Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 1,141 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Nov 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/10/2024

Project Features

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On an average day for Ngongo community members, the women and children wake up at 6:00 am. The women go to fetch water to prepare breakfast for the family as the children prepare to go to school.

The main water source for this community is a seasonal river bed. People fetch water directly from the river or dig scoop holes when it begins to dry up to find water stored under the sand.

On the other hand, the men wake up to go to the farm to get Napier grass for the livestock and run errands. Many community members in this locality rely on small-scale farming of indigenous crops such as pigeon peas, cowpeas, maize, beans, and green grams. Others engage in livestock farming, rearing goats and cows on their small pieces of land.

During the day, the women wash the family’s clothes, tidy up the house, wash utensils, and prepare lunch and supper for the family. Depending on the family's size and water needs, many women and children may be required to travel back to the water source multiple times to get water for their use at home.

Most households report traveling 30 minutes to an hour to get water. For some families, the journey is more than 2 hours.

All of this time and effort is spent to fetch water that is not safe for consumption and unreliable. During the dry season, people walk even longer, searching for spots along the riverbed that still have water. Or they have to dig deep scoop holes to get the water.

"Fetching water is never easy, the distances are long, and sometimes it takes long waiting at the scoop holes. The water is not always clean which even makes matters worse. Even when walking with donkeys, we arrive home tired and unable to help in other household chores," explained 11-year-old Daniel K.

We also spoke with farmer John Mutunga who added, "We have been facing water challenges in our community since time immemorial. The search for water is always a whole day affair, affecting our development as people because the time to engage in other economic activities is limited. Any support in a water project will be a dream come true and a life-changing affair to all of us here."

What we can do:

Our main entry point to the community is the Yanzoi Maithya 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 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 been a big hindrance to reaching their fullest potential.

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Yanzoi Maithya Self-Help Group and other community members to teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish personal, household, and community levels. This training will help 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 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 strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve living standards here, which will help 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 contact the group after all of the projects are completed to support their efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene.

Project Updates

February, 2022: Ngongo Community Clean Water Update!

You were a major part of establishing a sand dam in the community of Ngongo. 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: Ngongo Community Sand Dam Complete!

Ngongo, 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.

14-year-old Musyoka M. is thrilled. "The close proximity of water will allow me to focus more on my studies because I will no longer be walking several kilometers searching for water," he said.

"I will also get enough water for drinking and cooking, unlike before where we had to use water sparingly. The sufficient water will also allow me to improve my personal hygiene."

But Musyoka's plans for the new water source extend far beyond the immediate. "I will have ample time to study without the exhaustion from long walks. This will place me in a good secondary school where I will be able to study well and get a well-paying job. My parents will also be able to pay my school fees because they will be earning an income from the sale of farm produce. I will also be able to plant trees that will positively change the dry climate of my area and make it more susceptible to rainfall."

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 26 meters long and 4 meters high and took 765 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 Yanzoi Maithya 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.

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.

"I hope to change a lot since a lot of knowledge was shared during this training," said Muthangya Mutuga, 39, the chairman of the new water user committee. "I will implement the skills and knowledge taught."

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 community members' favorite topic during this training was community mapping, which allows everyone to see the resources they have available and where things need improvement.

During the presentation, there was a discussion on where the name Yanzoi Maithya came from. One older woman who grew up in the village explained that Yanzoi is a small hill in the area with a field where people would go to dance traditional dances and songs led by a male soloist named Maithya.

Muthangya continued: "Initially, we were constructing tippy taps that would force us to touch them a lot, which would risk transfer of dirt, germs and bacteria back to the house with us. The newly demonstrated tippy tap during the training is very enjoyable for handwashing. I have learned that hygiene is broad and it has gone beyond what I thought it was."

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!

August, 2021: Ngongo Community Dam Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Ngongo 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: Improved Academic Performance!

January, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Ngongo 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!

Before we helped build a sand dam in Ngongo Community last year, people used to walk many kilometers to collect water from scoop holes in the dry river bed, leaving them exhausted.

"In the past, I had to walk about up the steep hills carrying water from the distant water point because we are required to carry water to school each morning. This exercise was grueling and time-consuming, leaving me with little time to focus on my academic studies or play with my friends," said 12-year-old Hellen M. "Conducting personal hygiene and sanitation was an occasional and onerous ordeal because water had to be used sparingly at home."

But now that water is located closer to home, Hellen finds it easier to collect water.

"The installed water point is easily accessible, and I spend not more than 15 minutes fetching water. The shallow well offers clean water for drinking and cooking; thus, meals are prepared on time at home. Unlike the open scoop holes, the shallow well’s clean water is free from animal, wind, and human contamination because it is protected. Thus, I am no longer exposed to water-related infections such as typhoid and amoeba," said Hellen.

"My academic performance has improved because I do not have to walk several kilometers searching for water and get more [time] to study and play. Better academic performance will enable me to access better career opportunities in [the] future so that I can help my community as well. My personal hygiene and sanitation have also improved, enabling me to be comfortable with higher self-esteem," concluded Hellen.

Hellen collecting water from the well attached to the sand dam.

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 Ngongo 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 Ngongo 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.