Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jun 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/10/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

To address water scarcity in arid Southeastern Kenya, we build sand dam and hand-dug well systems to bring water closer to families. Since each community is so expansive, we implement multiple systems over the course of five years to provide enough nearby water for everyone. This is our second year working in Mbau Community, which is home to 1,056 people.

The sand dam and well system constructed last year is now the main water source for everyone living in Mbau. However, hundreds of people still walk a long way to get there. The distance covered varies from household to household, so implementing more projects at different points within the community will help shorten the distance for many more families.

A dam and well can comfortably support 500 people. And since 1,056 people are relying on this one water source, it is often overused and overcrowded.

"Our first water project facility has been very successful in its provision of water. However, it has not been close to all of us in equal measure - exposing others to the water struggles of long distances and the fatigue involved in water collection," reflected Mrs. Katethya Mutheke.

"We are ready to work on more projects spread across the village so as to reach everyone and address the water challenges facing community members."

As soon as the community members heard that they have a chance to benefit from another sand dam and well system this year, they immediately started collecting the stones we'd need to start building.

Welcome to the Community

Mbau Community is found in a peaceful, rural area with a significant amount of trees. Among the trees are local homes made of bricks and covered with iron sheets. Other families live in traditional mud huts with grass-thatched roofs.

The average household has five members. The typical male leader in the home has a primary school education. In families where the adults make a decent income, they will hire help in looking after their children. Traditionally, the man is the head of the house and provides for the family. This is however only practical in larger cities. Most men living in rural areas abandon their economic frustrations to heavy drinking, abandoning their families to be taken care of by their wives.

The majority of adults have informal employment like casual labor at Migwani Market and Mwingi Town. Other community members are involved in subsistence farming at their own farms. However, their success depends on the natural rainfall. Most often, rain is too sparse and yields a very small crop.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into Mbau Community has been the Yangondi Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 44 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.


Yangondi Self-Help Group and Mbau Community have participated in training sessions that teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish in their homes. Taking good care of themselves and their environment will make for a healthy community. There has been progress, but training is still necessary to ensure continued improvement.

Current Sanitation Facility Coverage:

Latrines 90%
Clotheslines 100%
Dish Racks 50%
Bathing Area 60%
Animal Enclosure 80%
Proper Garbage Disposal 70%

And though most families have a good pit latrine, they need to clean them more often. Upcoming training sessions will strengthen weaknesses and continue encouraging each family that making the extra effort to clean homes, bathe, wash hands, and treat water is well worth it!

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot further down the river 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 42.55 meters long and 4.50 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 living around Mbau.

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Agnes Katethya Mutheki

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 Mbau 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 is affecting their lives.

It was during this most recent visit that Agnes Katethya Mutheki shared her story of how the coronavirus has impacted her his life.

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

What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?

The water point has been providing us with clean water since its installation. All surrounding homesteads have unlimited access to available water resources. Again, many people have now established small kitchen gardens using the water where they are growing kales, tomatoes, and cabbages. This will help improve our eating habits.

How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?

Having a reliable, clean water source has been of great importance to us, we are all using the available water to maintain the regular handwashing at home while also maintaining high standards of hygiene and sanitation. Having water from within is also helping towards ensuring we avoid traveling for long distances in search of water.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, has fetching water changed for you because of restrictions, new rules, or your concerns about the virus?

Yeah, there was a change. Initially, I only stayed with my husband at home. Now, my grandchildren are around, which means more water is needed at home for daily use and also for maintaining the high standards of hygiene and sanitation. Fortunately, there are no major restrictions on fetching water.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

Covid-19 has affected my family, especially my children and grandchildren. One of my sons was locked down in town all along - even after he had lost his job. It was a nightmare for us to support him with our meager income. My daughter also came to visit us here with her three children. When the cessation of movement orders was implemented, she couldn't travel back to her home.

What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Now that my husband and I are aged, we have been dependent on our children for upkeep. This pandemic has made most of them lose their jobs, which has been a blow to us, leading to a fall in living standards.

What hygiene and sanitation steps have you taken to stop the spread of the virus?

Most of the community members have installed handwashing stations at their homes to ensure regular hand washing all the time. We are also wearing face masks while in public places as a measure to avoid the virus.

Like most governments around the world, the Kenyan government continues to set and adjust restrictions both nationally and regionally to help control the spread of the disease.

What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?

The government lifted the movement restrictions yesterday. It is a major reprieve to my children who were locked in major towns after losing their jobs. Now they can travel home and live here with us.

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

I look forward to the lifting of the curfew restrictions and opening of schools so that life can go back to normal.

What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?

We learned how handwashing with clean water and soap stops the spread of the virus and the importance of wearing face masks while in public places.

When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Agnes listed the radio, word of mouth, and our team's sensitization training.

May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Mbau 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 Mbau, 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.

June, 2019: Mbau Community Sand Dam Complete

Mbau 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.

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. 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 supply of water will be available for drinking from the adjacent hand-dug well. To see that hand-dug well, click here.

Construction for this dam was a success!

We worked with the Yangondi Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and physical labor to complete the projects. In addition, they were trained on various skills such as bookkeeping, financial management, project management, and group dynamics/governance.

When an issue arises in relation to the water project, the group members are equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure it works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact their field officer to assist them.

Sand Dam Construction 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.

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 a 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.

After 34 days of construction, the final dam is 42.55 meters long, 4.5 meters high and took 483 bags of cement to build.

New Knowledge

The community hygiene and sanitation training was planned by our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer Veronica Matolo. Once the date was decided, the self-help group leaders went door to door to invite everyone. Since this is the second project with this self-help group, it is also the second training with them. The two days served as an opportunity to build on the lessons learned a year ago and find areas in need of improvement.

It was noted that there was a lot of open defecation being practiced in this community. Some 14 sites were found at intervals of less than 100 meters apart. A week before the training was done, follow-ups were conducted in the areas where open defecation was identified. Consultations were made to encourage families to construct latrines in order to eliminate open defecation from the community.

"This hygiene promotion training has helped us stop open defecation and for that reason, we'll be healthier and less exposed to risks of contracting diseases," said Mr. Mutheki Muvengei.

There were 21 participants in all. Members agreed that the training would take place at the homestead of Mr. Muvengei; the shade was enough for training although the weather was relatively harsh as it was hot. The environment was conducive and no distractions of any kind were experienced.

The group members expressed keen interest in the training and the topics of discussion. Members were very attentive and showed interest by asking questions and volunteering to be used as examples during the demonstrative learning. The participants were quite aware and informed about most hygiene practices from the previous training that was done.

They decided to train on:

  • Health problems in our community
  • Good and bad hygiene behaviors
  • Choosing sanitation improvement
  • Planning for change
  • Handwashing exercise

The community members really benefited from water treatment discussions.

The handwashing exercise was conducted right after the participants highlighted disease transmission routes; handwashing is really the easiest and most efficient barrier to the spread of disease. The members were taught an easy way of constructing a tippy tap using local materials. The technique behind the handwashing facility was simpler and more hygienic compared to the type that they were taught before. Members vowed to maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene in their homesteads as well as on individual levels. This ensures each household can have a handwashing station near their latrine.

"We will start treating our drinking water, improve on personal hygiene, compound, food and utensils hygiene, through the installation of sanitation infrastructures like tippy tap and utensil racks," Mr. Muvengei said.

"The money that we have been using to seek treatment will be invested in other income generating activities because after practicing what has been trained we will be able to prevent ourselves from contracting diseases."

Thank You for making all of this possible.

May, 2019: Mbau Community Sand Dam Underway

Hundreds of people living in Mbau walk a very long way to get water. Valuable time, energy, and health are lost in pursuit of one of life's most important resources. Thanks to your generosity, we are working to solve this issue by building a water point nearby.

Get to know this community through the narrative and pictures we've posted, and read about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out again with news of success!

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: Mbau Community

February, 2021

A year ago, your generous donation helped Mbau Community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Mutheki Muvengei. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mbau 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!

"We used to get water from our first shallow well. It was not enough for the community as it served the whole of this Mbau village. This source was supplemented by available scoop holes along our local stream to provide water for the community population. The ques at the source would sometimes be long, thus taking time for everyone to get water," said Mutheki Muvengei, a 62-year-old farmer who lives near the well and sand dam.

"Getting water is now easy from this new water point. It always has water and has been meeting the community population's water needs for the last year. Getting water from near my home helps create more time to participate in personal development and income-generating activities. The water is always available and clean as I use it for drinking and other household chores."

Mutheki Muvengei

"This water point has brought water close to my home. Fetching water has been simplified, which created more time for me to engage in agriculture and allocate much of my time towards farming. This season I am looking forward to a bumper harvest in maize, cowpeas, and green grams, which will be enough for household use and even the sale of surplus."

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 Mbau 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 Mbau 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.