Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Feb 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/27/2024

Project Features

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Yumbani village is a calm, peaceful, and rural area in Makueni County, Kenya. The topography of the area is hilly as the village lies between the Makuli and Nzaui hills. The roads are very bumpy, rough, and rocky. Houses are sparsely populated with large farms separating the homesteads. Most houses are made of bricks and iron sheet roofing.

An average day for these community members begins at 6:00 am or earlier when women walk to the nearest river to fetch water. Their return depends on the queues and the crowds at the water source that day. Once they get back home, they prepare breakfast for their families and ready their children for school.

The water is fetched from scoop holes along the Mbaloni River. During the dry seasons, the women have to dig very deep scoop holes to attain water. It can be risky because they are big enough that someone could fall inside the hole and get hurt. The roads are also very rough and steep to reach the river. The river sources are always open, exposing the community members to risks of contracting waterborne diseases.

"When there's no water at school and we have to carry from home, we are forced to go to the river first, fetch it, and carry it to school. It's usually very exhausting because we do not have water in the house," said Amos, a teenage student we met during a recent visit.

Our main entry point into Yumbani Community has been the Nduti Self-Help Group, which is comprised of households that are working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. We worked with this group last year to complete a project, but it alone is not enough to solve the water needs for the more than 1,000 people living here. Many people still will use the open river source to get water because it is more convenient for them.

"The water source is usually very overcrowded. Attaining sufficient water for use is always very hard," said Onesmus Munyau, a local farmer.

What We Can Do:

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. These members will be our hands and feet in both constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone. 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 Nduti 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

February, 2021: Yumbani Community Sand Dam Complete!

Yumbani, 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 Nduti 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 hygiene and sanitation training to teach skills like soapmaking 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 team of field officers to assist them.

"Access to reliable, safe water is a huge relief in my life. I will no longer have to walk long distances to fetch water as the water source is adjacent to my home. Using the shallow well to draw water is very easy, and I will spend less than five minutes fetching water at the well. This is very beneficial to me as I will have enough time to engage in other developmental and income-generating activities," said Florence Munyau.

"I plan to establish a vegetable garden where I can plant vegetables such as kale, spinach, onions, and tomatoes both for domestic and agribusiness activities. Having water nearby will also enable me to engage in agroforestry projects and fruit tree planting, which are beneficial in conserving the environment."

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 four months.

Siting and technical designs were drawn and presented to the Water Resources Management Authority, and a survey was 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 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 nine meters long and six meters high, taking 817 bags of cement to build.

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. However, it could take up to three years of rain for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity, since sometimes it only rains once a year!

"Access to reliable, safe water from this water point will be impactful in my life as I will not have to walk for very long distances to fetch water. Water is readily available for drinking, cooking, and farming activities. My life will be a lot easier thanks to this water project," said Sylvester Nzangu.

"I plan to utilize the water from this project for farming activities. I will farm intensely because the water is adjacent to my farm. We have been facing great challenges concerning farming and irrigation projects due to inadequate water within the region. Now that water is available in plenty, I will utilize the water to farm vegetables for sale and domestic use."

New Knowledge

The field officer in charge of the Matiliku region, Jeff Maluki, met with the group members while constructing their project and informed them about the planned WASH training. The members later agreed on a date and a central venue for the training. The local government authorities, such as the assistant chief of the area, were informed about the training, too.

The venue for this training was at Titus Maweu's homestead. Titus is a member of this group, and his homestead was a central venue to the majority of the participants. His homestead is situated 400 meters away from their second sand dam project. The weather was sunny, but the homestead had trees that provided shade for all the participants. The environment was quiet and, therefore, conducive for learning.

The attendance was excellent and as expected. Among the participants were several leaders, including a village manager, a policy leader, and a church leader. The remainder of the audience included ten men and sixteen women whose ages ranged from eighteen to ninety years old.

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.

"The training was very educative and valuable. I learned quite a lot from this training, and I intend to share the information gathered with my friends and family members. We were taught on soap-making practices which will come in handy in the implementation of proper hygiene and sanitation practices at our homes, especially during this pandemic of COVID-19," said Stephen Mwanzia.

"The training was very informative, and we have increased our knowledge on hygiene and sanitation as well as on COVID-19. This training will help us protect ourselves from coronavirus infection and improve our hygiene and sanitation at home and in our community. The liquid soap will enable us to practice proper handwashing as well as help the group generate some income from the sale of the soap and the disinfectants which we have learned today," added Eluid Kyungu.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

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: More Time to Play!

March, 2022

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Yumbani 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!

Sam M., 10, shared, “I used to walk to the water source to fetch water for use, and I would stay there for [a] very long [time] due to the long queues. I would be punished every now and then because of getting back home late. During the driest months, the water would dry up completely, and we could no longer get water to fetch.”

But since a sand dam was installed last year, things have been different for Sam. “Getting water from this water point is very easy and it does not take up a lot of time. In less than five minutes, I can draw water and get back home. My mother also does not send me to fetch water these days because she can easily use the well pump.”

Now that Sam has more time, he is enjoying being a kid. “I am now able to play and enjoy my childhood with my peers because I don’t have to spend a lot of time drawing water at the scoop holes anymore. Once I return home from school, I also find that there’s plenty of water to bathe, my mother has prepared food, and my uniforms are clean. I am very grateful for the availability of water at this water project.”

Sam at the well. Water from the sand dam is collected behind him.

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 Yumbani 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 Yumbani 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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