that is partly vegetative while some other areas are dry. It is a peaceful area with buildings made of brick stones while others are built of iron sheets. The majority of households rely on farming as their main income.

Some people report engaging in informal labor. They are often hired by the hour to perform tasks like working on farms. A few people own small businesses or are formally employed in the region.

The average day starts with the sunrise around 6am. The women usually go fetch water for washing and to prepare breakfast before the children go to school. The men often take the livestock out for grazing. During the day, the woman washes the family’s clothes, tidy up the house, washes utensils and prepares lunch as well as supper for the family. However, in this community, the parents are aged leaving the children to do most of the tasks.

Poverty is a major problem in the community. We collected reports from families struggling to produce enough food so that everyone can eat three meals a day. Constructing a sand dam and a well in Kyetonye will help both improve access to safe water for people like Mrs. Mwende, and make it easier for farmers like Mr. Mutiso (pictures included) to irrigate their crops.

What we plan to do about it:

Our main entry point into Kyetonye Community has been the Ivuka Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 39 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 the self-help 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 river in Kyetonye 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 31 meters long and 2.8 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 people like Mrs. Mwende.

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Peter Muthusi

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 Kyetonye 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 Peter Muthusi shared his story of how the coronavirus has impacted her his life.

Our field officer met Peter outside his home to conduct the interview. Both our staff member and Peter observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Peter's story, in his own words.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

"Fear and anxieties around the disease and the future have been heightened due to the closure of businesses. Following the rise of cases daily, we are afraid of contracting the disease, and this has led to loneliness as we are not interacting with our neighbors as we used to. Unreliable source of income at this time has resulted in family conflicts and disagreements because of lack of money. Not being able to speak to friends and meeting them regularly is hard. We feel like we are disconnected from society, and we are wondering when the situation will normalize."

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

"To stop the spread of the virus, Kenya has been conducting sensitization training of health care workers in Kenya. Frequent health education campaigns have been airing on media outlets to inform citizens on how to protect themselves by wearing masks all the time, washing their hands and avoiding crowded places. Quarantine facilities have been set up to ensure the victims of the virus are isolated for fourteen days. Contact tracing has also been going on to prevent the spread of this virus."

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?

"When going to the water sources we have been observing government regulations like wearing masks and social distancing. We have established handwashing stations near the wells to ensure each member washes their hands before handling the pump."

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

"Despite the challenges, we are very thankful to The Water Project and Africa Sand Dam Foundation for empowering us with skills that have been applicable during this pandemic. Training such as smart agriculture practices, soap making, and construction of tippy taps have all boosted our survival capacity during this time. Both sand dam and the well are saving us time and enabling increased food production and tree planting for soil conservation. We have been using the water to plant vegetables such as kales, spinach, onions, and tomatoes, which have helped in supplementing our diets during this period."

How has getting food been at this time?

"At the onset of the virus in our country, we had a great harvest which I stored in my granary. Had there been market days, I would sell some of my farm products to get some income. Unfortunately, we had no funds to purchase pesticides. Weevils have destroyed our food in stores, and we are currently facing starvation."

June, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Kyetonye 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 Kyetonye, 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.

October, 2019: Giving Update: Kyetonye Community Sand Dam

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

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

March, 2019: New Pictures for Kyetonye Community

In the most recent update we sent on January 31, we noticed that some of the pictures didn't look quite right. After checking further we found that pictures of another community were mixed in with the correct pictures of Kyetonye! We've fixed the error and have posted the correct pictures. And we're excited to share the community has received their first rainfall which is filling the sand dam and storing water which will be easily accessed via the well and hand pump. Even during the dry parts of the year, Kyetonye will have water.

January, 2019: Kyetonye Community Sand Dam Complete

Kyetonye 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.

Sand Dam

There were no reported challenges or delays that were reported to hinder the normal construction process of the sand dam. The group members created a schedule of attendance to ensure the project construction flows as planned. It took 81 days to complete the construction of both the sand dam and the adjacent hand-dug well.

"I intend to farm a lot now that the sand dam was constructed near my homestead," said Jackson Mwasa. "There's a lot of clean water at the shallow well as plenty of water was harnessed by the sand dam due to the recently experienced rains."

Yes, the water flowing from the dam is supposed to be there. As it flows through the dam, sand is building up behind the wall! This sand will store water during the coming dry seasons.

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.

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 26.55 meters long and 6.2 meters high and took 650 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.

New Knowledge

The planning of the training was conducted a few weeks prior to the date. Christine Lucas Mutheu, a WASH officer, contacted the field officer in charge of the group to organize and mobilize the group members for the refresher training. Madam Ruth Mwanzia then contacted the group members to inform them on the agreed date and planned for a centrally-based venue in which the training would occur.

The training took place at Teresiah Kilonzo’s homestead. Teresiah is a member of Ivuka self-help group. The homestead is a central venue for all the members and also it's located 10 meters away from their sand dam.

Attendance was great considering this was not our first training with the Ivuka Self-Help Group. Out of the 22 people in the group, 20 members turned up for the training. On this day of, the weather was calm and conducive for learning. The venue where the training was conducted was centrally based as it is 10 meters away from the sand dam and it was near all the members' homesteads.

The participation levels of the group members were high as all the attendees portrayed immense interest in the topics of discussion.

"The training was great as we were refreshed on a lot of information taught in the previous training which we had forgotten," said Raphael Musyoka.

People attending were trained on topics including:

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

The training went on smoothly without any major challenges coming along the way, this made the activity high successful.

Milka Mbithe, a member of this group, took the rest of the members through the demonstration on how to construct a tippy tap handwashing station while a few members competed to demonstrate to the rest of the members on the handwashing procedure. The competition made the topic interesting and at the end of it all the participants were handwashing experts!

January, 2019: Kyetonye Community Sand Dam Project Underway

A severe clean water shortage in Kyetonye Community still affects hundreds of people. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a water point nearby 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: Kyetonye Community Sand Dam

October, 2019

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kyetonye 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!

Kaani community members have plenty of water after their sand dam harvested volumes of water since the previously experienced rains. There has been notable improved hygiene and sanitation as the members can access water easily. Washing clothes, cleaning the latrines, and frequent showers are among the adopted behaviors observed since their sanitation and hygiene training.

On the day of our visit, we found Fridah Mbithe washing clothes near the water source because her home is adjacent to the water source.

"We have daily showers because the water is readily available. I have also adopted to washing my latrine on a daily basis and installing a handwashing facility adjacent to the latrine to ensure everyone who visits the latrine washes their hands," she said to us.

The water is very clean and fresh for drinking. Community members have now also adopted water treatment methods which are favorable to them because most households now have moringa trees planted in their farms. This community has experienced a reduction in cases of waterborne diseases because the water attained is from a protected water source and it is treated at home using the moringa.

"Agribusiness was reserved for only those who had water reservoirs at their homes, but now we can access water to farm easily," explained Pius Kaala.

"We have managed to farm and sell our products in local markets."

The environment here is now fresh and cool. The vegetation is greener and the water table has risen. Most members have utilized the harvested water for farming French beans, kale, spinach, and tomatoes.

"The rains have really [been] delayed this season but the sand dam and well water project has kept us going. We hardly feel the pain. A time like this in the previous years, we would be struggling up and down looking for water but now we can relax, perform our household chores with no pressure," Ms. Mbithe said.

The shallow well provides clean and fresh drinking water which the community members are enjoying. Community members are very happy about this project. People here have improved their living standards and their hygiene and sanitation are impressive, reported our teams after their visit.

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 Kyetonye 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 Kyetonye 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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