Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 600 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Oct 2020

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/06/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

On an average day in Mbitini, Kenya, women and children wake up early in the morning to start the day. The women prepare breakfast for the family as the children get ready for school. The men, on the other hand, wake up to go to the farm to get Napier grass for the livestock. They also prepare to run errands.

When the men and children are off, the women then go to fetch water in the best possible source depending on the time of the year.

The main water sources for this group of people are scoop holes dug in the nearest river bed. During the dry season, some people spend more than 2 hours each day fetching water because they have to travel to river beds that are farther away. The time lost to fetching water each day is a great burden on some families.

“Getting water is always hard here, especially during the driest months of the year. I have been caught up in the water scarcity mess, sometimes ending up using muddy water for drinking and cooking," said Esther Mutua, a 45-year-old farmer.

"On other occasions, fetching water becomes a day-long affair that leaves no time to engage in other income-generating activities."

The sources are open and a majority of locals travel with donkeys to help carry the water back home. The surrounding environment is littered with donkey waste which exposes the water to an array of contaminants.

Drinking this dirty water causes a variety of health problems. Community members reported complications including stomach problems, dysentery, and typhoid which were all linked to the use of water from the open river sources.

“The prevailing water conditions have been detrimental to our lives as people living in this locality. Available water sources do not provide clean water and they are found very far from us," said Daniel Mwangangi, a farmer in the community.

"This has led to long walks in search of water. It totally compromises our hygiene standards while also exposing us to disease outbreaks.”

Hygiene and sanitation standards within the community were described as "below average" by our field officers. They observed that the majority of the households they visited exhibited poor water handling, low latrine hygiene standards, and no traces of water treatment.

After arriving home with the water, the day continues for the women in the community with household chores such as washing clothes and preparing lunch for when the children and men take a break. The women will help with the farm in the afternoon if there is time. Many families rely on farming to make a living and grow some of the food that they eat. Some of the men will work informal labor jobs in the nearby larger towns or work in the capital city of Nairobi and send money back home to their families.

The day comes to an end with dinner, cooked by the female head of the household. Everyone then retires to bed to rest up for a new day to begin.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into Mbitini Community has been the Mathyakani Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 44 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

Building this sand dam at a spot further down the river will bring water closer to hundreds of other people. 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 82 meters long and 2 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 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 Mathyakani 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

October, 2020: Mbitini Community Sand Dam Complete!

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

Mbitini, 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.

(before physical distancing)

"The dam has already helped us achieve the goal of having clean water from a source near my home," said Elizabeth Mutwa, a 60-year-old farmer.

"I am now working on a plan to start fruit growing within my home, using the water for irrigation, in collaboration with my children."

We worked with the Mathyakani Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and physical labor to complete the project. We trained them 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 soap making and 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 field officers to assist them.

Sand Dam

The community members collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand 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, we excavate to a depth at which the technical team is satisfied that the ground is firm enough to stop seepage.

Then we mixed mortar (a mixture of sand, cement, and water) and heaped it into the foundation. We poured rocks into the mortar once there was enough to hold them. Barbed wire and rebar are used to reinforce the mixture.

(before physical distancing)

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 73 meters long and 3 meters high and took 1363 bags of cement to build.

Digging out a trench for the dam. (before physical distancing)

Sand dam construction was simultaneous to constructing a hand-dug well, which gives locals a safer method of drawing water. As the sand dam matures and stores more water, more 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!

"Fetching water will now be more easy and fun. Using the hand pump is simple, and it is pumping fast, which is something new to me. We are also enjoying the water now that schools are closed and I am using it often to wash my clothes and my room," Alex, a 16-year-old boy, said.

New Knowledge

The training was planned by hygiene and sanitation officer Judith Kituta in collaboration with the area field officer Benedetta Makau through consultations with the community members. A date was agreed upon and then communicated back to the community members invited to the training.

Soap making at the training (before physical distancing)

Judith conferred with Benedetta about her 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 soap making.

Handwashing demonstration (before physical distancing).

The group lacked a building that could have hosted all of the attendees. That prompted the use of shade from trees near the sand dam construction site to accommodate the training. The surrounding trees provided enough shade for the training to go on smoothly with minimum interruptions.

On the last day of the training, there was a soap making exercise, an activity that is always aimed at improving the whole community's hygiene and sanitation. Members attended and participated very well. They were very willing to learn the different procedures.

Community mapping (before physical distancing).

Community members found soap making to be a unique activity. They learned that making soap is easy, and it can help cut the cost of paying for soap while also creating an income-earning opportunity if they sell their finished product. The men were surprised that the women were so good at stirring all the chemicals to make the soap. The women laughed and challenged the men to help with the cooking at home if they wanted to practice mixing for long periods!

"As a community, we will be in a position to transform our entire community into a better dwelling place through practicing good hygiene and sanitation," said James Vugu, a local farmer.

"Having known the common diseases in our area, we will be in a position to change our eating habits, and in case of any illness, we will seek the doctor's attention as soon as possible. We will keep our catchment areas out of bound of animals to secure our water sources from any source of pollutants."

Thank you for making all of this possible!

September, 2020: Mbitini Community sand dam underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Mbitini, 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 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!

A Year Later: From a Nightmare to a Nursery

September, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mbitini 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 was constructed in Mbitini Community, Kyambi spent a staggering amount of time fetching water every day. "Getting water was a nightmare," she said, "since we used to walk for long hours. Things have changed because I can access water within a few minutes."

With all this spare time, Kyambi has been able to create her own tree nursery: a source of income that couldn't have been realized without a source of reliable water.

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 Mbitini 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 Mbitini 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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