Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 2,875 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 11/14/2023

Project Features

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The Wathanaa Self-Help Group is found in Nduumoni village, Kenya. The area is a rural, fairly vegetated, and peaceful region. It is sparsely populated, with most houses made of bricks.

The 2,875 community members here suffer a lot during the dry seasons because of their community's lack of water. An average day for the community members starts at the crack of dawn when women walk to the riverbed. All roads here lead to the Nduumoni River, where people go to fetch water for the day.

The distance covered by some community members to access the river is very far, meaning they have an exhausting daily walk back and forth while carrying their heavy water containers on their backs. Because water levels in the early morning are generally higher than later in the day, once the women arrive at the river, they collect the water and return home as quickly as possible.

The river, however, dries up quickly each dry season. People have to dig very deep scoop holes into the riverbed to access water for much of the year. The scoop holes are usually overcrowded because the water table is shallow, and typically only one scoop hole has water at a time. Hence, on any given day, the entire community may be depending on a single scoop hole for water.

If women find themselves stuck in line for water, their kids back at home have to leave for school hungry, going without their breakfast for the day. Only if the mothers return home early enough can they also cook and feed their children breakfast.

"I am an old woman now, and water scarcity affects me a lot. During the dry seasons, I have to dig very deep scoop holes to fetch water. If I get water here, my life will change," said Rebecca, a 78-year-old farmer.

As a result of the time lost to the task but also the inability to bring more water home, most families have to ignore basic hygiene and sanitation practices in their homesteads. This often means sacrificing things like handwashing, doing the laundry, bathing, and washing dishes just to have enough water for drinking and cooking.

An insufficient supply of water also leads to high poverty levels because people cannot engage in other income-generating activities as most of their time is spent searching for water.

Because the open river is exposed to various contaminants such as animal and human waste, dirt, and farm chemicals, it is unquestionably unsafe to drink. But without another choice, people often end up sick from the water. While families struggle to afford medicine and hospital visits to treat typhoid and cholera, the high and recurring costs further drain their financial resources.

"Insufficient water supply has contributed highly to the poverty levels in the region because we are unable to farm well. We spend a lot of our finances on treatment and fetching water at times. Life is hard without water," said Bramwell, a local farmer.

Our main entry point into the Nduumoni Community has been the Wathanaa Self-Help Group, which is comprised of households that are working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. These members are like our hands and feet in constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone in their area.

The most common livelihood in this region is farming, with people focusing on subsistence crops. Casual labor jobs such as constructing people's homesteads or farming on others' land are also common among young adults.

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 and 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 hindered reaching their fullest potential.

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Wathanaa 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 ensure that participants know 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 handling, storing, and treating 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 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 three to five 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

February, 2022: Nduumoni Community Clean Water Update!

You were a major part of establishing a sand dam in the community of Nduumoni. When we install sand dams, we build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water. However, it often takes a rainy season or two for the projects to reach their full potential. We are thrilled to report the sand dam and shallow well are now filled with water and fully functional, providing clean water to the community. Thank you for making clean water a reality for this region. By having consistent access to reliable water, the people of this community’s health, energy, finances, and free time are sure to improve!

November, 2021: Nduumoni Community Sand Dam Complete!

Nduumoni, 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.

"The water project will provide reliable and safe water for our community," said 27-year-old Prosper Mwongela. "Our lives will improve. Additionally, we will have water for drinking, cooking, our livestock, and maintenance of proper hygiene and sanitation at our homes. The struggles of having to walk for long distances to get water will reduce."

"We also foresee the improvement of our climate and the environment as the water table and recharge will be high, thus enabling the regeneration of [the] natural environment," Prosper continued.

Prosper celebrating the completion of the water projects.

"I plan to use water from this water point for irrigation practices," Prosper concluded. "I will be able to farm vegetables such as kale, spinach, tomatoes, capsicum (peppers), and other food crops for income generation and domestic consumption."

"Access to reliable and safe water will be good for handwashing and water for drinking," said Junior K., 3. "We will drink clean water."

Junior at the sand dam.

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 73 meters long and 6 meters high and took 1,030 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 Wathanaa Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and a tremendous amount of physical labor.

New Knowledge

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.

We've worked with the Wathanaa Self-Help Group before, so some of the members had already received hygiene training. 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 still improve upon. Thankfully, the members who know the value of the training were able to recruit 12 people more than we were expecting to attend, for a total of 32 people.

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 soap-making.

"The training was very beneficial," said Virginia Mwende Mutua, the secretary of the Wathanaa Self-Help Group. "It taught me that it is very important to treat our water as it helps in reducing the chances of diseases."

For this group, the most interesting topic was handwashing. Members came up to display what they had learned from the training and were given scores from the fellow community members on how well they had followed all the handwashing steps. Hopefully, this will help them remember!

"We learned that washing hands often helps in protecting against the spread of diseases," Virginia said. "It's beneficial to avoid touching our face after touching surfaces or interacting with people without washing hands."

This chicken was also interested in proper handwashing technique.

The second most interesting topic was soap-making. All the community members took turns stirring the soap as it was being made. Some of the men had trouble stirring for long periods of time, which led to teasing from the women of the group. It started a cordial but heated debate on why men don't help in the kitchen, which made the topic memorable.

"The soap training will help me generate some income through the sale of the surplus soap, which will be instrumental in boosting my income," Virginia said. "I am very grateful."

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: Nduumoni Community Sand Dam underway!

Dirty and unreliable water is making people in Nduumoni 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: Achieving Food Security!

February, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Nduumoni 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!

“Before the construction of this sand dam, we were faced with great water challenges," said 79-year-old farmer Rebecca Isaac, whom we interviewed on our first visit to Nduumoni.

Before we helped to install a sand dam and shallow well in Rebecca's community, the 2,875 community members walked incredibly far distances to access water. This construction has provided a reliable source of water for them.

"This sand dam is near my homestead; therefore, a big walking distance has been reduced," Rebecca said. "I walk for a very short distance, then I get to the water point. We have plenty of water to use. Currently, many [people], including myself, have ventured into farming. In our community, we no longer have to buy vegetables from the market. We are well-sorted.

“After constructing this sand dam, life has changed a lot. We no longer waste a lot of time at the river as we used [to] before because of the long queues. The water now is very clean, as it is in a well-protected shallow well. One is capable of carrying as many liters of water as they want because the distance is short and, also, [there is] no need to queue.”

Now that life is more stable, Rebecca's farm is thriving.

“In the past year, I have planted numerous trees and also ventured into cash crop farming," Rebecca said. "I have been a self-reliable person, as I don’t buy vegetables from the market anymore. Having my own garden where I can practice vegetable farming is a great and advantageous move. I have started achieving my goal of food security at my home.”

Rebecca, center, waters crops at her farm.

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 Nduumoni 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 Nduumoni 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.


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