Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 258 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/10/2024

Project Features

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The Kituuti Ntheketha Self-Help Group in Kala Community has had an interest in working on water projects in their locality to improve water access and living standards at large. But a lack of funds prevented them from purchasing the hardware and hiring skilled labor to complete a project.

After learning about our work in other areas they sought our support in the construction of a dam. Our officers met the group and found it of good capacity and an eager membership that's ready to work on water projects.

We visited the community on a cold, rainy morning. Walking on the footpaths involved sliding in muddy areas and crossing flowing streams on our way to the group site.

The community group is found in a peaceful, rural area with significant tree coverage made of predominantly indigenous trees. The area is hilly with steep slopes making part of the footpaths and roads linking up to the area. Many households have decent houses made up of bricks and good iron sheets for roofs.

People collect water from a nearby river. The water was not clean and looked colored when we visited. Locals have no choice as there no other water sources within the area. Chances are high that the water is contaminated, exposing the community to possible waterborne diseases. It is also seasonal, meaning people will have to look for water elsewhere when it runs dry for periods throughout the year.

Community members have been exposed to rampant conflicts among themselves in the struggle for the meager water resources. As a result, the level of hygiene and sanitation in their homesteads is low due to the insufficient water supply.

"Our levels of hygiene and sanitation are way low compared to the wishes of many of our community members, lack of water and low levels of hygiene knowledge are the reasons for our current situation, by implementing water projects we hope to redeem ourselves," Mr. Charles Kimatu said to us.

The latrines we visited exhibited average levels of cleanliness. No household had water placed outside the facilities so people can wash their hands. Some of the latrines were made of permanent and semi-permanent structures. Chances are high that some latrines have been affected by the ongoing rains - leading to them sinking in the mud or falling down.

The lack of clean water sources in the village has led to locals spend much of their time in pursuit of the basic commodity of time.

The time wasted fetching water and combating illness caused by drinking the dirty source could otherwise be spent doing meaningful activities, like working, farming, or going to school. The long walks to water sources have caused substantial damage to women and children who are mostly involved in the water fetching activities.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into Kala Community has been the Kituuti Ntheketha Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 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 train self-help group members and their communities on hygiene and sanitation practices. Kala Community is a new group working on their first water project, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that every homestead we visited had a latrine. The majority of households had a garbage pit, and several had helpful tools like clotheslines and dish racks. We will continue to encourage improvement here, especially when it comes to daily cooking habits, personal hygiene, water hygiene and its treatment, and handwashing.

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot further down the river in Kala 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 46.4 meters long and 4.8 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 people.

Project Updates

September, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with John Mutua

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 Ndumbu Community to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point. Shortly after, we returned to check in on the community, offer a COVID-19 refresher training, and ask how the pandemic affects their lives.

It was during this most recent visit that John Mutua shared his story of how the Coronavirus is impacting his life.

Field Officer Dorcas met John outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Dorcas and John observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is John's story, in his own words.

How has the new Coronavirus impacted your family?

"My family is facing a financial challenge because two of my children who used to work in Nairobi municipality, were laid off and are unable to support their families financially as they did before the outbreak of the Corona Virus. Schools were closed, and this exposed my teenage grandchildren to the risk of early pregnancy, which is on the rise, especially during this time when the children are at home and very idle. They have been engaging in bad companies and practicing bad habits like drug abuse. I am praying to God for this pandemic to end so that they can go back to school."

How is Kenya Working to stop the spread of the virus?

"Kenya is working to stop the virus by educating the public through media on the preventive measures they need to take to stop the spread of the virus. The president extended the night to dawn curfew by 30 days to reduce the spread of the virus. Towns registering high numbers of coronavirus cases like Nairobi, Mandera, and Mombasa have been on lockdown for close to three months to help curb the spread of the virus. Members of the public have also been encouraged to practice social distancing and wear masks every time they leave home. The country has also borrowed some amount of money from the World Bank and other countries to help vulnerable members of society."

How has got water changed for you?

"I am thankful to ASDF and TWP for supporting us to implement the sand dams and the protected shallow wells. Getting water is now easy, and there is no crowding at the water sources since the water is plenty, and a jerrycan is filled with just a few pump strokes."

How has getting food changed for you?

"We are currently surviving on the food in our stores, thanks to God for the good harvest we had last year. However, we are unable to have a balanced diet in every meal due to financial challenges. Before the virus, we would sell the surplus food to buy other processed foodstuffs from the market, which we are now unable to do because market centers were closed due to the Coronavirus."

How has (or will) having a well and a sand dam helped you through this time?

"Having a well and a sand dam has been very helpful to me, especially during this time. I am very thankful to ASDF and TWP for supporting us in implementing the water projects. It's like they knew there was going to be a coronavirus outbreak in the future. The water in the sand dams has enabled every member of our group to have a kitchen garden at home, and this has ensured we have a good supply of vegetables in the family. The ministry of health has encouraged the public to take more green vegetables to boost their immunity to increase their chance of survival just in case they get infected with the virus. This has been made possible by having plenty of water in the sand dams. I have also grown trees, especially fruits using the water from this dam. The water in the dams has also enabled me to water my animals (cattle and goats). If animals could talk, then they can express the joy of drinking clean water every day. Lastly, having the sand dams and the shallow wells has ended the community water crisis because before we constructed the dams, people used to fight daily at the few water points in place by then. Still, today we are living in peace and harmony with our neighbors because water is plenty, and there are no queues."

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

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

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

December, 2018: Kala Community Sand Dam Project Complete

Kala 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 Kasunguni area field officer Mutuku Mukeka. He communicated with the self-help group members and settled on the best possible date for training to be conducted. All of the community members were invited to the training, which was held at Mr. Benson Thuku's homestead.

All participants were excited to learn. There were several group discussions, which provided everyone with an opportunity to speak up and contribute to the various study topics.

An icebreaker activity to teach about the value of working together

Topics and activities included:

- identifying health problems in the community
- differentiating between good and bad habits
- how diseases spread
- choosing the proper barriers to block disease spread
- making an action plan for hygiene improvements
- handwashing
- how to make soap

Group members took turns mixing the soap recipe that we presented

Participants were most involved in the discussions about disease transmission. They uncovered different routes that germs take around their community, and were surprised at the huge negative impact that improper waste disposal has on everyone. Many of these health issues start with human waste, and if a family doesn't have a latrine they endanger the entire community.

This made everyone all the more eager to learn how to build a proper latrine, wash hands, and treat drinking water.

People worked together on an action plan to implement many of the new things they learned

"The training will change our lives in that it will lead to behavior change in the positive direction," shared Mr. Benson Thuku.

"For instance, installing handwashing facilities and other hygiene infrastructure within our homes and teach our neighbors on the knowledge acquired so that they contribute to the overall improvements within the community. The soap-making training also opened our minds on... making it an income-generating activity."

Sand Dam

"As a community we a very happy to have this project in our location. It has really taken a lot of hard work and commitment to make it happen," reflected Mr. Charles Kimatu.

"With this project, we are looking forward to having enough clean water for the community and livestock. This will help improve our lives and reduce exposure to diseases attributed to use of water from unsafe sources."

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 46.4 meters long and 4.8 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.

October, 2018: Kala Community Sand Dam Underway

Dirty water from far away sources is making people in Kala Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a sand dam to bring water nearby, and much more.

Get to know your community through the narrative 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: Kala Community Sand Dam

October, 2019

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kala 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!

In the past year, Kala community members have experienced great changes in their livelihoods as a result of their sand dam and hand-dug shallow well water project. Among the greatest improvements in their lives has been the reduced distance covered to the water source and the quality of water attained from it.

"The project has been very resourceful to us in the past year because our lives have been made easier," said Felistus Kyalo.

"A time like this in the previous years, we would be trekking to the dry river beds to dig scoop holes under the scorching sun. Now, everything is different. Access to clean drinking water is no longer hectic as it was before."

Community members are very excited because they can access the water point easily. The community members now walk for less than 200 meters to get water to meet their daily needs.

As a result of the water project, there is plenty of water which is fresh for consumption. The environment here has improved. It is serene and very cool. There is green vegetation everywhere near the sand dam project.

"The project has been very helpful to me and it has challenged me to work harder. There has been water available throughout the year, a phenomenon that has not been experienced in the region for a while," said Felix Kaunda.

"I have used the water to plant vegetables in my farm. Our livestock come to drink water from the river which is nearer and safer compared to where we used to walk before."

The vegetation cover has improved thus providing adequate food for the livestock.

Hygiene and sanitation practices such as handwashing, cleaning of the latrines, and washing the house, among other chores, are easily performed due to easy access to water. Cases of waterborne diseases such as typhoid are unheard of because the members are aware of the water treatment practices needed to keep their water clean and safe for drinking.

"Through the hygiene and sanitation training we received, we are now equipped with knowledge of water treatment which has helped in reducing the risks of contracting diseases," said Mrs. Kyalo.

"We have been washing our hands before and after meals because we were trained on setting up tippy tap handwashing stations and making soap. Our latrines are cleaned often and we also use ash to reduce odor."

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 Kala 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 Kala 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.


Project Sponsor - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation