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: 05/15/2024

Project Features

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We are supporting Muka Self-Help Group in their efforts to address water and food scarcity for the more than 8,000 people living in Muluti Community. We plan to install their first sand dam and hand-dug well system to bring water nearby.

This type of intervention helps people 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.

Because at this very moment, community members are having to travel three kilometers just to find water at a sandy, seasonal river. The water fetched is not even safe for drinking. At the time of our visit, this river was flooded with dirty water after recent downpours. But during the dry season, people have to dig very deep scoop holes in the sand until they hit water. These are very dangerous as people can trip and fall into the hole.

People drink this water because there's no other alternative and often suffer from waterborne illnesses from doing so.

We interviewed 65-year-old Nicholas Kisiola about how this has affected his life:

I have been born here and we have been experiencing water challenges over the past thirty years. Rivers here are seasonal and they often dry after the rains have ceased. In addition, we experience rainfall which is very unreliable. Once the rivers dry, the community members resolve to dig scoop holes in order to get water for consumption in their homes.

This water is usually open and exposed to various contaminants such as soil erosion, animal excretion, farming chemicals, among other pathogens. We are used to drinking this water directly as it is without treating it. Often, we assume it is expensive to treat water and also it is a habit for us to drink the water as it is.

This results in diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and diarrhea. Once, I drank water then found residues of worms but it is normal for us. In addition, the distance covered in order to fetch water is too far and it is very exhausting."

Welcome to the Community

Muluti Village is located 28 kilometers from Tawa Town, where we had slept the previous night. The dirt roads leading to the village were very difficult to traverse due to recent rains. The car skid around a couple of times as a result of the slippery mud. It was a cold and chilly morning when we arrived.

This is an expansive rural area that's peaceful. Households are spread out over the hills. Some homesteads live with the entire extended family there too, where they subdivide the land into different portions so that each family can fit and build their own home on their allocated land. This is the most preferred lifestyle so that old parents can still be taken care of by their children.

There are 8,050 people living in this region.

Agricultural activities are very common in this community as farming is their primary source of income. During the rainy seasons, the community members get better yields that sustain their families and produce a surplus to be sold in the local market. Casual labor jobs, motorbike businesses, and taxi businesses are among the common careers that young adults engage in.

What we can do:

New Knowledge

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with Muka SHG, which are also open to non-members. These will teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish in the community at the personal and household levels. Taking good care of self and environment will make for a healthy community.

Baseline Sanitation Facility Coverage:

Latrines 80%
Handwashing Stations 0%
Clotheslines 90%
Dish Racks 10%
Bathing Area 99%
Animal Enclosure 90%
Proper Garbage Disposal 50%

These community members attempt to practice good hygiene and sanitation but the inadequate water supply has been a big hindrance. They do not treat their water, which is very dangerous to their health. Their latrines are rarely washed, they do not dispose of their garbage safely, handwashing habits are unheard of in this area, and compound hygiene is highly neglected. General training of hygiene and sanitation will be very advantageous to this group.

"It is a very rare spectacle for me to clean the latrine. The water I attain from the river is often reserved for important duties such as cooking, drinking, bathing and washing clothes. We fetch water very far and often, washing the latrines is not a priority," shared Mrs. Lydia Ndilo.

"At times when the water is very scarce, we can go for days without taking a bath. My grandchildren miss school occasionally as they do not want to wear dirty clothes. When the latrines are not washed for long we use ash to reduce the odor."

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot on Tawa 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 62.2 meters long and 5 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 Muluti Village of Kenya.

Project Updates

June, 2019: Muluti Community Sand Dam Complete

Muluti 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. Recent rains have helped the dam 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. 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!

"It's such a huge privilege to be part of establishing such a massive project in our community. Accessing water has been a great challenge in Muluti Village and this project marks the end of the water hassle in the area," said Nicholas Kisyula.

"Through this project, we shall develop our community and ourselves using the water."

We worked with the Muka 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 62.2 meters long, 5 meters high and took 1170 bags of cement to build.

New Knowledge

The community hygiene and sanitation training was planned by our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer Veronica Matolo in collaboration with field officer Paulson Mukonzi. The self-help group chairperson was notified to mobilize the group members for attendance and participation. The training dates were also announced in the church to assemble and prepare the members in advance. Community members were also invited to attend to learn about the new water point.

The training was well attended on all three days. More than 60 people participated. The training is a participatory learning approach that seeks to empower communities to improve hygiene behaviors, reduce diarrheal diseases, and encourage effective community management of water and sanitation sources.

The participation levels of the attendees were very impressive. Each person was assigned a role to play which ensured high concentration and participation levels throughout the training. There were many questions asked by the attendees due to interest in the topics of discussion.

Our teams decided to train on topics including:

  • Health problems in the community
  • Investigating community practices
  • Good and bad hygiene behaviors
  • How diseases spread and preventing the spread of diseases
  • Choosing sanitation improvements
  • Choosing improved hygiene behaviors
  • Planning for behavioral change
  • Handwashing
  • Soapmaking

One topic that people liked was the Seasonal Calendar, a participatory tool used to educate the community members on their lifestyle trends, causes of diseases, disease patterns, and the best mitigation methods. The group members were divided into subgroups and were required to provide a list of the common diseases that were reported in their area at different seasons of the year, the probable causes, and where they go for treatment. Each group presented various diseases and were later taken through ways of preventing these diseases. In addition, the participants were taken through a demonstration of how diseases are transmitted.

The community members were trained on soapmaking, handwashing habits and project management/ownership. Teaching them soapmaking both makes it easier for community members to access soap throughout the year and provides people with the opportunity to make and sell soap in local markets.

Handwashing is another important part of the training. Diarrheal diseases pass through our hands to the mouth, therefore, handwashing is very important. The participants were involved in a handwashing demonstration and were enlightened on the vital moments of handwashing. Our teams also instructed community members how to make tippy tap handwashing stations out of locally available materials. These cheap and easy-to-make stations can be installed next to latrines so people can easily wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom.

"The training will really help us as a community at large," said Nicholas Kisyula, a local farmer.

"We will construct tippy taps adjacent to our latrines which will ensure proper hygiene and sanitation is maintained. Handwashing practices will be administered in our homesteads as well as washing our latrines on a frequent basis."

According to our trainer Veronica Matolo, the group members expressed exceptional interest in the training conducted. They were excited and had no rush to leave the vicinity as the training progressed. A few of the days ran late, but people stayed because they were so active and committed to the learning.

Thank You for making all of this possible.

April, 2019: Muluti Community Sand Dam Underway

People living in Muluti currently have to walk three kilometers to find water, and that water isn't even clean. Thanks to your generosity, we are working to build a sand dam that will bring water closer to home for hundreds of people.

Get to know this community by reading the introduction and pictures we've posted, and read more about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project and how it works. We look forward to reaching out again when we have more 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: Muluti Community

February, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Muluti 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!

"Accessing water was very hard before this project was completed. We had to dig very deep scoop holes to get water. It was challenging because the river bed had massive rocks, and getting water was very hard. There were very long queues to fetch water, which was very time-consuming," said 18-year-old Fredrick Muloka Nyamai.

"Life is easier now because accessing water is easy. The water is very fresh for drinking, unlike the water we used to drink before, which was salty and dirty. There are no queues at the shallow well, a lot of time is saved. I can fetch enough water for the use of all my duties in just one round."

Fredrick Muloka Nyamai

"I plan to plant vegetables at home for both domestic use and agribusiness because the water is easily available. Using the water, I have been learning how to make bricks at home to construct houses now that the water is readily available. In my free time, I intend to capitalize more on this before I join college because there's plenty of water, and I can raise some money for school fees through the sale of bricks."

Frederick pumps the well

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 Muluti 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 Muluti 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.


Project Sponsor - Selah Covenant Church