Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 392 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/28/2024

Project Features

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On the day our team visited the Yumbani community, it was stormy, and the roads were nearly impassable as they were slippery with mud. The village is sparsely populated with houses made of bricks and iron sheet roofing. Community members own large pieces of land, some of which they use for farming activities while others remain large bushes and thickets.

The area is prone to receiving little to no rainfall due to climate change, which has worsened the severity of the seasons here. Most community members are farmers, relying on it to make a living. However, due to the unreliable rain patterns and water scarcity challenges, people have to seek other income-generating activities to earn their daily wages such as casual labor jobs, opening small businesses, and operating motorcycles for transportation businesses.

The water crisis has significant adverse effects on the 500 people who live here. Community members have to trek very long distances to reach the nearest water point. The water sources they use are open and exposed to many contaminants including farm chemicals, dust, and animal waste.

Women have to wake up before sunrise in an effort to walk the five kilometers (three miles) to the nearest water source, draw water, and get back home in time to complete their daily household chores. Due to the exhausting walk between home and the water source, most community members - and especially the women - cannot engage in any other productive activities of their choice.

For those community members lucky enough to own a donkey, they take the animals with them to help fetch water. At a maximum, the donkeys can carry four jerrycans of water. Once back home, the women must use the water sparingly to ensure it lasts the day to fulfill the household duties at hand. But the donkeys do not offer any sort of protection to the women as they make their trek to the water in the dark. The women often face great dangers when walking alone to fetch water.

Owning a donkey, however, still does not free a family from their water crisis.

"I have a donkey, and I have established a rainwater collection tank, but the water is never sufficient because there are many needs at home. I have to purchase water for cleaning, drinking, and for our livestock," said Douglas Mutua Mulaa, a 52-year-old farmer.

We also spoke with Ndomiana Nduku Kisilu, a 62-year-old woman who does not own any donkeys. Ndomiana has to pay for someone else to fetch water when she cannot borrow a donkey from a family member or neighbor. The cost of getting water is a hardship.

"The challenges of water scarcity are very deep for me," she said.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into Yumbani Community has been the Wikwatyo Wa Kasunguni Self-Help Group, which comprises households 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.

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 their fullest potential.

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Wikwatyo Wa Kasunguni Self-Help Group and other community members to teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community level. 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

December, 2021: Yumbani Community Sand Dam Complete!

Yumbani, 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 have 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.

"I will have water for drinking, bathing, and washing my hands at all times," said Musyoki M., a boy in the community. "Clean water is good because I will not get sick because the water from this project will be safe for use. I will water the trees at my home and also bathe well."


Another community member, Zechariah Munuve, said, "Access to reliable and safe water will give me enough peace. We have been walking for long distances to fetch water for use. Through this project, the distance will reduce. Our livestock will not have to walk for long distances and we will be able to get adequate water supply for household use and farming activities."

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 48 meters long and 5 meters high and took 700 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 Wikwatyo wa Kasunguni Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and a tremendous amount of physical labor.

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.

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 held at the homestead of Doughlas Mutua, who is a group member. The compound was very spacious, accommodating all the group members. During all three days of training, the weather was extremely chilly and cold (that's why you see Self-Help Group members all bundled up in the photos!).

The training attendance was as expected, with a consistent turnout of 9 males and 28 females throughout the training dates. With their zeal to learn, the group members selected various leaders to ensure a seamless flow: Joseph Kinyolo was the timekeeper, and Anne Ndinda was in charge of prayers at the start and end of the training sessions.

Members who arrived late were given a punishment of reminding the rest about the topics discussed in the previous trainings. This ensured each member was concentrating!

The members were excited about the soap-making procedure, noting that it would be instrumental in improving their hygiene and sanitation practices. They took turns in stirring the soap to ensure each community member would be able to do so on their own later.

"The training was very valuable," said Pius Mithuka, a 50-year-old farmer and member of the Self-Help Group. "We have learned several skills such as handwashing, soap making, making of detergents, and construction of tippy-taps. Cohesion and togetherness has been instilled among the group members. We will now be in a position to transform our entire community."

With new wisdom and a source of safe water, Zechariah is more excited for his future. He said: "Water from this project will boost my food and financial security by engaging in farming activities of vegetables such as kale, spinach, and onions. I will also plant trees at my home."

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!

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 achieve a lot with this water."

February, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Yumbani 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, life was very hard because we would hustle a lot for water. We used to trek for several kilometers, especially during dry seasons," said 43-year-old farmer Anastacia Kamwethya, describing life before we installed a sand dam in her community last year.

"Children were forced to use their play time in fetching water just after they [checked] back from school, or even before attending school. This, at times, made it difficult for the child to love the school and therefore end up missing lessons," Anastacia said.

Community members had to wait for the rains to come and for the sand dam to collect water, but that has finally happened, and the sand dam is beginning to make a difference.

“In the past year, I did not grow anything using the water from the sand dam as [back] then, the sand dam was dry. [But now], since [the] rains came, I am planning to implement my agriculture plans which I’d planned before the sand dam was implemented. I will grow sukuma wiki (collard greens), spinach, and bananas for both domestic and commercial use.”

“After constructing this sand dam, life has changed a lot. Life is now bearable. I can achieve a lot with this water now. I no longer walk several kilometers to get water. I only have to wake up at the right time, get water and go back to my farm to do other activities like growing crops and preparing the shamba (farm)," concluded Anastacia.

Anastacia pumping water at the well.

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 Yumbani 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 Yumbani 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 - Lifeplus Foundation