Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/07/2024

Project Features

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Kaukuswi is found in a peaceful rural location. The majority of the 503 people here live in decent houses made of bricks and covered with iron sheets.

The community's proximity to Matiliku and Emali market centers has led to many people attending market days that are held on every Wednesday and Friday. Locals walk together to the market in a bid to maximize on the increased variety of choice and fresh produce. Local residents come together during burial ceremonies, welfare organization meetings, fundraising events, and weddings.

More than half of people say that they make a living from farming. Some others earn an income by running small businesses, working in nearby towns, or engaging in informal labor for construction projects.

The amount of time spent in search of water has derailed the development of this community.

The current water source is found on a sandy, seasonal river channel. People dig scoop holes into the sand to fetch water. The river is seasonal and runs dry at certain times of the year. This leaves community members at the mercy of unscrupulous business people who sell water at high prices, exploiting the locals.

"For many years we have suffered the challenge of clean water access in our locality. This has led to poor living conditions and low levels of cleanliness at household and personal levels," said Benjamin Musau.

The water points are always open and remain exposed to many contaminating agents. The channel is shared by both human beings and animals. The available water is in a poor state and not suitable for human use, but there's no other choice.

More than half of community members travel for more than two kilometers in their search for water, which makes the pursuit of water a major challenge for this group of people.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into Kaukuswi Community has been the Kwa Mung'oli Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 31 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.

Sand Dam

Erratic rainfall patterns in southeastern Kenya can't guarantee water for communities all year round as most rivers in the entire Makueni County are seasonal with only River Athi being perennial. Sand dams would therefore harvest rainwater where it falls and make it available to the community till the next rain season with community members utilizing the tapped water resources for a range of activities.

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 81.3 meters long and 3.9 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 Kaukuswi, Kenya.


We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with Kwa Mung'oli 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.

Most households have latrines. The latrines we visited demonstrated average levels of cleanliness with a majority being cleaned using ash. None of the facilities visited had water for handwashing placed nearby for use after visiting. Improvements will be needed in having handwashing facilities, garbage pits and regular cleaning of the latrines.

We will hold training on 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 on hygiene and sanitation. This also exposes them to risks of contracting diseases such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhea and stomachaches.

Project Updates

December, 2019: Kaukuswi Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kaukuswi, 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 Kwa Mungoli 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 the 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.

This dam measures 81.3 meters long and 3.9 meters high. It took 700 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

A hygiene and sanitation training for members of the self-help group and local community members was held at Chris Muia's homestead, a member of the group. This location was suitable because it was easily accessible to all the members and the environment was conducive for training. The weather was cold during the morning hours and sunny in the afternoon. The venue had tree shade which provided enough cover for all of the participants.

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 participants' level of involvement and indulgence in the training was high and impressive. We had an open discussion where we discussed various topics of interest whereby they expressed their need for knowledge. They were very expressive, inquisitive, and attentive throughout the training session. In addition, they were very ready to volunteer for demonstrative and participatory activities.

The participants were divided into 2 equal groups and were tasked to discuss the common diseases they contract in their community, the season in which they occur, and their causes. The participants later met in 1 group for presentations from each group to explain their work. They were then taken through various ways of preventing diseases. A tool known as the seasonal calendar was used to train on this topic.

The community members were very active and jovial about the discussion of health problems they face. A lot of time was spent on discussions about this topic compared to the rest of the day, making it memorable.

In an open discussion, some members admitted to practicing open defecation due to lack of knowledge but they agreed to stop the act as they were now aware of the negative effects of it. Seeing them take immediate action was a good gesture and this made the topic memorable to our trainers.

"The training was very good. We have learned the importance of having latrines at homes and the absurd effects of not having them in our compounds. As a group we promise to construct good toilets and [keep] them clean," said Peris Wakesho Nzingi.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

November, 2019: Kaukuswi Community project underway!

Dirty water is making people in Kaukuswi sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point 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: Kakuswi Community

February, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kaukuswi 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!

Life was very hard before. We used to fetch water at Mangau River, which is about four kilometers from my homestead. During the dry season, the river would dry out, and we had to dig very deep scoop holes to get water. There were very long queues at the water source, which would take up almost the whole day for one to be reached to fetch water. At times we had to wake up very early to go to the water source to fetch water to avoid the long lines. The water was not very clean for direct consumption, and there were rampant cases of illnesses reported as a result of drinking this water. Procrastination of household duties was normal because the water fetched had to be used sparingly to avoid wastage/ the many trips to the water source," said Virginia Muia.

"Getting water from this project has been easy and very convenient for us. The distance covered to access the water point is short, hence the trips to and from the water source being minimal. In just a few strokes, our jerrycans are often filled with water, and we can get back home to engage in household activities. I have been using the water from the well for drinking (after boiling), cooking, cleaning, watering trees/plants, and my livestock. Hygiene and sanitation have improved, and now we are confident about ourselves."

Virginia Muia

"Through the availability of water from this project, I managed to establish a vegetable garden where I have planted orange and mango trees and vegetables such as spinach, kale, and tomatoes for domestic use. The presence of water has brought a sense of security where I feel I can work hard to provide for my family. Since the sanitation and hygiene training, I have also been making soap, which I sell to other community members. By God's grace, I plan to embark on agribusiness whereby I can farm watermelons, green pepper, and tomatoes on a large scale."

Virginia 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 Kaukuswi 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 Kaukuswi 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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