Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - May 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/01/2024

Project Features

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There is no safe water to be found in Ivumbu Community. The more than 1,000 people who live here must walk for long distances to access the nearest water point then carry the water back home using their backs.

That is if that river has water.

The current water source is a seasonal river which is prone to running dry at certain times of the year. During the rainy season, people draw water directly from the river or by digging scoop holes in the riverbed.  The water is dirty and unsafe for human consumption. I would not drink water from this source because it is open which leaves it exposed to all sorts of contaminants.

But during the dry season, community members must seek alternative sources of water that are even further away.

Some community members especially women and children have been covering large distances in search of water for use at the household level. This has exposed them to fatigue and impedes on their ability to do other work because so much of their time is spent in pursuit of water.

"Our community has been disadvantaged for many years in terms of water access," said Silas Kathungu, a local farmer.

"We lack a reliable clean water supply which has led to poor hygiene levels and members using water from sources not safe for human consumption. Cases of stomach problems and typhoid among community members have been reported in the past which are associated with the use of bad water."

Ivumbu Community is found in a fairly high altitude area which has favored good agricultural exploits by the community members. It is a peaceful rural location well vegetated with both exotic and indigenous tree species.

The majority of the community members are involved in subsistence farming, growing crops such as maize, peas, beans, mangoes, and bananas for family use and sell surplus which has been depending on the natural rainfall. Other community members are involved in formal and informal employment terms working hard to provide for their families.

People here work hard, but they have struggled in part due to the lack of access to safe and reliable water. But they ready for a change.

"We are committed to working hard to bring clean water close to us," Silas said.

Ending the water crisis in Ivumbu

Sand Dam

Erratic rainfall patterns can't guarantee water for communities all year round as most rivers in the entire Makueni county are seasonal. Sand dams would, therefore, harvest rainwater where it falls and make it available to the community for longer periods of time.

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.

Building this sand dam at a spot on the 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 37 meters long and 4.9 meters high.

With these projects, clean water will be brought closer to hundreds of people in Ivumbu Village of Kenya. That makes it possible for communities to utilize the time saved fetching water and the water in the dam for income generating activities and farm irrigation.

New Knowledge

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the recently formed Ivumbu Irrigation self-help group and other community 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 90%
Handwashing Stations 0%
Clotheslines 100%
Dish Racks 20%
Bathing Area 80%
Animal Enclosure 60%
Proper Garbage Disposal 40%

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.

Project Updates

July, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Ivumbu 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 Ivumbu, 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.

May, 2019: Ivumbu Community Sand Dam Complete

Ivumbu 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. 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. 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.

"The water project is very beneficial to all community members," said Sila Kathungu, a farmer who lives in Ivumbu.

"We began using the water point as soon as it was completed. The distance covered to access water has reduced and the water from the shallow well is fresh and clean."

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.

We delivered more expensive materials like cement, lumber, and work tools, while 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.

The final dam is 37 meters long and 4.9 meters high and took 820 bags of cement to build.

New Knowledge

The training was planned by the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer, Veronica Matolo, and the area field officer, Rhoda Mwangu. The field officer was notified on the scheduled dates which the training would occur and later informed the community members through the group chairman.

The training went along as expected because the community members turned up in large numbers. Some 39 people attended the three days of sanitation and hygiene training.

Attendees at the third day of training

The weather was favorable for training. We converged at a community member's homestead which was centrally positioned and easily accessed by all the attendees. The household had a friendly environment, with many trees providing good umbrella shade for people.

Trainer Matolo conferred with the field staff about their visits to households and interviews with community members to determine which topics on which still needed improvement. They decided to train on:

  • 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

The community members were very active and attentive throughout the training. There were many questions asked which expressed their interest in the topics of discussion. Men were more involved and participative from the beginning to the end of the training. In addition, they volunteered for demonstrative exercises which made the sessions livelier and more enjoyable.

The facilitator had an in-depth discussion about the Seasonal Calendar. This is a participatory tool primarily used to explore seasonal changes in a community in relation to diseases. These charts show the trends of diseases; when they come, their causes, and their prevention mechanisms. The community highlighted their major activities often related to the contraction of diseases such as water sourcing and the probable diseases that can be contracted at different periods in a year.


The community members learned the causes and prevention of diseases that are contracted in their area. This was an eye-opening topic which gave most members a new perspective and view of their lifestyles. Members were excited because they were enlightened and impacted with new knowledge.

Community members were taught on tippy tap construction and handwashing. They also learned about the importance of using latrines in a bid to eradicate the habit of open defecation. They heard about tips such as improvising lids to cover the latrine pit hole and the importance of washing the latrines as often as possible.

Tippy tap and handwashing station

"The training was so intense and educative. We plan to change our lifestyle eating habits in a bid to reduce the lifestyle diseases that are normally acquired in this area. Adopting new practices will help in administering improved hygiene and sanitation in our community because our neighbors will also copy them," Mr. Kathungu said.

Thank You for making all of this possible!

March, 2019: Ivumbu Community Sand Dam Underway

A severe clean water shortage in Ivumbu Community drains people’s time, energy, and health. They have to walk a long time just to find dirty water. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to bring clean water nearby and much more.

Get to know this 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 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: Ivumbu Community

February, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Ivumbu 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!

"We used to fetch water from scoop holes, which was very unsafe because livestock and donkeys would drink water from the same sources. Often, community members would complain of typhoid, amoeba, and diarrhea as a result of drinking water from the scoop holes. The river bed would dry completely in the dry seasons, and the scoop holes would be dug deeper. The water challenges were very intense," Barrindon Kivindo shared.

"Water is available at all times. The shallow well is user-friendly for people of all ages, from children to the elderly. In a few strokes of the hand pump, one can fill their jerrycans of water and return home. The water source is safe at any time of the day, and the well is protected; hence the water drawn from it is clean for direct consumption. I am free to engage in productive activities within the community such as building my house using bricks and farming."

Barrindon Kivindo

"Through this water project, I have managed to embark on constructing my family house as this was a goal I always wanted to achieve. Availability of water is very crucial in the process of brick making. Our livestock are now healthier because they get adequate drinking water. I also plan to use this water for agribusiness, especially during the dry season."

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 Ivumbu 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 Ivumbu 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 - Lifeplus Foundation