Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 417 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Mar 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/10/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

King'ethesyoni is a village found in Kitui County of Southeastern Kenya. It is a hilly region covered in trees planted by the 417 community members living here. The surrounding area is made of grazing land and farmland.

The only water source for community members here is open river scoop holes. These are holes people dig by hand ranging from several inches to several feet in depth until water seeps in that they can then scoop into their water containers. Scoop holes are open to all sorts of contaminants and are widely shared by human beings and livestock alike.

Out of the community members present at the time of our most recent survey from this area, 3 people reported that they had fallen sick in the last 6 months suffering from waterborne diseases. Their illnesses were attributed to either drinking contaminated water, improper handling of drinking water, or poor personal hygiene practices at home. Others reported having their children suffer from water-related diseases such as dysentery and typhoid.

Sometimes the water is murky with sand and mud, but the community members have almost no other water sources to choose from. Irregular rainfall patterns cannot guarantee water for communities year-round, and most rivers in the Kitui County are seasonal. The time spent fetching the unsafe scoop hole water increases as the dry season progresses.

"Water challenges in our community have been so severe it has almost become a culturally accepted norm. Getting water sometimes has been taking half of my day's time only to end up with dirty water unsafe for human consumption which is not even enough for my family needs," said Isaac Mutua, a local farmer.

The responsibility of fetching water often falls on women and children. We also spoke with Monica Mbuvi, a mother who gets up early each day just to get water for her family.

"We have really suffered as women of this locality in the plight of persistent water problems," she said.

"I have been forced to sometimes wake up early in the morning with my children to go looking for water more than 3 kilometers (~2 miles) away from home. It is always risky in the dark."

What We Can Do:

Our main entry point into King'ethesyoni Community has been the Katambu 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 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 Katambu Self-Help Group and other community members to teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community levels. 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 the 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

March, 2021: King'ethesyoni Community Sand Dam Complete!

King'ethesyoni, 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 Katambu 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.

"We are happy to have been beneficiaries of this amazing water project. The project will help me have enough clean water at home, which will lead to improved hygiene and sanitation levels. It will also provide enough water for use at home for my family and children without the big struggle experienced before," said Gideon Nguli.

"I am planning to start irrigation farming on a large scale because water is available unlimitedly. I will be growing vegetables for my family and to sell in the nearby markets, which will earn me income to sustain my family needs."

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.

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 am happy that clean water has been brought close to us through this water project. It will now be available from a stone's throw distance. There will be no more struggles of walking for long distances with donkeys searching for water from river scoop holes, which was not always clean. I look forward to a more healthy and smooth life without many water struggles," said Agnes Ngandi.

"Through the availability of enough water from this water project, I will always use my free time to draw water and use it to plant more fruit trees in our home farm and irrigate using the available water resources. It will be good because, after maturity, the fruits will be good for our consumption and to sell to others."

New Knowledge

All Katambu Self-Help Group members were informed of the need for hygiene and sanitation training after completing their sand dam's and shallow well's construction. Group members were required to attend the training alongside other interested community members. Through the area Field Officer Paul Musau and the WASH Officer Veronica MAtolo, the community was notified of the training date.

The training was held at one of the self-help group member's homesteads, Gideon Nguli. It was chosen for its central location, making it easily accessible to all with the availability of enough outdoor space to accommodate all the group members.

The attendance was as expected. Out of a possible 18 community group members, 17 of them consistently turned up for the community event. This was attributed to the timely communication before the training date, with all members being able to receive the communication in good time.

The trainer conferred with the field staff about their previous visits to households and interviews with community members to determine which topics the community 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.

Tippy tap construction was one of the more notable topics during the training. Members said it was interesting because it is an easy infrastructure to construct that is affordable to all since it does not require any implementation. People were encouraged to go home and make their own handwashing stations.

"This training has imparted us with enough knowledge on our daily behaviors and how they affect us. For instance, washing fruits with running water has always been taken for granted, contributing to the transmission of diseases. Still, since we have learned the right way of washing them, we will start the practice and prevent disease transmission," said Ndana Kalele.

Handwashing demonstration

"We will start generating income from soap-making and improve meeting our basic needs at home. The knowledge on handwashing will also be critical during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic as it will help prevent the spread of the virus."

Thank you for making all of this possible!

January, 2021: King'ethesyoni community sand dam underway!

Dirty water from open scoop holes is making people in King'ethesyoni, Kenya 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!

A Year Later: Improved Grades and Food Security!

March, 2022

A year ago, your generous donation helped King’ethesyoni Community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for 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 King'ethesyoni Community 1A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help King'ethesyoni 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!

We asked 11-year-old David what the water situation in his community was like before the installation of their community's sand dam and well.

He said: "I had to help in fetching water for the household; thus, I could walk up to two kilometers to fetch water and come back home. Due to the water scarcity, water was used sparingly at home, which negatively affected hygiene and sanitation. Also, my family could not practice sufficient farming for financial purposes. Due to the stagnant, scarce water spots, cattle could defecate [in the water], making [it] unhealthy for human consumption."

Now, David's life is hardly recognizable. "I do not spend much time looking for water since this water point is close to my area," he said.

"This has also offered more time to improve my academic performance. My grades have improved because I have sufficient time to do my homework, thanks to the water point’s close proximity."

"The project has also enabled farming through irrigation, thus providing food to the community.  My parents have also grown various crops that are sold to community members and various buyers. Hygiene conditions have also improved because this waterpoint offers clean water for use hence lower occurrence of diseases."

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 King'ethesyoni 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 King'ethesyoni 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 - The Blake Belknap Family
United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey
The William and Joanne Suttmeier Fund of InFaith Community Foundation
38 individual donor(s)