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: 02/20/2024

Project Features

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This is our second year working with the Kithangaini Kithuluni Self-Help Group to help improve access to reliable, safe water in their community.

We installed a dug well and hand pump alongside a sand dam 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 15,000 people can access safe water.

"Now we can farm, take care of our livestock because of the sand dam, even though it is a bit far," Mrs. Ann Mbeti, a local farmer, said.

That is why we work together with the community for five years to build sustainable water and sanitation solutions.

Kithuluni Village is a peaceful and vegetated rural area whereby most houses are made of bricks whilst some are also built of iron sheets.

On an average day for the community members, the women and children wake up at 6am to go and fetch water. The women then prepare breakfast for the family as the children prepare to go to school. The men, on the other hand, wake up to go to the farm to get grass for the livestock and also prepare to run errands.

During the day, the women wash the family’s clothes, tidy up the house, wash utensils and prepare lunch as well as supper for the family. Owing to the fact that women and the children spend most of their time around the homestead, they are usually home early while the men arrive back home late.

The first sand dam and hand-dug well system has brought water closer to hundreds, but there are still several more families that live far away. And considering the terrain of this vast area, fetching water is cumbersome and dangerous for many families who must climb up slopes carrying jerrycans of water.

Even though the training on safe water handling has already been done, not all members treat their drinking water due to some myths in the community about the treatment of drinking water, especially through boiling.

We have also learned that the group members are well aware that dirty water can result in diseases, but they seem to have resigned to their fate and drink it untreated anyway.

The community members have improved their sanitation levels as a result of the training done to them. The pit latrines are now cleaned frequently and tippy taps are in use. The homesteads we visited had clean latrines which were not covered but at least they had been cleaned.

What we plan to do about it:

Our main entry point into Kithuluni Community has been the Kithangaini Kithuluni Self-Help Group, which is comprised of local farming households that are working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. This is our second of five years working with this group. 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 are not able to observe. Food hygiene, water hygiene and treatment, personal hygiene and handwashing will all be highlighted during our next review.

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot further down the river in Kithuluni 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 84 meters long and 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 hundreds of community members.

Project Updates

October, 2019: Giving Update: Kithuluni Community Sand Dam

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

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

January, 2019: Kithuluni Community Sand Dam Complete

Kithuluni 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

"This water project has been an instant sensation in the village, it is already holding huge amounts of water for us to use all year round," exclaimed Simon Kiilu.

"We are happy to have completed it despite the challenges faced along the way. The water point will improve clean water supply within the community and lead to improved living standards generally. It is the joy of everyone within the community to have this kind of a project realized!"

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.

The sand dam construction process witnessed a couple of challenges which led to delays in the completion of the project. Low turn out at the construction site meant it took longer to complete construction. The dam construction was also caught up by the rain season which halted the construction process due to the fact that the river filled with water.

While we delivered more expensive materials like 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 84 feet long and 8 feet high and took 389 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 Masii area field officer Ruth Mwanzia informed the group leaders about the intention of the organization to hold a water, sanitation, and hygiene training for the community members. They then mobilized the group members and community to attend the training which was scheduled at the homestead of Stephen Mutua.

The weather on the day was sunny but the venue had many trees which provided enough shade for all the participants the environment was therefore conducive for learning.

The level of participation from members attending the training was generally good, middle-aged women expressed more willingness to learn as much content compared to their male counterparts. This was characteristic of their primary role of running the majority of household chores.

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.

Soap making

"The training was very educative. Most of us didn't know the importance of having hygiene infrastructures at home but today we have known the need, the training has also brought unity among the group members thus there will be no disagreements," said 36-year-old farmer Stephen Mutua.

During the training, members learned about the importance of having hygiene infrastructures at their homesteads. This will enable them to improve their hygiene standards thus preventing diseases especially waterborne diseases which are very common, especially typhoid and amoeba.

January, 2019: Kithuluni Community Sand Dam Project Underway

A severe clean water shortage in Kithuluni 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: Kithuluni Community Sand Dam

October, 2019

A year ago, your generous donation helped Kithuluni community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Pauline Kioka. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Kithuluni Community 2A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kithuluni Community 2A 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!

Kithuluni community members are enjoying the water attained from the sand dam and shallow well project constructed a year ago. The project harvested water from the rainy seasons.

The environment has improved. It is more serene and cool because there is plenty of water harvested at the river bed by their sand dam. The water attained at the well is fresh for drinking and consumption. Community members are happy about the project.

"Life has improved greatly in the past year, as the struggles that we encountered in pursuit of water diminished," said Pauline Kioka, a local farmer in the community.

"The water has been available to us throughout the year at any time of the day. The distance traveled to get water has reduced significantly and now we have more time at our disposal."

Water is readily available at any time of the day which allows for good hygiene and sanitation practices such as bathing daily, frequent washing of the latrines, washing clothes and water treatment practices. Food hygiene practices such as washing food before consumption to avoid contracting diseases have also been possible thanks to the supply of water.

"The shallow well has very fresh water for drinking and for household chores. The well is always busy because there are always community members thronging at the source to fetch clean water," said Pius Kavila, chair of the water user committee.

"Young adults are no longer idle, as they utilize the water to farm vegetables which they sell and earn some income."

The availability of water has boosted agricultural practices in the region. Farming is progressing well, and community members have planted vegetables on their farms for both domestic use and agribusiness.

"As women, we decided to form a self-help system where we save some money and we can also borrow from each other. This has really been empowered by the availability of water because now we have time to farm and earn an income from selling vegetables and other farm products," Mrs. Kioka said.

"I am very happy about this water project."

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 Kithuluni Community 2A 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 Kithuluni Community 2A – 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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