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: 06/04/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

The people in Kaliani travel more than two miles to the Kinze River to fetch water from scoop holes in the riverbed. That means it takes more than an hour to fetch water every day.

The distance is so far that some people have to pay others to fetch their water and carry it back using donkeys. These scoop holes are open, unprotected and prone to contamination.

Virtually no households undertake the proper steps to treat and protect drinking water, we found. This is because they believe the water sources are safe and also some find the water treatment exercise to be too time-consuming.

"I wouldn't drink this water because it is prone to contamination," our reporting officer said, after visiting the source.

This is home for Kikaka Self-Help Group, which aims to help Kitandini, Kaliani, and numerous other villages in this area of Kenya. The group is comprised of farmers who believe that if they work together to address food and water scarcity in their area, they’ll grow stronger.

This is Kikaka Self-Help Group’s first year in partnering with us, and they look forward to having a huge impact on this region. They will take part in a five-year collaboration to improve access to safe water and sanitation in the community. We are also constructing another dam and well with this group this year. Go here to learn more.

"Our children and community members have suffered a lot because of the water problem in this area. We hope that the implementation of this project will make things better," Mr. Mwakavi Kimeu said.

Most households have latrines, but the ones we visited were in poor shape. The floor looked as if it might fall in at any moment and the roof was leaking from recent rains. As a result, some people in this community practice open defecation - something that poses a health risk to everyone here.

This area is quite a drive from our main office. It’s 133 kilometers of easy driving on a highway through Wote Town, but then it gets difficult: 44 kilometers on bumpy, hilly Murram Road.

It is a rural, peaceful area. Most of the households dotting the terrain are made of brick walls and dirt floors.

What we plan to do about it:

Our main entry point into Kaliani Community has been the Kikaka 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 continue training the self-help group members and their communities on hygiene and sanitation practices. Most households in the area have a pit latrine, but these have been constructed poorly and are dangerous after heavy rains. The handful of families who do not have a bathroom facility use the privacy of brush in their immediate area. The trainer also plans to focus on water treatment, garbage disposal, and keeping a clean environment.

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot further down the river in Kaliani 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 56.1 meters long and 3.9 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 in Kaliani.

Project Updates

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

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

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

January, 2019: Kaliani Community Sand Dam Project Complete

Kaliani 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

"We would like to thank God for having guided us through to the completion of this project. Everyone is happy and it is the talk of the village," said Mr. Mutinda Mulei.

"Such an amazing water harvesting project will help us access water easily all year round since it holds a high volume of water. Our cattle will also have access to water without walking long distances."

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. All of this stone and sand compliments the tools, cement, lumber, and metal that we provide.

Materials we provided for sand dam construction

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 40.6 meters long and 4.5 meters high and took 700 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.

Important Review and New Knowledge

Hygiene and sanitation training was planned and organized by the Mbumbuni area field officer, Rhoda Mwangu, in collaboration with Officer Veronica Matolo and the self-help group leadership. They all agreed on the best date and venue. It was settled that Ms. Matolo would meet the community at Rozina Katuli's homestead, which was easily accessible for all involved.

Training started on a cold morning with on and off rain drizzles. During the rainy times, all of us would gather under the available houses and shelters.

Despite the weather, attendance was as expected with a majority of self-help group members in attendance. Other community members who are not members of the group also attended to learn more about good hygiene practices.

All participants expressed high interest to learn and embrace new hygiene concepts, however, women expressed more interest compared to the men. It was later established that some of the women had missed previous trainings, thus their great interest in learning the concepts.

Topics included:

- Importance of a dish drying rack
- Cleaning the household compound
- Water treatment methods
- Personal hygiene
- Food preparation and storage
- Latrine hygiene
- Trash disposal
- Making soap

Community members were most eager to learn about water treatment methods. People were happy to learn about this to prevent the waterborne diseases from which they suffer.

An agenda for the day

Participants were surprised to learn about how important it is to cover a latrine pit when it's not in use. This was a new concept not known by a majority of members who attended, but they later understood that the same flies that are attracted to their latrines are attracted to their food.

"The training content has been very educative to us on issues which touch our daily lives," said Mrs. Rozina Katuli.

Rozina Katuli

"It has helped me improve my understanding of the best hygiene practices, ways of making soap which can be used for income generation, and providing soap for household use among other practices aimed at improving our living standards and reducing exposure to disease-causing organisms."

November, 2018: Kaliani Community Sand Dam Project Underway

People in Kaliani Community have to walk a long distance just to get dirty water. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to build a sand dam 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: Kaliani Community Sand Dam

October, 2019

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kaliani 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!

Kaliani community members have had a constant supply of water throughout the year since the construction of the sand dam and hand-dug shallow well system. On our team's most recent visit there, community members welcomed us with joy because they were very excited about the project.

"My life has changed for the best in the past year. The construction work was very exhausting but the fruits are very sweet," said Caroline Ndunge, a local farmer.

"Accessing the water source now is very easy, I do not have to walk for very long to access water and I spend very little time fetching water."

The environment has improved greatly due to the availability of water. It is very serene, and the vegetation has changed greatly.

"I am so happy about the change. Through this project, I bought a dairy cow and I plan to start selling milk. Our livestock can access water easily, we don't have to walk for very long distances," Mrs. Ndunge added.

Caroline Ndunge

Community members can engage in farming easily as a result of the water harvested by the sand dam. Farming practices are progressing well with a large number of the population owning a water pumping system. At the time of our visit, it was a dry season but the area looked very wet, green, and productive because their sand dam had harvested gallons of water during the rainy period.

"In the past, this river used to flow only during the rainy seasons and after that, the water table would decrease such that we would have to dig very deep scoop-holes to access it," said Rosina Mutinda.

"The project has really helped us because now, we can farm and perform our household activities on time. We have time for income-generating activities such as farming and we also have enough food."

Hygiene and sanitation levels have improved because of the availability of water in the area.

"Through a committee established in our group we noted 90% improvement on hygiene and sanitation practices such as the presence of tippy taps erected near the latrines of all members, garbage pits for proper waste disposal, dishracks, and clotheslines," said Ms. Mutinda.

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 Kaliani 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 Kaliani 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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