Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jun 2022

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 06/17/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

Community Profile

The 500 community members of Kanyoeni do not have a nearby water source, so they must wake up early and walk several kilometers to collect water from scoop holes. People's shortest distance traveled is 2 km (1.24 miles). Some have to walk up to 10 km (6.21 miles), which amounts to a two-hour journey each way. Due to the long distance, community members typically only make one trip in the morning before attending to their daily responsibilities, like farming and caring for livestock. But to meet their water needs, most must return once more in the evening. It is exhausting and dangerous.

Mukami M., a 15-year-old student (pictured below), explains how the water crisis affects her. "I do not get enough time to concentrate on my studies because I also have to accompany [my parents] at times to the scoop holes to fetch water that I take to school."

"It is also difficult to maintain proper hygiene and sanitation because we have to use water sparingly at home," she continued. "Being a girl, it is also unsafe to go fetch at the scoop holes alone."

Aside from being far away, the water is also open to all forms of contamination. The scoop holes are surrounded by green vegetation: feeding grounds for cattle and goats. There are also footpaths across the scoop holes that residents and livestock use. Furthermore, there are trees in the area that birds perch on. Because of this, the people of Kanyoeni regularly suffer from typhoid, amoeba, dysentery, diarrhea, and more.

The hygiene and sanitation in the area are below average because of water scarcity. Most of the households do not have dish racks, garbage pits, and handwashing stations. They cannot maintain proper dental hygiene or body care due to the elusive water supply. Laundry cleaning is also an occasional affair due to water insufficiency.

The people of Kanyoeni demonstrate great unity in helping one another. They set up fundraising sessions for those parents who cannot pay school fees for their children. They come together for funerals and festivals, such as dowry payments and weddings. They recently came up with table banking to give a financial boost to needy members at a reasonable rate of interest. The residents are also Christians who have built several churches to cultivate their faith in a higher power.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the Kanyoeni community is the Kyeni Kya Kanyoeni Self-Help Group, which comprises households 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.

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 significantly hindered reaching their fullest potential.

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the TKTK Self-Help Group and other community members to teach essential hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community level. 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 handling, storage, and water treatment. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated when it is consumed. We will also emphasize the importance of handwashing.

The community and we firmly 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 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

June, 2022: Kanyoeni Community 1A Sand Dam Complete!

Kanyoeni, Kenya now has access to a new water source 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 over time. We are also building 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.

''When the sand dam shall have water, it will have a great impact on my village as everyone will have access to clean water," said 17-year-old Jemmimah M.

"The schools around this place are well-positioned to benefit as no more adverse water scarcity will be experienced anymore. Having water, I will keep myself clean, hence improving [my] level of hygiene and sanitation."

''I have wished to own a kitchen garden," Jemmimah continued.

"Now things are looking up. I am very optimistic that once the sand dam harvests water, I will be able to start one for myself and my family too. We will waste no more money on buying vegetables for the family. I will also be able to excel in [my] academic performance because I will be spending little time and energy to get water from this water point."

"I hope that the sand dam will change my life so much," said 52-year-old farmer, John Mutua Mutambu. "I will enjoy clean water which is very safe. Also, I will improve my income through the planting of vegetables and then selling them. Time will be properly managed, especially not having to trek for [a] long [time] to get water."

John at the hygiene training.

''I hope to plant crops and harvest good produce from my farm," John continued. "I will sell the surplus to get school fees for my kids."

"In terms of health, I hope to get better and also avoid some sicknesses related to water contamination. I will not get sick frequently. My children will also be no longer exposed to water-related infections; thus I will not be spending time or money in getting them medical assistance."

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Kyeni Kya Kanyoeni Self-Help Group 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.

Community members break down boulders into usable building material.

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 the plans were 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 compact enough to stop seepage.

Preparing the construction site.

Next, we mixed and heaped mortar (a mixture of sand, cement, and water) into the foundation, followed by rocks once there was enough mortar. We then used barbed wire and rebar to reinforce the mixture.

Once the foundation was complete, we built a timber skeleton to hold the sludge and rocks above ground level. Once our first layer dried, we 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 33 meters long and four meters high and took 850 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 in this region, sometimes it only rains once a year!

New Knowledge

Our trainer conferred with the field staff about their previous household visits and interviews with community members to determine which topics the community could improve upon.

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 detergent-making and improve behaviors such as handwashing.

The group uses a newly constructed tippy-tap for a handwashing lesson.

"We have learned a lot of practices that we knew but never practiced and others that are new to us," said John Mutua Mutambu, who is the newly elected chairperson of Kanyoeni's water user committee.

"This training has also helped us understand the different causes of diseases and how they can be prevented. It will also help us improve on our routines as far as hygiene is concerned. For instance, a good number [of us have] been eating fruits without washing them, not cleaning hands after visiting latrines, among other poor practices."

We also touched on health problems in the community, good and bad hygiene behaviors, the spread and prevention of disease, and sanitation improvements.

The most memorable topic was disease transmission, which struck particularly true with one community member, who said he might have lived to 140 had his family not practiced open defecation when he was growing up.

Community members learn how to make soap.

"This training will really help us reduce disease incidences, thus living healthy lives," John said.

"We will also improve on latrine hygiene by cleaning them using the detergent that we have been taught how to make. The skill gained from both the detergent and soap making will help us increase our household income, thus enabling us [to] meet our personal and basic needs."

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!

April, 2022: Kanyoeni Community Sand Dam Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Kanyoeni 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: "This waterpoint offers enough clean water."

August, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kanyoeni 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!

Farmer and chairman of the water committee Mutua Musyemi, 48, recalled what life was like in Kanyoeni before his community’s sand dam was implemented last year.

"Life in the past was difficult because [of the] semi-arid nature of our area. My wife and older children had to walk for about 2km (over a mile) to Thua River to draw water from the open scoop holes. Despite the arduous journey, the water was insufficient for activities like crop irrigation, cleaning our garments and other personal hygiene practices. Also, the scoop holes were shared with goats, donkeys and cows that would excrete at the water points. This exposed us to infections like typhoid, amoeba and occasional stomach upsets,” said Mutua.

But life is much less burdensome for Mutua and his family now.

"I am very happy about this waterpoint because it's very close to my home. I have planted kales, spinach and tomatoes for subsistence purposes. I easily fetch enough water for use at home and I recently set up a house for my boys. The water is also very crucial when making bricks which are essential when building a concrete structure. My cattle and goats have also improved their yield because the water point is nearby," he said.

Having ready access to water from the sand dam and attached well has made a difference for Mutua, allowing him to improve his family's life for the future.

"This waterpoint offers enough clean water. I now have enough clean water for drinking, cooking, and performing hygiene and sanitation activities. Me and my family no longer experience contaminated water-related symptoms like stomach upsets or diarrhea. Furthermore, I am no longer spending my strained income on medication," concluded Mutua.

Thank you for helping Mutua and his family access clean water and pour their time and energy into development projects that will make their futures brighter.

Right now, there are others just like them in neighboring communities that desperately need safe water access. Your support will immediately go to work to provide a clean water project - and we can’t wait to introduce you to the next person you’ll help.

Mutua near the well that pumps water collected by 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 Kanyoeni 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 Kanyoeni 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.


Project Sponsor - Brian and Joelle Kelly Family Foundation
D&S Drainage Services
3 individual donor(s)