Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 337 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/20/2024

Project Features

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Our main entry point into Kithuiya has been the Kyeni kya Ngungani Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 25 farming households that are working together to address water and food scarcity for the 337 people in their community. We will partner with this group on multiple projects for up to 5 years to improve water access in the 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.

Kyeni kya Ngungani group members are found in a peaceful rural setting which is largely arid and dry with little vegetation cover. Most of the local members live in below average houses made of bricks and mud with the roofs being made of iron sheets or grass. The four main sources of income reported by group members are, small business ownership (16.7%), casual labor (25.0%), formal employment (16.7%), and farming 41.7%.

Access to water is a significant challenge in this community. Though farming was ranked the highest, people reported that the kind of farming that they do is mainly rain-fed because they have no other way to irrigate crops. That means when the rains fail, they have very little to depend on. For those who sell milk it is a similar challenge. They reported that the milk production usually reduces when the rains are bad due to lack of nutrition for the cows.

"Our community lacks a reliable water supply source. This has resulted in community members using water from scoop holes for drinking and cooking, which is not safe for human consumption," said Judith Muema.

People must walk more than a mile in search of water, prompting some of them to buy donkeys to help in fetching water. In fact, more than half of the group members reported that it takes more than 2 hours to travel to the water source, wait in line, fetch the water, and return home.

The current water source is found in a seasonal river channel which runs dry at certain times of the year. People rely on scoop holes which are open and accessible to wild animals and livestock, exposing them to a wide range of contaminants. The water looks somewhat discolored and is obviously not safe for human consumption. This leaves community members with further struggles in their quest to access water for use at the household level.

What we can do:

Sand Dam

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 35 meters long and 2.9 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 Kithuiya, Kenya.


We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with Kyeni kya Ngungani Self-Help Group, 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.

"Due to lack of enough water, the levels of hygiene and sanitation are low as the available water is too little for intensive cleaning activities and is not restricted to basic activities," said Mrs. Muema.

Most households have latrines, but they are built with unstable mud floors and lack handwashing stations for people to clean their hands after going to the bathroom. There is a need for improvement on compound hygiene, effective water treatment methods, handwashing training, soap making lessons and knowledge of disease transmission routes. The members of this group seem to have little knowledge of hygiene and sanitation. This also exposes them to risks of contracting diseases such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhea, and stomachaches.

Project Updates

December, 2019: Kathonzweni Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kathonzweni, 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.

We worked with the Kyeni Kya Ngungani Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and physical labor to complete the project. In addition, they were trained on various skills such as bookkeeping, financial management, project management, group dynamics, and governance. We also conducted a hygiene and sanitation training to teach skills like soapmaking and to help improve behaviors such as handwashing.

When an issue arises concerning 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 our team of field officers to assist them.

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.

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.

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 hygiene and sanitation training was planned by the hygiene officer Christine Lucas and Kathonzweni area field officer Muendo Ndambuki. The group Co-Chair was informed of the plans for a 3-day training and he communicated with his fellow members to mobilize them for the training.

The venue for this training was at Bernard Muli’s homestead, a member of the group.

“We chose to meet at this homestead because he has a big space and enough shade to host all of us,” said Emma Munyao, the Co-Chair of the group.

20 people, with the majority being self-help group members, attended training for each of the 3 days. Among the attendees were 2 community leaders, one from a school and the other from a church. The members were very enthusiastic and interested in learning new information and this was a major contributor to their attendance.

The environment was conducive and friendly for training. However, the weather was somewhat chilly and windy throughout.

“Mr. Muli's homestead is also near our first sand dam and therefore we can easily access water to use during the training,” added Lavu Iluve, a member of the group.

The trainer conferred with the field staff about their previous visits to households and interviews with community members to determine which topics the community still could improve upon.

They decided to train on topics including health problems in the community; good and bad hygiene behaviors; how diseases spread and their prevention; choosing sanitation improvements; choosing improved hygiene behaviors; planning for behavioral change; handwashing; and soapmaking.

The level of participation was very good over the 3 days. There were demonstrative activities where the community members volunteered to participate. In addition, they were very active and expressive which made the training very lively.

The members were taken through training on how to make 2 types of soap. The demonstration involved a lot of stirring and the participants took turns in stirring and were patient enough until the final product was obtained. The participants were very happy to learn how to make these products.

The oldest member of this group is a 91-year-old who is very well conversed with the history of Kenya. During the training, as the members stirred the soap he started singing historic songs for them and this made them laugh a lot making the training interesting and therefore memorable.

Mixing the soap

“We are very happy to learn the whole process of making these products. This is something we have yearned for for a long time,” said Ann Samuel, a member of this group.

The participants were divided into 2 groups and were tasked to list the common diseases they suffer within the community, the season in which they occur, and their causes. A tool known as the seasonal calendar was used to train on this topic. Members later met in 1 larger group for presentations. The outcome of this discussion was very good as members listed the most common diseases they suffer, with waterborne diseases topping the list as the most common.

During the discussion on this topic, participants had many questions compared to the other topics. The trainer, therefore, took a lot of time covering this topic until they were satisfied. The high level of participation made the topic memorable.

"The training was very good," said Emma Munyao.

"It will help us improve our hygiene and sanitation in our homesteads. We will train other members of our community on hygiene and sanitation and this will lead to reduced cases of diarrhea and other water-related diseases."

Thank you for making all of this possible!

October, 2019: Kathonzweni Community Sand Dam Underway!

People in Kathonzweni community are traveling long distances to drink dirty water that is making them sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to construct a sand dam and much more.

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 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: Kathonzweni Community

February, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kathonzweni 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!

"Before the sand dam/shallow well project was established in this region, water scarcity was a great challenge to us. We would have to walk long distances to fetch water at open sources (scoop holes), which were very difficult for us. The task was harder for the locals without donkeys as they had to borrow donkeys or fetch one jerrycan of water and use it sparingly until their next trip to the water source. A lot of time was wasted in pursuit of water, often leading to stagnation at the household levels. During the dry seasons, the situation would get worse, and we would have to purchase water, which consumed a lot of our money," shared Josephine Wambua.

"Getting water from this water point has been easy and efficient for us. It has elevated our living standards such that we can conduct cleanliness daily, perform our household chores on time and engage in other productive activities. Walking to and from the water point is not time-consuming at all as it takes two to three strokes of the water pump to get a jerrycan full of water. The water is fresh and safe for drinking (we boil before drinking). As a result, complaints of water-related diseases are unheard of. I am now much more peaceful than I was before. I do not have to worry about waking extra early to walk long distances to fetch dirty water. My life quality has really improved, and I am happy."

Josephine Wambua

"Through this water point, I have managed to establish a vegetable garden where I have planted vegetables such as amaranth, kales, and spinach. This is a great milestone because I can alter the diet that my family feeds on. We were trained on soap making, which has been helpful as I make soap to clean the house, wash the dishes, bathe, among other uses, thus sparing the money we initially used for purchasing soap."

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 Kathonzweni 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 Kathonzweni 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.


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