Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Aug 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/02/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

It was a sunny morning when we first traveled to Ndithi Village. Ndithi is found in the Mwingi area, which is more than 300 kilometers away from the main offices in Mtito Andei. Based on the distance involved and the number of projects in this area, we camped at Mwingi Town for several days to cover as many projects as possible in one visit.

We went to Ndithi to meet with members of the Ndithi Tuinuke Self-Help Group. This group of farmers wants to tackle water and food scarcity in their arid region, so we have partnered with them to achieve these goals. We plan to install their first sand dam and hand-dug well system to bring water nearby.

This type of intervention helps people to improve their lives. Unpredictable rainfall patterns have made it impossible to guarantee water for communities all year round, as most rivers in Southeastern Kenya are seasonal. Sand dams harvest rainwater where it falls, making it available to the community until their next rain season.

1,054 people are living in this area. From our survey, we found 51% of the people here depend on farming as their main source of income while 37% are casual laborers and the remaining 13% run small businesses. The source of one's income does not depend on the level of education that one has achieved. Some 73% of the respondents reported earning an average income of fewer than 3,000 shillings ($30) in a month.

For an average day in the community, women and children wake up at 6:00am, go to fetch water, and prepare breakfast for the family as the children get ready for school. The men normally take care of their livestock in the morning.

Fetching water is a big ordeal and can take up to 5 hours. The main water source is found at a sandy, seasonal riverbed in the community. Holes are dug in the sand until water pools, giving them the name "scoop holes." These scoop holes are completely unprotected to all forms of contamination. Nonetheless, community members use this water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning.

Most of the community members walk for long distances to access these scoop holes, with some covering more than 3 kilometers to reach the water source. The available scoop holes are found on a seasonal river channel and always run dry during the dry season. This forces the community to walk even longer distances in search of alternative water sources. Available water levels at the channel are low and unable to meet the needs of the huge village population.

"Water problems have been severe in our village," said Mr. Mwanzia Muli.

"We are always forced to travel for long distances looking for water from open river scoop holes. At the end of the day, the available water is not safe for human consumption and has led to people suffering from amoeba and typhoid after drinking the unsafe water."

What we can do:


We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with Ndithi Tuinuke Self-Help Group, which are also open to non-members. These will teach important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish in the community at the personal and household levels. Taking good care of oneself and the environment will make for a healthier community.

During our baseline sanitation and hygiene coverage survey, we found the following levels of coverage in the community for each aspect:

Latrines 99%
Handwashing Stations 0%
Clotheslines 90%
Dish Racks 10%
Bathing Area 50%
Animal Enclosure 60%
Proper Garbage Disposal 40%

Although most families have a good pit latrine, they need to clean them more often. Latrines were found to be below average, while some owners admitted to not ever cleaning them. Upcoming training sessions will strengthen weaknesses and continue encouraging each family to understand 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 on Mutya Wewa River will bring water closer to hundreds of 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 38.1 meters long and 4.7 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 in Ndithi Village of Mwingi, Kenya.

Project Updates

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

We continue to stay in touch with this community as the pandemic progresses. We want to ensure their water point remains functional and their community stays informed about the virus.

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.

August, 2019: Ndithi Community Sand Dam Complete

Ndithi Community, Kenya now has access to a new source of water thanks to your donation. A new sand dam was constructed on a sandy 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.

"We are happy to have worked hard and completed this amazing water project. The work by our hands is now visible and the project will go a long way to helping us," said Mwasya Mwendwa.

"It is a unique project which suits our needs. The community is committed to working on more projects to help alleviate the water crisis in our locality."

Sand Dam

The community members collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand that were required for the 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 large sand dam, materials collection could take up to 4 months.

This group really took advantage of its large membership to make a big impact this year. Not only did they finish this particular sand dam in a timely manner, but they split people up to work on another dam at the same time.

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 rebar are used to reinforce the mixture.

Once the foundation is complete, a skeleton of timber is built to hold up the sludge and rocks 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.

This dam measures 38.1 meters long and 4.7 meters high and took 543 bags of cement to build.

Sand dam construction was simultaneous to the construction of a hand-dug well, which gives locals a safer method of drawing water. As the sand dam matures and stores more water, more of it will be accessible as drinking water from the well. To see that hand-dug well, click here.

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. However, it could take up to 3 years of rain for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity.

New Knowledge

The Kamuwongo region field officer, Patrick Musyoka planned for the training in collaboration with training officer Veronica Matolo. Mr. Musyoka informed the community members on the intention to hold the training and settled on the most suited date for the activity which was communicated back to Veronica. All community members and local leaders were invited to the event by the group chairman.

This training was held at the homestead of Joyce Kimanzi, as all the members had agreed to make it their venue for the training. There was enough shade since the homestead has plenty of trees and the environment was very conducive; no external distractions were faced.

We wanted to train the entire self-help group, but some members were missing. There were a few challenges, including the fact that some members had to spend the first two days of training at the market to sell their crops and goods. Some other members work away from home and could not leave work for the training. Those in attendance were especially encouraged to share what they learned with their peers, and another review training will be held in the future.

The participation level was excellent, with the women participating the most. 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
– Soapmaking

People really 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 their hands. Critical moments to wash hands were also discussed, such as before eating and after visiting the latrines.

Community members said that the design of the tippy tap was unique and easy to use. It was also said to be more hygienic than other types of handwashing stations they've seen. They said that it was the best way to prevent diseases.

"I will follow all that I have learned as far as hygiene and sanitation are concerned and that way, I will help my entire family change the bad behavioral practices," said Nzambi Musyoka.

From the look of things, this group of people seems very committed to implementing what was trained. Group members present said that within a very short period they will have implemented what they had written down in the action plan because they realized that it was for their own good.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

July, 2019: Ndithi Community's Sand Dam Underway!

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

Get to know your community through the introduction 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: Ndithi Community

February, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Ndithi 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!

"Getting water was such a hard task that as children, we could not be involved in the process. Only mum would walk to the river with donkeys and fetch water for the whole family. The distances were long, and a lot of people went to the scoop holes, which made it difficult for us as children," said 7-year-old Esther M.

"Getting water is now easy. I can walk to the well, use the pump and fill my container, and then walk back home. I can even make multiple trips and fetch a lot of water, something which was not possible in the past. The availability of water from within a point near home makes me get involved in the water fetching process and helping mum."


"The project provides us with adequate clean water at home for drinking, washing clothes, and cleaning the home. I have been using the water to clean my clothes, and I shower with a lot of water every day because water is available in plenty. In the past, I could not do it because mum saw it as a waste as the water was scarce and the fetching process was tedious."

Thumbs up!

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 Ndithi 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 Ndithi 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.


1 individual donor(s)