Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 2,008 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Aug 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/16/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

Kathamba ngii Community is found in a rural, peaceful area that has an average vegetation coverage of mainly indigenous trees. Most of the buildings here are made of bricks and covered with iron sheet roofing.

On a typical day, community members here wake up very early to fetch water and complete chores before working on their farms or as casual laborers for others. But it is the first task that defines the rest of their daily routine; accessing water is a challenge in this semi-arid region of Kenya.

"Our area suffers a long dry season every year. In such times, the few water points present are unable to meet the water demands of the existing population," explained Beatrice Mwikali.

Our main entry point into Kathamba ngii Community is the Kwa Mbunza 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 in this area. This is the third project we will complete with this group to improve water access for the more than 2,000 people living here.

Community members living on the edges of the village are still struggling with long distances to access the few water points available. This brings out the need for more water projects near their homes to achieve universal water access to all residents of the locality. We work with groups over multiple years to ensure that everyone has access to safe, reliable water close to home.

"Despite having implemented 2 water projects in our locality, the need for more water is rife because water is such an essential commodity in human life. I come from a bit far from the already-done projects and I have been struggling with the long walks to access water, which derails my personal development since I spend much time in the pursuit of water," said Tabitha Mutheke.

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. 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 Kwa Mbunza 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

August, 2021: Kathamba ngii Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kathamba ngii, 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.

"This water point will offer me clean water for irrigating my crops and drinking. It will also offer my cattle a place to access clean water. The sand dam will hold sand, which retains water for longer periods that can sustain me and my community during long drought periods," said Peter Mutuku, 42.

"It will offer me a job opportunity to acquire income, since I will plant crops and sell them. It will also save my community from walking over 4 kilometers in search of water. My community's hygiene levels will improve since we will have clean water for cleaning, cooking, and drinking. This will reduce the spread of hygiene-related diseases such as cholera and COVID-19."

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 45 meters long and 2 meters high and took 380 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, however, because sometimes it only rains once a year!

We worked with the Kwa Mbunza Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and a tremendous amount of physical labor to complete the project. We trained the group on various skills, including 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.

New Knowledge

This is the third project in this community. Our 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.

The training was held near the construction site. Though the weather was hot, the trees around the place gave enough shade and fresh air; it was a conducive place to conduct the training.

We decided to train on health problems in the community, good and bad hygiene behaviors, the spread and prevention of disease, sanitation improvements, planning for behavioral change, handwashing, and soapmaking.

Different methods of water treatment were discussed, including water guard use, moringa seeds, boiling, and SODIS (Solar Disinfection). The group said that they learned boiling is the safest method of water treatment, since it doesn’t use any chemicals, and no germs can survive when water reaches its boiling point. Also covered were latrines: proper use and sanitation. Several members of the group stated that they had not previously considered latrines an important structure, but now they knew their importance in cleanliness.

Tabitha Matheka, the vice chairlady of the group, shared the following: "Some members who were not in the first training have gained sufficient knowledge on hygiene and sanitation that will help them in improving hygiene at their homes, thus reducing diseases. Water treatment is an activity that hasn’t been practiced well by many, but from today, we will put it into practice since we have learned the stages at which our water can get contaminated."

When an issue arises concerning the sand dam, 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.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

June, 2021: Kathamba ngii Community sand dam underway!

Dirty and unreliable water is making people in Kathamba ngii Community 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: "I can indulge in activities I enjoy."

February, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Kathamba Ngii Community 2A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kathamba Ngii Community 2A 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 of Kathamba Ngii Community often had to go to extreme measures to find enough water to meet their daily needs.

“I used to walk for long distances in order to fetch water for use at home," said 49-year-old Tabitha Mutheke. "The river would dry very fast as it is a seasonal river. Hence, we had to dig very deep scoop holes to access water for basic household uses. A lot of time would be wasted in search of water for use, time that could be spared for productive or developmental activities."

But since a sand dam was implemented in their community last year and the rains finally came, things have been improving.

“Life has changed and improved for the better. It takes me a few minutes to draw water and get back home. I usually manage to complete my household chores on time, and with that, I can indulge in activities I enjoy, such as farming and catching up with friends," said Tabitha. "Additionally, the cleanliness, hygiene, and sanitation of my home [have] improved because water is readily available. I can also fetch water at any time of the day with no strains at all.”

With water readily available, Tabitha has been able to put it to good use for her agricultural projects as well.

"Through this water point, I have managed to acquire water to irrigate our group tree nursery and my kitchen garden. My goats and cattle are also able to get enough water to drink within a short distance and time, which has positively [changed] their health and yield," concluded Tabita.


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 Kathamba Ngii Community 2A 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 Kathamba Ngii Community 2A – 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 - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation