Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Feb 2020

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/09/2024

Project Features

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Kithumba community is found in a hilly area in the slopes of Makuli hills in Nzaui, Makueni county. The locality is a peaceful rural area which is partly vegetated made up of indigenous tree species. Community members have decent housing standards with the majority living in houses made of brick and iron sheet roofs.

Many people in Kithumba area and the larger Kalamba/Nzaui district are actively involved in large scale fruit farming in their pieces of land especially mangoes and oranges, the increased production of fruits in the area resulted in the Makueni county government installing a fruit processing plant at the nearby Kalamba market to tap on produce from the locals.

Our main entry point into Kithumba Community is the Kakwa Self-Help Group (SHG), which is comprised of 26 farming households that are working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. This is our third year partnering with Kawa SHG to improve access to reliable water. Multiple water points are needed to ensure that all 1,500 people in Kithumba community have a water source that is near their homes. These members are the hands in feet in both constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.

Most community members use the two sand dams and adjacent hand-dug wells that were constructed over the past two years to meet their water needs. The water is clean and good for human consumption and the facility is well managed by the community through a lock and key policy to avoid cases of unexpected vandalism. However, we estimate that a single source can only support 500 people and there are still many people traveling a long distance to get water.

People living in areas far from the water facility have suffered by spending much of their time in water pursuit at the expense of other important activities such as farming and taking care of cattle. More projects are needed well distributed within the village so as to meet the water needs of the population.

"Our village has not yet reached universal access to water for all with sections of the community still struggling in terms of getting adequate clean water easily," said Muinde Ngonzi.

"We are ready to work on more projects and bring water close to everyone within the locality and improve our living standards generally through improved hygiene and sanitation."

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 45.1 meters long and 4.85 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 Kithumba, Kenya.


Kakwa Self-Help Group and Kithumba Community have participated in training sessions that teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish in their homes. Taking good care of themselves and their environment will make for a healthy community. There has been progress, but training is still necessary to ensure continued improvement.

A majority of the community members have made good strides on matters of hygiene and sanitation. All members of the community have latrines and clotheslines. The majority are also using handwashing facilities with the rest working towards their implementation. Improvements are needed at making of dish-racks and digging of garbage pits within the compounds.

We will hold refresher trainings for all of the community members to strengthen what they already put into action and encourage them to continue making improvements.

Project Updates

October, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Matthew Mulandi

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.

Matthew Mulandi and his family.

Our team recently visited Kithumba community to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training and monitor their well and dam. Shortly after, we returned to check in on the community, offer a COVID-19 refresher training, and ask how the pandemic affects their lives.

During this most recent visit, Matthew Mulandi shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting her life and his community.

Field Officer Lilian Kendi met Matthew outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Lilian and Matthew observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Matthew's story, in his own words.

What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?

"A lot has changed since the installation of this water point. We have plenty of water to plant trees and vegetables such as kales, spinach, onions, and tomatoes for domestic use at our homes and sale. Generally, farming projects have intensified thanks to this water project. Community members no longer have to walk for long distances to fetch water. This has enabled them to save more time to engage in other income-generating activities."

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

"Having a clean water point has helped us provide water for drinking, bathing, washing clothes, and other household uses at our homes."

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?

"Yes, a lot has changed for me since the outbreak of COVID-19. Following the restrictions provided by the government, I have had to practice handwashing before and after using the shallow well's hand pump, observe social distancing at the well to avoid contact, and wear a mask whenever I leave the house to go and fetch water."

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

"The economy has become unstable since the onset of the virus. Casual labor jobs are not well paying as they were before, which has reduced the income earned at the household level. I had to send my wife and family to live with the extended family at my matrimonial home due to the changing times as I could not provide for them as consistently as I did before."

What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

"Our income is unstable due to the lack of jobs. The economy is still rocky hence making it hard for us to engage in businesses as usual. My daughter was to join school this year, but that is not possible due to its closure."

Matthew watering his farm with water from the well.

What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community has taken to stop the spread of the virus?

"We took the following hygiene and sanitation steps to stop the virus: wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands with soap and clean water, and avoiding crowded places."

Like most governments worldwide, the Kenyan government continues to set and adjust restrictions both nationally and regionally to help control the spread of the virus.

What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?

"There were age restrictions set when going to church, but they have been lifted, which has allowed all age groups to attend church. The elderly can now provide counsel to the young generation. The opening of the marketplace has allowed businesses to start picking up gradually."

Matthew Mulandi

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

"I look forward to the opening of schools so that my daughter can officially join pre-school."

When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Matthew listed the radio and our team's sensitization training.

What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?

"Through this sensitization training, I learned the importance of handwashing at all times, social distancing, and proper hygiene and sanitation."

May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Kithumba 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 Kithumba, Kenya.

We trained community members on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19.

Before there were any reported cases in the area, we worked with trusted community leaders and the Water User Committee to gather community members for the training. At the time, social distancing was a new concept and one that challenges cultural norms. Although community members were hesitant to adopt social distancing during the training, we sensitized them on its importance and effectiveness in combating the spread of the virus

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.

February, 2020: Kithumba Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kithumba, 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 Kakwa 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.

"We are pleased that the project is complete and that it will enable us to have an adequate supply of water in our community. All the community members will now access water a stone's throw away from their homesteads," said Daniel Muunge, a farmer who is a member of the self-help group.

"In addition, the water point is safe and very easy to operate even for the children. We are grateful and expectant for the changes and developments that are yet to be experienced in this area."

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 45.1 meters long and 4.85 meters high. It took 515 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 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. This is the third project we have completed with this self-help group, so much of the focus was on determining what areas are in need of refreshing or improvement. Some 23 group members attended, as well as 1 church leader, 1 school leader, and 1 retired government leader.

The members converged at Simon Kituku’s homestead. Simon is a member of this group and his homestead was a central venue to most of the members. It also provided protection for everyone since it was raining on the day of the training.

They decided to train on topics including water treatment; latrine hygiene; the transmission of diseases; how to make a handwashing station; and making kerol (household cleaning detergent). Making kerol was a new idea that was introduced to the members. The members claimed that it was something they have yearned for a long time due to the state of their latrines. They were very excited to learn the idea that will enable them to improve their sanitation. They were also excited by the possibility of selling the kerol to their neighbors to make a small income.

“The training was good as we have been reminded of many things that we had forgotten about hygiene and sanitation. The training will help us to improve the hygiene standards of our families," said Mr. Muunge.

"The kerol-making training will enable us to keep our latrines clean as they will be germ-free and the number of flies will reduce.”

From the facilitator's perspective, the training increased the knowledge of the community members on hygiene and sanitation and this will help them to prevent diarrheal diseases. The training on how to make kerol which was highly applauded and adopted by the members. It will help them to generate income thus improving their living standards.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

January, 2020: Kithumba Community sand dam underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Kithumba Community 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 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 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: Kithumba Community

February, 2021

A year ago, your generous donation helped Kithumba Community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Justin Mutunga David. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Kithumba Community 3A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kithumba Community 3A 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!

"The place was very dry. We used to fetch water very far walking around three and a half kilometers to the water point. It was very strenuous, the water was scarce and it was contaminated," said Justin Mutunga David.

"Getting water is very easy. We do not get tired fetching water here neither do we get sick. Our lifestyles have improved a lot. The quality of water is very good as the water is very fresh and sweet for drinking. I plan to use the water for intensive farming. I have already started using the water for farming and I plan to farm more than I did."

Justin Mutunga David

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 Kithumba Community 3A 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 Kithumba Community 3A – 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