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: 03/21/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

"The lack of sufficient water has really affected us as a community as we don't have access to clean water for drinking," said Mary Mwania during our recent visit to Kathuli, Kenya.

The community is located in the larger Mwingi region, which is mostly semi-arid and sparsely populated region some 2.5 km from the nearest highway. Our teams had to travel that distance by foot because there is no road for cars. Kamumbuni Village is thinly vegetated, with most of the vegetation comprised of hardy bushes and thickets along the seasonal river.

That sandy, seasonal river is responsible for providing water for the more than 1,000 people living here. But there is only one rainy season, meaning that the river is dry for most of the year. Community members can travel 3 km to the nearest sand dam to collect water from scoop holes, but that requires owning donkeys to carry the heavy water such a long distance. Others scramble to find water in deep scoop holes from the dried up riverbed or purchase water from vendors.

All of these water options share a common problem - they are unsafe for drinking.

Waterborne diseases are common here, said Mrs. Mwania. She added that women spend a lot of their time fetching water rather than doing things like farming or attending to other family needs.

"I feel with easier access to water I would use most of my time tending the farm and growing vegetables," she said.

Most of the community members are peasant farmers living in clusters with their extended families. In most cases, the men are the heads of the family. A large portion of the women are also work to earn an income. Some of them seek casual labor opportunities as a way to supplement the family income.

Our main entry point into Kathuli Community has been the Kamumbuni Self-Help Group, which is comprised of local 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.

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 32.3 meters long and 4.15 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 Kathuli, Kenya.


We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with Kamumbuni 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 poor compound hygiene and their general hygiene and sanitation standards are low. In relation to this, they need 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 on hygiene and sanitation. This also exposes them to risks of contracting diseases such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhea and stomachaches.

Project Updates

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

December, 2019: Kathuli Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kathuli, 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 Kamumbuni 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.

The community members faced the challenge of getting enough water needed for construction. Water was being drawn from more than 3 miles away. This greatly slowed down the pace of construction due to water delays. This challenge illustrated the effort that people here must undertake to get water and why this project will have an immediate impact on their lives.

"We are very happy to have been blessed by God through this water project support. Water problems in our community are prevalent and it is the hope of everyone that this project will help solve the current water challenges we are going through," said Marth Kimanzi.

"Adequate access to water will make our locality brimming with life and economically vibrant."

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 then dismantled and the dam is left to cure.

This dam measures 32.3 meters long and 5.15 meters high. It took 520 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 hygiene and sanitation training with members of the self-help group and community was organized by the field officer in charge of the Mbondoni area, Daniel Kituku. He communicated the day of the training at the site of sand dam construction as the members were working on the completion of the dam. The area village administrator was also informed on the planned training and invited community members to participate.

Attendance was good and as expected. All community members turned up for the training as informed by the regional field officer. Other community members who are not part of the self-help group felt the need to be part of the training too and attended to gain the knowledge being shared. The area assistant chief and village administrator also came.

The venue of the training was scheduled to be in the homestead of Ruth Kilyungi, agreed upon by all members because it was easy to access. The weather on days 1 and 2 was cold and windy, but on day 3 it was sunny. The level of participation was very good. The group was always in a good mood, engaging each other in brainstorming and asking the trainer numerous questions.

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.

“This training will help us improve on our behavior and especially to reduce open defecation. We want to make our area an open defecation-free zone. It is a very important training that will trigger improvement on personal hygiene and good practices at home that will help us prevent the spread of diseases," said Martha Kimanzi.

One of the activities that stood out here was soapmaking. The attendees said that it was a special lesson to them because they learned new ideas that they had never before learned from anyone. They also appreciated the idea by saying that it was the best and the easiest way of generating income and improving hygiene.

This group of people seemed to immediately adopt the new behaviors taught, said our field staff afterward. We already witnessed discussions they were heard having after training about improving the hygiene of their area through stopping open defecation. With the assistance of the village administrator and the area assistant chief, we are hopeful that open defecation will stop and the protection of water at home will be done. If the action plan prepared by the entire group is followed, then the impact will be great.

"Once these changes are made, the issues of the common diseases in our area that have been a problem for years will reduce, thus reducing expenses incurred when seeking treatment," Mrs. Kimanzi said.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

December, 2019: Kathuli Community sand dam project underway!

Dirty water is making people in Kathuli 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: Kathuli Community

February, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kathuli 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!

"It was never easy looking for water for use at home. I used to walk to this river looking for scoop holes immediately after the rains, the water was never safe for human use, but it was the only option. During the dry season, I would walk to the Kasovi Earth Dam more than 6km away with a donkey searching for water. The hunt for water was a whole day affair which affected other household activities, leading to some of them being fully abandoned," said Peninah Mwanzia.

"Getting water is now easy. This well has availed clean water from within my village for the last one year in unlimited supply. I only walk to the well with my children and spent less than 15 minutes to and from because there no long queues and the water is always flowing. Having water from near my home helps me improve on the general cleanliness at my home and that of my children. We are also practicing regular handwashing with soap in this time of Corona using water from the well."

Peninah Mwanzia

"I have achieved the goal of having an unlimited clean water supply in my homestead since the completion of this water project. Having water from within has also relieved me of the fatigue and time spent on long walks and queues for water from previous sources. I have been able to utilize the saved time in farming, and I had a bumper harvest in the last rains, harvesting enough maize and cowpeas to feed my family."

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 Kathuli 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 Kathuli 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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