Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 1,296 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Aug 2022

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/27/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

During the wet season, the 1,296 community members of Nthonzweni have several options for water close to home. But in the dry season, their options disappear. This area receives little rainfall, so the community members' only option half of the time is to travel long distances to search for overcrowded, contaminated water sources, like the Ivoesyo River.

As a child, Francis K.'s only worries should be studying and playing. But as he explained, his days are dominated by the constant search for water. "I struggle a lot to fetch water. We only get water when there are rains. When there are no rains, I have to walk for long distances to fetch water at the river."

The journey to the river eats up more than two hours of Francis's time every day.

"By the time I get back home, I am very tired and I have to also do my homework," Francis continued (he's pictured above). "This often results in poor performance in school, as I have no time to study when I come home."

But time is not the only factor in Nthonzweni's water crisis. The water is open to all forms of contamination: farm chemicals, animal waste, and human waste. Due to the inadequate water supply, the community members are unable to sustain proper cleanliness, hygiene, and sanitation within their homesteads. Because of this, they report constant cases of typhoid, amoeba, and dysentery.

This problem is further aggravated by the community's inability to collect enough water for everyday uses, as 56-year-old farmer, Joel Mutua Kikumbi (pictured below), explained. "There is always inadequate water for use at home, either for washing clothes, bathing, cleaning the house/[dishes], drinking, and cooking, because the water source is far from my home."

"Anytime I try farming, the crops wither and die," Joel continued. "I waste a lot of time walking to search for water. My livestock are not healthy as they do not get enough water for drinking."

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Kyeni Kya Nthonzweni 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 along with 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 TKTK 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 help to ensure that participants have the knowledge they need to make the most out of their new water point as soon as 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.

We and the community 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 3 to 5 years on multiple water projects. We will conduct follow-up visits and refresher trainings 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, 2022: Clean Water Flowing at Nthonzweni!

You were a major part of establishing a sand dam/shallow well in the community of Nthonzweni. 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!

August, 2022: Nthonzweni Community Sand Dam Complete!

Nthonzweni, 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 also built 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 use water from this point to drink, cook and wash clothes," said 37-year-old farmer Christine Muthoka.

"Hygiene and sanitation levels shall improve at home," said Christine. "I also plan to start agricultural farming. In this way, I will never waste money purchasing vegetables from the market. I will use water from this source to wash and clean my home. I will plant trees and flowers at my home to make the environment green."

Christine on the day of our hygiene and sanitation training.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Kyeni Kya Nthonzweni 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.

Construction materials ready to go!

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.

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 seven meters long and four meters high and took 1,131 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 previous household visits and interviews with community members to determine which topics the community could improve upon.

The training was held at the home of community member Samson Musyoki. It was chosen for its central location, making it easily accessible to all, and the availability of enough outdoor space to accommodate all the participants.

We decided to train on health problems in the community, good and bad hygiene behaviors, the spread and prevention of disease, and sanitation improvements. We also covered various skills, including bookkeeping, financial management, project management, group dynamics, and governance. We included techniques like soapmaking and handwashing.

Community members found the session on soapmaking very interesting because it was a new skill that could help them generate additional income. Because the soapmaking process takes time to complete, participants began discussing how they intend to use the soap to increase their incomes, and each person had time to share their ideas with the group.

"I am very happy to have had such a great opportunity to learn about hygiene and sanitation. I learned a lot which I have already started practicing," said Philis Ndoi, a 30-year-old farmer.

Philis continued, "Now, I know how to make soap, and so far, I have made some hoping to sell. I am well equipped to teach others how to make soap and use it. Getting to know how to control diseases is a plus for me and my family. We will not let diseases prevail in our homes, whereas I have the capability to keep this away by just washing my hands. The hygiene and sanitation levels at my home are projected to improve greatly."

With water from the well, community members have started thriving farms and tree nurseries.


This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members themselves. 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 their local field officers to assist them.

Also, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our monitoring and maintenance program. We walk with each community, problem-solving together when they face challenges with functionality, seasonality, or water quality. Together, all these components help us strive for enduring access to reliable, clean, and safe water for this community.

With your contribution, one more piece has been added to a large puzzle of water projects. In our target areas, we’re working toward complete coverage of reliable, maintained water sources within a 30-minute round trip for each community, household, school, and health center. With this in mind, search through our upcoming projects to see which community you can help next!

Thank you for making all of this possible!

March, 2022: Nthonzweni Community 1A Sand Dam Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Nthonzweni 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 Videos

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: Water Makes Farming Possible!

August, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Nthonzweni 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 Meshack Musyoka, 22, recalled what life was like in Nthonzweni Community before his community's sand dam was implemented last year.

"Before the construction of this sand dam, we faced many challenges. It was difficult looking for water. We wasted a lot of time walking to rivers which are very far from here. We relied on scoop holes, which would dry as soon as rains went away," Meshack shared.

But life is much easier for Meshack and the other community members in the Nthonzweni Community now.

"After constructing this sand dam, life has changed a lot. In the past year, I have been able to practice farming, which is evident on my farm, where I have kale and spinach. I have also managed to water fruit trees on my farm. We have plenty of water, which is safe and well-protected in the shallow well. The water is always clean," Meshack continued.

Having ready access to water from the sand dam has made a difference for Meshack, allowing him to provide for himself and make progress in farming.

"In the past year, I have planted numerous trees and ventured into farming for my family. Due to the availability of water, I am able to water my plants adequately with no rush. This project has really made my dreams come true, as I never thought I would own a green farm like I do,"

Thank you for helping Meshack access clean water and improve his daily life. He has made great progress towards a more secure future for his family.

Right now, there are others just like him 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.

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 Nthonzweni 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 Nthonzweni 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.


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