Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/16/2024

Project Features

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People living in Ikuusya Community have to travel more than two miles to collect water from the closest riverbed. They must dig through the sand to scoop murky water from a hole, fill their containers, and make the return journey home - this time with the added weight of water.

The journey is made easier for those who own a donkey. The elderly who cannot complete the task must resort to paying other people to fetch water for them.

All of this effort is undertaken to bring home water that is unsafe. The water containers don't even have covers, so water is succeptible to further contamination on the way home. The majority of people are using this water without any form of treatment.

A consequence of water scarcity is a reduced level of hygiene and sanitation. Roughly three-quarters of households have latrines, but none of the households we visited had water nearby to use for handwashing.

"The majority of people in our area want to lead decent lives, with high levels of hygiene and sanitation. However, water challenges in our community have led to poor levels of cleanliness at the household level," Mrs. Mwikali Kimeli, a local farmer, said to us.

The Kwa Mbunza Self-Help Group heard about our work from neighboring groups. They got in contact with our field officer Patrick and expressed their intention to partner with us to improve access to safe water in their community.

Most people here rely on farming or casual labor as their source of income. However, some are employed in formal jobs and others conduct petty trade to make a living.

The community is found in a peaceful remote rural village with the characteristic indigenous dry-land tree species forming the majority of the vegetation cover. The majority of individual houses are mud made and grass thatched with others made of bricks and iron sheets.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into Ikuusya Community has been the Kwa Mbunza 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. Not every household has a pit latrine, so we need to explain the importance of this facility. Some of the latrines we were able to observe were very poorly constructed, so we are concerned they will collapse and sink when the rare burst of rain occurs. 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 Ikuusya 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 12.3 meters long and 3.1 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

October, 2019: Giving Update: Ikuusya Community Sand Dam

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

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

December, 2018: Ikuusya Community Sand Dam Project Complete

Ikuusya 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

"Access to clean water has been our biggest challenge in this village," said Mrs. Kimwele.

"Having this sand dam and shallow well in our locality will present a big boost to many families in terms of clean water access. It is the joy of all community members to be part of these kinds of development projects which will improve our living standards and health at large."

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 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.

Our engineers drew siting and technical designs 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 12.3 meters long and 3.1 meters high and took 145 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 Waita area field officer, Austin Mumo, mobilized the self-help group members for the a three-day sanitation and hygiene training. All the group members were invited to attend, along with all other community members and local leaders.

The attendance was very good with all group members turning up for the hygiene and sanitation training. The local area chief also attended the training and urged other community members to embrace the new concepts learned.

The venue for the training was at the sand dam site.

"We always have peace when meeting at this place, seeing the work we have done makes us feel motivated to undertake any other challenge. The place has no disturbances," said Mwikali Kimwele, chairlady of the group.

The weather was calm during the morning hours and sunny during the afternoon. There were trees that provided enough shade for all the participants.

Topics included:

- Identifying health problems in the community
- Investigating community practices
- Good and bad hygiene behaviors
- How germs spread
- Blocking the spread of disease
- Choosing the right improvements
- Making an action plan for the village
- Handwashing
- Soap-making

Participants copied down and followed our recipe to make their first batch of soap.

Participants particularly enjoyed the activity for good and bad hygiene behaviors. They did three-pile sorting, the three piles being good behaviors, neutral, and bad. People split up into two groups and were given a large pile of different behaviors. They discussed each one and decided if it was a good, neutral, or bad behavior.

They also liked the handwashing activities. We began by demonstrating how to construct a tippy tap handwashing station, which uses accessible materials like sticks, string, and a plastic container. After seeing how easy this tippy tap is to build, each participant promised to construct one of their own back home.

After the construction of the tippy tap, everyone was taken through a demonstration on how to wash hands. Critical moments to wash hands were also discussed, such as before eating and after visiting the latrines.

"The training was very good we have learned many new things. It will help us prevent diseases and be healthy and energetic to work in our farms and raise our children," said Mrs. Mwikali Kimwele.

"The soap-making project will enable us to improve our hygiene at home and also will help generate income through the soap sales. We are very happy and grateful."

November, 2018: Ikuusya Community Sand Dam Underway

People travel long distances just to get dirty water from open holes in the riverbed. This is making the families of Ikuusya Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point 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: Ikuusya Community Sand Dam

October, 2019

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Ikuusya 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!

The people in Ikuusya community have been enjoying a good water supply from their sand dam and hand-dug well for the last year. The water point has consistently provided water to the village population for the last year, saving them from long-distance travel in search of water to meet their daily needs.

"This water project has brought clean water close to my homestead. I no longer have to undertake the 4 kilometers I used to walk in search of water," said Mwikali Kimwele, chair of the water user committee.

"Now, it takes me less than 20 minutes to draw water from the well and get it home. This has availed me [with] more time to work on personal development activities. That was not possible in the past."

For Makaa Mutunga, the proximity to the well means she can help fetch water for her family. The 9-year-old's mother did not allow her to get water in the past because the journey was so long.

"Fetching water has become more fun and I can fetch so many trips in a day. The water is clean and sweet to drink," she said.

Livestock and other domestic animals can now get water for drinking easily from the new water point without having to travel for long distances either. This development is saving time and improving the health of animals.

Makaa Mutunga

In addition, the constant water supply from the new water point is helping improve levels of hygiene and sanitation at the household level as water is available.

"Since the implementation of this water project, I have been able to shower on a daily basis and put on clean clothes because water is always available at home," Makaa said.

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 Ikuusya 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 Ikuusya 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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