Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 130 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Apr 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/02/2024

Project Features

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Thona Community is found in a peaceful rural setting with characteristic steep slopes and hilly terrain found throughout southeastern Kenya. The area has sparsely distributed vegetation cover as a result of dry conditions experienced in the area. More than 130 people live in this community, but they are spread out from each other since most families make a living through farming. Some people here earn an income through informal labor jobs, as well.

The main water point here is a sand dam and a hand-dug well constructed here last year. However, that alone cannot meet the water needs of all the people here. Many community members still struggle with traveling long distances to access water. This means there is a need for more water projects near their homes to achieve universal water access to all residents of the community.

"Life in our village has been improving since the day we started working with The Water Project. Our first water project came with water and knowledge on some of the best ways to improve our cleanliness levels and avoid diseases in our lives. We need more projects in order to have unlimited water access by everyone in our area," shared Luzy Kanini, a farmer who lives in the community.

On an average day for most of the community members, women and children wake up early in the morning to get ready for the day. The women usually prepare breakfast for the family as the children get ready to go to school. The women or the children will go to fetch water at the best possible source, depending on the time of the year. The men go to the farm to get grass for the livestock and also prepare to run his errands. During the day, the women wash the family's clothes, tidy up the house, cleans utensils, and prepares lunch as well as supper for the family, among other household chores.

For some people here, the time lost to fetching water is significant.

"More water projects are welcome as they will bring water even closer and continue reducing the distances covered and time taken at the water points," said Wanza Ndembei.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into Thona Community has been the Ndithi Tuinuke 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 a comfortable, 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 significant hindrance to reaching their fullest potential.

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Ndithi Tuinuke Self-Help Group and other community members to teach about essential 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.

The community and we firmly 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 training 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

April, 2021: Thona Community Sand Dam Complete!

Thona, 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.

"This new water project is like a dream come true. It will bring water close to my family and me. Having easy access to clean water all the time will be good for us as it will lead to improved living standards and improved levels of hygiene and sanitation, especially at times like now during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Wanza Ndemmbei.

"I am looking forward to improved income generation through poultry and livestock farming because my chicken and animal population will have easy access to water from the new water points."

We worked with the Ndithi Tuinuke Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and physical labor to complete the project. Also, 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 field officers to assist them.

Sand Dam

The community members collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand required to complete 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 poured 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 38 meters long and 3 meters high and took 723 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; sometimes, it only rains once a year!

"This sand dam and the shallow well project will help increase access to clean water and water for farming activities to our homes. Our community will now be more water secure. The project is close to my homestead, and access to clean water will now be from a stone's throw distance," said farmer Lucy Kanini.

"I am now in a better position to engage in irrigation farming because water is available in unlimited quantities. I will establish a kitchen garden and help improve my family's eating habits using the available water resources from the project."

New Knowledge

The area Field Officer Patrick Musyoka was in charge of community mobilization for the training. He called the self-help group chairperson and notified him of the date of the training. All community group members were invited for the training alongside local community leaders.

Patrick 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 community members chose to have their training at the local shopping center called Ndithi. The training was done in a commercial plot built by the community group.

A notable topic during the training was latrines. Latrine construction at home is emphasized since open deification is one factor leading to diarrheal diseases. During a follow-up that our team did in 2019 at almost all the self-help group member's homesteads, it was noted that there happened to be a member who did not have a latrine. The member was encouraged to construct a latrine but never did it.

During this training, the member testified that he came to learn that open defecation can make someone sick. He said that this pushed him to construct a latrine. Members were impressed by his decision and found the topic memorable.

Soap making

“The hygiene training has been of great importance to us in so many ways. Since we first attended the training, a lot of positive changes have been experienced. Waterborne diseases have reduced, people in our area that did not have latrines have constructed latrines, and implementation of other sanitation infrastructures has been done," shared Nzambi Mysyoka.

"Today's refresher has woken us up, and it will really help us much since it has reminded us where we have fallen as far as hygiene and sanitation is concerned. Handwashing stations in most homes at the gate were not functional, but now we are going to fix them."

Mixing soap

Thank you for making all of this possible!

March, 2021: Thona Community sand dam underway!

A severe clean water shortage at Thona Community drains peoples’ 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: Improved Food Security!

May, 2022

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Thona 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!

Bonface Kilonzo, a 22-year-old farmer, shared what life was like before a sand dam was installed in his community last year. “Water scarcity in this area was extremely rampant and forced us to walk several kilometers to purchase water from the distant borehole, which was mostly overcrowded and could dry up during the long drought periods. The acquired water was also contaminated due to animal and human contamination, thus exposing us to typhoid, stomach aches, diarrhea, and more. Water also had to sparingly [be] used at home, which adversely impacted hygiene and sanitation.”

But since the sand dam was built last year, a hand-dug well was able to be installed, changing Boniface's life. “This water point has ensured I no longer have to walk several kilometers in search of water because it's only a few meters away from my home. I now devote all my energy and time to farming because there is no exhaustion or time wastage from walking to the previous water points. Crop yields have also improved because there is adequate water from the implemented project to irrigate our crops and vegetables.”

He continued, “My dream of cultivating onions is now possible because there is enough water to irrigate them. I prefer planting onions because they are not perishable, do not require any treatment, and fetch a better market price. This will allow me [to] improve my food security and source of income.”

Boniface, with the sand dam behind him, drinking water from the community well with student Munyao.

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 Thona 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 Thona 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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