Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 132 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Nov 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/21/2024

Project Features

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Tulimani community members fetch water at River Kamulo, located less than two kilometers away from the village.  Scoop holes are dug in the riverbed in a bid to access water. The 132 people here have to dig deep scoop holes to reach the water.

Very deep.

The water that is gathered is often very salty and very dirty. The river only flows during the rainy season and dries up completely after the rain ceases. When the river runs dry, people then resort to walking to River Tyaa which is five kilometers away from the community - just to collect equally unsafe water.

The River Tyaa is very far from their community. One has to wake up very early to get to this source. It takes them more than two hours to get there on foot and the queues at the source can force one to wait for a whole day to fetch water. The source is often overcrowded.

Some of these members do not own donkeys, so fetching water from the River Tyaa is exhausting since they have to sometimes make multiple trips to get sufficient water for their household consumption.

During the drought seasons, families lose a lot of their livestock to hunger because they are incapable of sustaining both their needs and those of their domestic animals. Buying water from a local vendor is another option but it is costly and that water is not safe for drinking either.

As a result of these problems, waterborne diseases are rampant. Typhoid and amoeba are the most reported diseases. The expenses incurred on treatment are often too expensive for families to afford.

One person affected by these challenges is Agnes Mbusya, a 61-year-old farmer who cares for two children with disabilities.

She shared her experience with us:

"Personally, I do not have a donkey so the task of fetching water can be really hectic. I have two disabled children living with me and I have to take care of them and ensure they eat, they wear clean clothes, and also bathe. Hence, most of my money ends up being spent on paying vendors to deliver the water jerrycans to my home. If I decide to fetch the water for myself, I have to wake up very early to go to the water source before my children wake up. It is usually very exhausting carrying jerrycans of water - one on my back and the other with my hand as I try to kill two birds with one stone. I once tripped and fell, hurting my ankle in the errands of fetching the water. Attaining clean water is never a guarantee. So, we drink the water as it is."

What we can do:

Our main entry point into Tulimani Community has been the Kamulo Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 32 farming households that are working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. On average, we work with a self-help group for five years. So, this is just the beginning of our partnership with this group! These members will be our hands in feet in both constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.

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 25.2 meters long and 4.55 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 Tulimani Commuity.


The hygiene and sanitation levels in this community are very low. The community members attempt to sustain a clean environment although it's quite difficult for them. They use ash to reduce the odor in their latrines. Their biggest areas in need of improvement are water treatment, water hygiene, compound hygiene, hand washing habits, and latrine hygiene.

"The current state of hygiene and sanitation in the area is not well established or maintained because of insufficient water in the region," said Mwathi Musyoka.

"The latrines are rarely cleaned, but ever so often we use ash to emit the odor. Washing hands is not very habitual."

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with members of the Kamulo 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

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Mary Mbilu

This post is part of a new series by The Water Project meant to highlight the perspectives and experiences of the people we serve and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting them. We invite you to read more of their stories here.

Our team recently visited Tulimani community to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training and monitor their water point. We checked in on the community and asked how the pandemic is affecting their lives.

It was during this most recent visit that Mary Mbilu shared her story of how the coronavirus has impacted her life.

Mary Mbilu

Our team met Mary outside her home to conduct the interview. Both our staff and Mary observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Mary’s story in her own words.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

My merry go rounds have stopped due to the government directive banning all gatherings of people, no access to local market days, which were also excluded. My school-going children have been primarily affected since schools are closed, and they cannot access online classes because we lack the required gadgets. Again, our churches have been closed.

What steps is Kenya taking to prevent the spread of the virus?

The government has imposed movement curfews across the country with no movement of people being allowed past 7 PM up to 5 AM. Counties with the virus have also been locked down. No travel is allowed in and out of the counties to control its spread to other areas. The government, through the local chiefs, is scouting for families without any sources of income for a government food relief program.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, has fetching water changed for you because of restrictions, new rules, or your concerns about the virus?

Getting water has improved since completion of the well, water is readily available from within near my home since the well is at a stone’s throw distance.

How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?

Having a well is helping us very much in these times, water is essential in making us adhere to government directives of washing hands with soap and clean water. We are using water from the well with my family to maintain acceptable hygiene standards and for drinking.

How has getting food been at this time?

I am able to get essential food items from my farm because the rains have been good, and the harvests were bumper in the last season. I have maize and cowpeas, and the seeds supplied by ASDF are doing well in the ongoing rains. Access to food items bought from the market has reduced because of the lockdown and closure of market days, but we are surviving with what is available.

June, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Tulimani 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 Tulimani, 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.

November, 2019: Tulimani Community Sand Dam Complete!

We realized a glitch in our system meant that you may not have gotten this update when we first sent it, so we are sharing it again so you can read about the good news you helped make possible!

Tulimani, 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 Kamulo Self-Help Group for this project. The members - notably all women in this group - 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.

"We have made a mark in the history of this locality by bringing water close to the people through this water project. It was not an easy task but through God's guidance and protection we have made it," said Mary Mbilu upon completion of the project.

"The long walks in search of water will be a story of the past in the advent of this new water point. We are all happy for having made it possible through our commitment and hard work."

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 group faced some challenges which affected the pace of construction leading to delays in the timeline of the project's completion. At the heart of the delay was that construction was all taking place during the dry season, so getting enough water for each step of construction was a constant challenge that contributed to the slow pace. Despite these added difficulties, the women persisted and were able to complete this massive undertaking.

The Process

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 added into the mortar once there is enough to hold them. 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. Finally, the vertical timber beams are dismantled and the dam is left to cure.

This dam measures 25.2 meters long and 4.55 meters high. It took 594 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 a lush and fertile oasis. However, it could take up to 3 years of rain for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity.

New Knowledge

The Mbondoni area field officer Bernadette Makau was informed of the date scheduled for training. She reached the group's chair, Madam Mbilu Mutumba, through a phone call, and Mutumba then informed all of her group members on the venue and dates for training. The area village administrator and village elders were also invited.

Group members take turns stirring liquid soap during training

The training was held in Chair Mutumba's homestead under a tree. The tree did not provide enough shade for a whole day, however, so our team had to move several times to stay under the shade. During the third day, we were interrupted by the rains.

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.

Demonstrating tippy tap use for handwashing

All of the people in attendance actively participated in the training topics. One of the most memorable topics for the group was the '3 pile sorting' exercise where everyone worked together to determine which hygiene and sanitation behaviors are good, bad, and neutral. This activity was said to be memorable by the members because they said that it was the best way to identify behaviors that caused a lot of diseases to them and that it enlightened them.

"This training will bring us so many positive changes as far as hygiene and sanitation are concerned. For instance, we will improve handwashing practices for both adults and young ones. We will also install sanitation infrastructures at our home and places where we meet," said Mary Mbilu.

"We will also ensure that our water sources are cleaned throughout and that there’s a functional latrine, and ensure that we treat our drinking water."

From the action plan prepared by the members of this group, it was clear that they were ready to improve on their sanitation and hygiene. Much is expected from this group as far as hygiene and sanitation are concerned.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

July, 2019: Tulimani Community Sand Dam Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Tulimani drains people’s time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know your 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 more good 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: Tulimani Community

February, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Tulimani 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!

"Getting water for household use was always a major household task for most community members in this locality. Water was obtained more than 3 kilometers (2 miles) away in river scoop holes. The water point was always crowded full of people search for water, the long queues were tedious, and sometimes it could take more than 2 hours waiting. The water was not always clean as the water points were always open day and night and exposed to contamination," said Mwaswili Matumba.

"Water has always been readily available for the last one year. Getting water has been reduced to a simple household task that requires less than 15 minutes to undertake. The water point is located within our village. I only walk to the well and pump my water into a container, then walk back home. There is usually nobody waiting because the hand pump has been efficient and fills a container quickly. This project has opened up more time for us to engage in other income-generating activities."

Mwaswili Matumba

"I have achieved the goal of having enough clean water for my family from within our locality. We now have enough water for drinking, cleaning household facilities, and planting trees and flowers at home. I am also planning to start a small kitchen garden within my homestead where I will grow vegetables for my family members in a bit to changing eating habits and have a healthy 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 Tulimani 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 Tulimani 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 - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation