Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jun 2020

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/15/2024

Project Features

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Nzimba is found on the slopes of the Mumoni hills in Mumoni sub-county, Kitui County.

On an average day for the community members in this region, the women and children wake up at 6:00 am, go to fetch water, prepare breakfast for the family as the children prepare to go to school. The man, on the other hand, wakes up to go to the farm to get Napier grass for the livestock and also prepare to run his errands. During the day, the woman goes for water fetching, washes the family’s clothes, tidy up the house, washes utensils and prepares lunch as well as supper for the family.

But without nearby access to a reliable water source, most days are not average in Nzimba. The water source was found on a seasonal river channel more than 3 km from the nearest household. People spend more than 2 hours just to travel to the river, fetch water, and travel home.

For Lucia Musili, a farmer who lives in the community, it means waking up at 4:30 am each day to go and get water.

"It has not been easy taking the long walks in the darkness. This has derailed my personal development as most of the time is spent searching for water," she said.

The river water is an open-source which is accessible to animals and wildlife, it remains exposed to many contaminants all the time. For most of the year, people have to dig holes in the dry riverbed to get the water that is stored in the ground. Some members also visit the source to fetch water using donkeys to help them carry multiple containers. Their presence also further contaminates the water.

"I have suffered from typhoid as a result of using water which is not safe for human consumption," said Mbuli Mutisya, a farmer who also travels the long distance to the river.

The lack of water contributes to other problems. The hygiene and sanitation levels within this community are below average, there is poor water handling, no proper waste disposal through the use of garbage pits and the available latrines demonstrate poor cleanliness standards. Many of these challenges are connected to the lack of water available nearby.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into Nzimba Community has been the Kasilu Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 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

After the community picked the ideal 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 31 meters long and 3 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 this sand dam, a hand-dug well will be installed to give community members an easy, safe way to access that water.

Building this sand dam along with the well in this community will help bring clean water closer to hundreds of people living here.


These community members currently do their best to practice good hygiene and sanitation, but their severe lack of water has been a big hindrance to reaching their fullest potential.

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Kasilu Self-Help Group and other community members to teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community level. This training will help to ensure that participants have the knowledge they need to make the most out of their new water point as soon as water is flowing.

One of the most important topics we plan to cover is the handling, storage, and treatment of water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it is consumed. We will also emphasize the importance of handwashing.

We and the community strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve living standards here, which will help to unlock the potential for these community members to live better, healthier lives.

We typically work with self-help groups for 3 to 5 years on multiple water projects. We will conduct follow-up visits and refresher trainings during this period and remain in contact with the group after all of the projects are completed to support their efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene.

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Musili Kyulu

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 Musili Kyulu to conduct COVID-19 prevention training and monitor their water point. We checked in on the community and asked how the pandemic is affecting their lives.

During this most recent visit, Musili shared his story of how the coronavirus has impacted his life.

Musili Kyulu

Our staff met Musili outside his home to conduct the interview. Our team and Musili observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Musili's story, in his own words.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

"My income situation has significantly deteriorated in this time of the coronavirus. I work as an artisan, building houses and making repairs within the local community, but there are no jobs nowadays. Many people are spending the little they get on food and upkeep, leading to a lack of jobs. I have been left to survive on food from my small farm to feed my children."

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 high cases of the virus have also been locked. No movement is allowed in and out of the counties to control its spread to other areas. The government is also encouraging handwashing and mask-wearing in a bid to control the spread of the virus."

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?

"We just completed the construction of a dam and shallow well within our community. Water is now available in large quantities for all of us and from within. Everyone can walk down to the well and draw water for household use and drinking. This is a great improvement from the previous situation of drawing water from river scoop holes."

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

"The well has clean water. Water is essential in making us adhere to government directives of washing hands with soap and clean water in the fight against coronavirus. Having water from within our village is also helping reduce movement to a distant place, which works well in the fight against the disease."

How has getting food been at this time?

"Now that I am no longer working and earning money, I have depended on the small farm produce harvested from my farm in the last rain season where I harvested maize, cowpeas, and green grams. They have become the main food items in our menu while also being supplemented by cassavas available in the shamba. I have not been able to afford some shopping items obtained from retail outlets because of lack of enough income."

June, 2020: Nzimba Community Sand Dam Complete!

Please note, all photos in this report were taken before social distancing recommendations went into effect.

Nzimba, 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.

"Having water from within our village will be a big boost to me and my family as well as the community at large," said Mwendwa Maithya, a 56-year-old farmer who lives near the dam.

"There will be an adequate supply of clean water for drinking which will lead to improved hygiene and sanitation levels and also lead to healthy people. The time I initially spent on getting water can now be utilized for other activities such as farming and trade."

We worked with the Kasilu 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 a 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 31 meters long and 3 meters high. It took 480 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. It could take up to 3 years of rain for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity, however, since sometimes it only rains once a year!

"I will now be able to access water more easily and with eased convenience than before. This is because water is now available from within our village without the long walks," said Eunice Makasi.

New Knowledge

The area Field officer for Nguuku/Musosya region Stephen Mwangangi in collaboration with Judith Kituta planned for the training and agreed on the best possible dates. After a date was agreed upon, Mr. Mwangangi informed the community leaders who then told all the community members and invited them for the training. The area assistant chief and village elders were also notified and requested for the training.

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 training was held at the New Apostolic Church Nzimba. It had enough space to accommodate all attending members, and the environment was conducive for the training. Being a sunny day, everyone enjoyed the training session. The weather was favorable for everyone, and the training turned out a success for the community.

Handwashing demonstration

During the discussion on the causes of malaria, some community members cited tsetse flies as the cause. This created a scene of laughter for a majority of the members in attendance. The misunderstanding was corrected and the people were informed that mosquito bites caused malaria and that tsetse flies caused sleeping sickness. This made the topic one of the most memorable.

"The training has been beneficial and quite informative," said Mutiso Kondo after the training.

"The knowledge on handwashing and construction of a simple tippy tap will lead to improved health levels in our community."

Thank you for making all of this possible!

May, 2020: Nzimba Community sand dam underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Nzimba, Kenya drains community members’ 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 Videos

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: Nzimba Community

August, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Nzimba 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 and hand-dug well (dubbed Kasilu Well) in Nzimba community were installed, sixteen-year-old Kioko had a lot less free time. "We'd spend a lot of time in search of water," Kioko said, "but now we spend only a few minutes to acquire it."

He was proud to mention that his personal hygiene has improved since the installation of the water point. He said: "I rarely skip school days and my school uniform is always clean."


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 Nzimba 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 Nzimba 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