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: 02/16/2024

Project Features

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This is the second year we have worked with Mitini Community and the Mitini Self-Help Group.

One dam and one well were constructed last year, giving people access to safe water for drinking and a source for irrigating their crops.

However, the dam is still maturing and it alone cannot hold enough the water to support a community like Mitini where more than 10,000 people live. A single well is also not enough to ensure everyone has access to safe water.

"We spend a lot of time at the spring waiting to fetch water especially now that it has not rained for a long while. The sand dam is dry hence making our lives hard," Mrs. Mary Leonard said.

"We enjoyed while it was there but now the water we have is little since the whole community is dependent on it. Our cleaning routines have gone behind compared to how we were trained due to the water scarcity. However, we are trying our best."

As a result, people still turn to open water sources and scoop holes to meet their daily needs. Community members walk long distances to get water that is not safe for consumption, leaving them vulnerable to waterborne diseases.

So we plan to construct another well and dam to ensure that more people have safe water nearby.

This self-help group is in the second year of our five-year development program. They were trained during the construction of their first successful sand dam, and have grown immensely since then.

Go here to view previous projects in the community and see their progress over the past few years.

Due to the water scarcity, latrines in the community are cleaned irregularly. Most of them are not keen on keeping their latrines clean as they view it as a waste of water considering the time and energy they consume while fetching water from the spring. However, some of them have tippy taps with water to wash their hands after using the latrines.

The good news is that most people are applying the lessons they learned from their first hygiene and sanitation training.

Subsistence agriculture is the main source of livelihood for this community. When the rainfall pattern is better, the members harvest enough both for their families and to sell at the local market to earn money for other needs.

What we plan to do about it:

Our main entry point into Mitini Community has been the Mitini 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 the self-help group members and their communities on hygiene and sanitation practices. No more than half of the households in this area even have a basic pit latrine. Since getting water is such a tough, time-consuming task, many people view cleaning as a waste of water.

Some of the members have really made a strong effort to implement what they were taught by their trainers, such as having handwashing stations, latrines, kitchen racks, and clotheslines. However, they need more training on water treatment. According to the statistics recorded, out of the 36 members, only two boil their water. Ten others use WaterGuard and the rest do not apply any water treatment mechanism.

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot further down the river in Mitini 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 39.6 meters long and 4.15 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 Mitini Community.

Project Updates

January, 2019: Mitini Community Sand Dam Complete

Mitini 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.

Review and New Knowledge

Hygiene and sanitation training was planned by the officers Christine Mutheu and Veronica Matolo. The field officer informed the group leaders, who notified all group members and invited them to attend this review. The venue was at Kitavi Mutwii’s homestead, who is a member of the group. His homestead is only 50 meters away from the first sand dam and hand-dug well in the community, and thus the people found it convenient to meet at his place so they could access water from the well throughout the day.

Participation and involvement were high as everyone was very interested in what we were teaching. There was a question and answer forum in which the members expressed their desires fro training and the topics they felt they needed a refresher on. We noticed that women were more observant and active throughout when compared to the men, most likely because women are traditionally seen as the person most responsible for water and hygiene-related activities in their families.

The members were refreshed on the following topics:

1. Water hygiene (water treatment methods)
2. Latrine hygiene
3. Prevention of diseases
4. Importance of having hygiene infrastructures at home

People listed some of the diseases they suffer from during the year and when they are most prevalent. Through an open discussion, everyone felt confident in new ways they can prevent these illnesses. Some of the diseases they listed were malaria, typhoid, fever, and cancer among others.

"The training was good. We are happy we have been reminded about what we learned last year and we will be keen to put them into practice," said Mrs. Mary Nduku.

Mary Nduku

"Our group has also become more united because of today’s training. This training will help us to improve our hygiene and sanitation at home. It has also reminded us on how to prevent diseases which will help us to stay healthy. We are thankful and grateful for the training."

Sand Dam

"It was a long-awaited project in our community and we are very grateful that our efforts have finally paid off. The project construction required a lot of effort and we are glad that after the completion we have attained water which is sufficient to run all our errands," said Mary.

"Life has become easier and now we fetch water a stone's throw away. We are thankful for the project completion and now we are praying for more rains."

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.

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 39.6 meters long and 4.15 meters high and took 380 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.

January, 2019: Mitini Community Sand Dam Project Underway

A severe clean water shortage in Mitini Community drains people’s time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to build a nearby clean water point and much more.

If you haven't already, get to know this community through the pictures and stories we have on our website. We look forward to reaching out again when we have news of the good work accomplished!

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!


Project Underwriter - Newton-Burt Charitable Family Foundation
The James Family / Lucia James
Data Abstract Solutions, Inc.
Ardsley High School 039 Building Bridges Club
ditoma limited
Ariel Strobach
Tommy Joseph - Round Hill Virginia
In Honor of the Rubitos
Holly and Muylika's Campaign for Water
68 individual donor(s)