Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 1,401 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Aug 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 06/03/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

Mbitini village is a highly-populated area with more than 1,400 people living in the region. The community is located in Kenya's semi-arid region, where water demand is high, but access is low. Many people here walk long distances to get water each day.

The current water source for the community is a sand dam and shallow hand-dug well that we helped build last year. The one well, however, cannot meet the entire community's water needs, leading to overcrowding and sometimes low water quantity. As a result, people return to using scoop holes to get water. While fetching water from the scoop holes may help to cut down on wait times compared to the well, the scoop hole water is unsafe for consumption.

"Getting water in our community has not been easy. The water point is very far - more than three kilometers from my home - and it takes a long time to walk there, draw water, and walk back home with donkeys," explained Annastacia Musau.

"As a mother and a wife, the need for water here is very high - especially times like today with the COVID-19 pandemic, which requires higher standards of hygiene for prevention. That is not possible when the water source is far and getting water is a challenge."

Not everyone can afford donkeys, like Annastacia. That means they have to carry the water buckets themselves - a task that most often falls on women and children. As a result, more trips back and forth to the well are required. All of this makes fetching water more tiring and more time-consuming.

Our main entry point into Mbitini Community has been the Mathyakani 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 constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.

We typically work with self-help groups for three to five years on multiple water projects. Completing multiple water points in a community will ensure that people like Julius Musili will no longer spend a significant part of their day walking to get water.

"As members of Mbitini community and the great Kavaini location, our biggest problem has always been water, which the government has failed to address over time. Our lack of adequate water supply has greatly contributed to the high poverty levels in our locality as farming with the natural rains has been continuously failing. We need water through community initiatives like what we are doing now, working together to beat a common challenge," said Julius.

The implementation of more sand dams and shallow wells will provide more water sources, helping the community to address their water challenges.

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 Mathyakani 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 will conduct follow-up visits and refresher training 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: Mbitini Community B Sand Dam Complete!

Mbitini, 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 help me in various hygiene and sanitation activities such as washing my attire and cleaning household items," said Ben M, a 17-year-old student. "I will also have clean water for drinking, which will improve my health. I will not be walking long distances looking for water, since this water point is nearby. I can use that extra time and energy to improve my academic performance in school."

Esther Mbuvi, a 57-year-old farmer and community member, said, "Access to this water point will improve [my life] in various ways. First, I will have water for hygiene and sanitation, which will be instrumental in fighting COVID-19 and other hygiene-related diseases. I will also have water for drinking and farming, therefore I will have food throughout the year. I will no longer be spending so much time looking for water, since this water point is nearby."

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.

Community members collaborating.

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 360 bags of cement to build.

As soon as it rains (expected in October of 2021), 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 Mathyakani 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

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. As we had worked with the Mathyakani Self-Help Group previously, this was a refresher training.

Attendance and participation were both high. Members of the group were very willing to learn new things, especially the new members who had not attended the first training had plenty of questions. Most of the group members were present, including the chairman and the vice-chairman.

Peterson Makau, a 63-year-old farmer and Self-Help Group member, expressed his approval. "The training was very educative and enjoyable according to my assessment. We have learned a lot of things, especially a lot of mistakes that we commit deliberately and innocently in our homes."

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.

"It is extremely critical to construct latrines in our homes," Peterson continued. "I've acquired knowledge on the proper location of latrines and how to keep them clean."

Peterson predicts the training will have a very positive impact on the community. "I expect cases of water-borne diseases to reduce at a high percentage."

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: Mbitini Community Sand Dam Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Mbitini 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: A Thriving Farm and Income Stability!

January, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mbitini 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 we installed a new sand dam and shallow well in Mbitini, people had to walk for kilometers at a time just to fetch a single jerrycan of water.

"I had to go fetch water to drink and cook at [the] Mbitini River, but I returned home feeling exhausted due to the long distance under the burning sun," said Gabriel. "I used to walk several kilometers to the scoop [hole], which was contaminated because it was shared with livestock that would excrete inside the water. This exposed me and my family to infections like typhoid and amoeba. Treating such diseases was challenging because we had meager finances thanks to the adverse effects of this region’s rampant semi-arid and arid climate.”

But now that water is available, waterborne diseases are a thing of the past in Mbitini. With water closeby and better hygiene practices in place, Gabriel has more time to focus on things that matter.

“I am now able to get water for cooking, drinking, and irrigating my crops easily and within a short time, because the shallow well is close to my home and garden," Gabriel explained. "I also get more time and energy to focus on activities like tree-planting, cultivating kitchen gardens, and crop cultivation. I have planted various crops such as kale, tomatoes, coriander, and fruit trees (pawpaw and mangoes). This waterpoint also enables proper hygiene and sanitation (both personal and general) because it offers sufficient water.”

Thankfully, all these improvements have given Gabriel more stability to provide for his household.

“This water point has enabled [me to] acquire an income because I sell the produce from my farm to several community members," Gabriel said. "This enables [me to] reap about ksh 500 per week, thus enabling [my] income stability. I have relocated back home permanently [because I am no] longer depending on blue-collar jobs. This is because this sand dam holds enough water to irrigate my crops."

Note: The system has visible rust due to the presence of iron in the water. While iron found in drinking water is usually an aesthetic quality, the community can still use the water without concern for health issues. This project type was designed to protect against outside contamination and provide safer water than the unprotected sources this community may have been using. We will continue to keep a close eye on the water quality of this water system through our quarterly monitoring program.

Gabriel, right, pumps water at the well for his fellow community member, David.

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 Mbitini 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 Mbitini 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 - StossWater