Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/09/2024

Project Features

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Mathanguni community is based in a rural area of southeastern Kenya. It's inhabited by nearly 1,300 community members who are mostly farmers. Our team visited the area during the wet season, and the environment was lush and green due to the recent rains. However, during the dry season, the environment is usually grey with many withered crops. House structures in this area are made of brick and use an iron sheet for the roof.

On an average day, the women wake up at around 6 am to prepare their children for school and cook breakfast for their families. When everyone leaves, they undertake their household duties such as washing clothes, cleaning their houses, cleaning utensils, and taking their livestock for grazing. Once the water in the homestead runs out, they have to walk to the nearest water sources to fetch water. For some people here, the trip to the water source takes around an hour each way. This consumes a lot of their time, and it's very exhausting for them.

The community has a sand dam and hand-dug well that they constructed last year. However, the single water source is not close enough to everyone who lives here. The project provides a reliable source of water, but it is still a burden on many families here. Some people will still go to the open scoop holes in the river beds to get water in order to avoid the long walk. While this saves time, it exposes families to waterborne diseases found in open water sources.

"We have been affected a lot by the challenges of water. The water we attain from the open sources have been making our children ill because they often complain of stomach aches and diarrhea," said Lydia Muteti, a farmer who lives in the community.

Insufficient water supply has led to immense poverty levels as the members mostly rely on farming, and without water, they may lack food to sustain them. It is time-consuming walking to the water sources as it deprives them of time spent on income-generating activities.

"At times we have to buy jerrycans of water from the families with donkeys and its usually expensive," Lydia explained.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into Mathanguni Community has been the Kakwa 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. We worked with this group on a water project last year and will build on their experience to complete a water point that will reach more people here.

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 Kakwa 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 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

December, 2021: Mathanguni Community Sand Dam Complete!

Mathanguni Community, Kenya now has access to a new source of water thanks to your donation. We constructed a new sand dam on the riverbed, which will build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water. We also constructed a new hand-dug well with a hand pump adjacent to the sand dam, providing the community with a safer method to draw drinking water supplied by the dam.

"Access to reliable and safe water has helped me. Our livestock can get water within a short range of distance near my home. I can now fetch water easily with minimal strain, which ensures the household duties assigned to me are completed on time. I plan to plant trees at home as they will be helpful in improving our environment, providing shade and also fruits in future," said Samuel M., 14.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The community members collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand required to complete the dam. The collection of raw construction materials takes longer than the actual construction, lasting up to four months for a large sand dam. The group also dedicated their time and energy to support our artisans with physical labor throughout the project.

First, our team drew siting and technical designs and presented them to the Water Resources Management Authority. We also sent a survey to the National Environment Management Authority for approval before we began construction. 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 ground is firm enough to stop seepage.

Next, we mixed and heaped mortar (a mixture of sand, cement, and water) into the foundation, followed by rocks once there was enough mortar to hold them. We then used barbed wire and rebar to reinforce the mixture.

Once the foundation was complete, we built a timber skeleton to hold up the sludge and rocks above ground level. We then repeated the process until reaching a sufficient height, width, and length. Finally, we dismantled the vertical timber beams and left the dam to cure. This dam measures 52 meters long and 5 meters high and took 798 bags of cement to build.

As soon as it rains, the dam will build up sand and store water. With this water, the surrounding landscape will become lush and fertile and the well will provide drinking water to the community. It could take up to three years of rain for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity, because sometimes it only rains once a year!

We worked with the Kakwa Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and a tremendous amount of physical labor.

New Knowledge

We informed the self-help group members of the need for a hygiene and sanitation refresher training after completing their fourth sand dam and shallow well project construction. They were required to attend the training alongside other interested community members.

The field officer in charge of the Matiliku region, Jeff Maluki, notified them of the training date after scheduling with WASH officer Christine Lucas. 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 venue was at one of the self-help group member’s homesteads. It was chosen for its central location, making it easily accessible to all the members. The availability of enough outdoor space that could accommodate all the participants made the venue very suitable. The homestead was also located approximately 100 meters away from their fourth sand dam and shallow well project, enabling the participants to easily access water for use during the training.

All the members were interested in stirring the soap during the soapmaking exercise. They took turns in stirring and were very patient until the soap was done. The members agreed to sell liquid soap. The self-help group will use the profit generated from this project for the benefit of the group. The members would buy additional materials at Matiliku town.

This topic was interesting because, in stirring the soap, there arose a discussion on how to bake a cake whereby one of the members explained to the rest that one is not supposed to change the stirring direction when baking a cake. This discussion helped the participants understand more about why we only stir in one direction when making the liquid soap as well.

Mixing the soap.

"The soapmaking training has been very helpful to me as I can now make soap and disinfectant, which helps improve the hygiene and sanitation standards at home," said Grace Kilisya.

Mixing chemicals to make soap

While demonstrating how diarrheal diseases are spread, a donkey that belonged to the host of the training started braying by making the “heehaw” sound. The donkey was noisy and interrupted the training session. The training stopped for a while as the attention of the members was diverted to the donkey. The donkey owner had to calm it down by giving it some water to drink.

"The training has been an eye-opener to me. I have learned how human excretion can get back to our bodies when disposed of inappropriately and make us sick. I will encourage my family members, especially my grandchildren, always to use the latrine to avoid contracting diarrheal diseases," shared Grace.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

November, 2021: Mathanguni Community Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Mathanguni 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!

A Year Later: "It feels like magic."

January, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mathanguni 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!

Last year, the community members living in Mathanguni suffered to find and collect enough water to meet their daily needs.

“Before the construction of this project, life was very hard. We used to get water from very far, and the water was not very safe for drinking. We did not have enough water for maintaining our hygiene and sanitation as well as for watering our trees and other crops on the farm," said 13-year-old Muuo M.

But after we installed a sand dam and a dug well, things changed for Mathangani's people, as they now have water readily accessible within reach of their homes.

"Now, I enjoy fetching water from this shallow well point. It feels like magic to me as it's very convenient. I am very happy about this project, and the source has made me realize the goodness of having clean water near us," said Muuo.

Muuo is enjoying the benefits of clean water now but also has great plans for the future.

“When I grow up, I plan to cultivate my own farm using water from this project to improve my life. I plan to plant kale and tomatoes for sale," concluded Muuo.

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 Mathanguni 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 Mathanguni 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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