Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 400 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Sep 2022

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/07/2023

Project Features

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Community Profile

In the village of Kitile, most of the 400 community members wake up at dawn to fetch water from the river Athi. The river is their only reliable water source, and although it is an arduous task, they must do it since they have no alternative.

But even after all the effort, the water is not safe for community members to consume. At times the river changes color due to area cities dumping their sewage into the river without considering human beings depending on this water. Since community members have no way of treating the water to make it safe, they are left to consume it. It is risky since they know they'll likely contract waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid, brucellosis (bacterial infection from animals), or dysentery.

The distance of up to 6 km (3.75 miles) each way is a significant obstacle for community members trying to collect water, and often, household activities go undone and children miss school due to exhaustion. It is especially difficult for small children, the elderly, and those who are ill unless they can afford to buy a donkey to haul water or borrow one with the condition that they will share the water fetched. The only other option is to purchase jerry cans full of water, which is a costly endeavor that most in this community cannot afford.

Some community members, like George Kasomo (seen in the photo below), are fortunate to afford the assistance of a donkey to cart full water containers home from the river.

But others like farmer Winfred Muinde, 44, watering her papaya tree in the photo below, are not as fortunate.

"Both adults and children suffer a lot, and they have to drink water from River Athi, which is very far," said Winfred. "Many community members who fetch water from the river have little or no capacity of treating it, [and] hence [they] consume it without any treatment, which often leads to contracting water-related diseases. The times are very hard now for every community member who is not able to buy water for their children to carry to school."

School children also feel the burden of collecting water each day. Starmy P. (in the photo below), 7, said, "How I wish we could have a water point near us to access clean water to carry to school. Getting clean water nearby will assure that we don't get so thirsty in school as we currently do."

A hang-dug well in this community will mean people will have direct access to safe, sufficient water any time they need it, and adults and children alike can get back to their daily tasks.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Botela Women's 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 Botela Women's 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

September, 2022: Kitile B Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kitile, 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.

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 in this region! As the sand dam matures and stores more sand, the surrounding landscape will become lush and fertile. Although there is no water now, we will update you further once the dam is full.

Community celebrating.

"I will have easy access to drinking water and water for hygiene and sanitation," said 17-year-old Veronica M.


"Because my parents are old, I will help them implement the planting of trees in our home [and] when I grow up, I will plant my own trees too as well as a tree nursery using water from the project. [I will] have a vegetable garden and also own a kitchen garden," concluded Veronica.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Botela Women's 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.

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.

Community members working together.

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 52 meters long and four meters high and took 617 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!

Completed dam.

New Knowledge

As we’ve worked with this Self-Helf Group in the past, we conferred with them about the subjects they most needed refresher training on.

The training took place under some shade trees at the first sand dam site in Botela Community. There were 38 participants in attendance: 21 women and 17 men.

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 soap- and detergent-making and improve behaviors such as handwashing.

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

Soapmaking was a favorite session amongst the participants. So much so that they decided as a group to purchase reagents to take advantage of the business opportunity. With teamwork and cooperation, they will go far as a group and assure the trainers that on their next visit, they would see progress in the community.

"To me, it is an honor to have had the opportunity to be part of the participants in the training. I learned a lot, which I have already started practicing," said Mutinda Mwende, a 32-year-old farmer.

Mutinda Mwende.

"Now, I know how to make soap, and so far, I use it at home to make sure I wash my hands and remain clean. [And] 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."


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!

May, 2022: Kitile B Community Sand Dam Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Kitile B 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 Dam

Seasonal streams (and the sand they carry) are trapped by dams, replenishing the water table and allowing for adjacent hand-dug wells. Almost completely led by community-supplied sweat and materials, and under the supervision of engineers, dams are strategically placed within those dry river-beds. The next time it rains, flood-waters are trapped.

With a sand dam, this trapped sand begins to hold millions of gallons of rainwater. Soon enough, sand reaches the top of the dam, allowing water to continue downstream – where it meets the next dam. The result? A regional water table is restored.


Project Sponsor - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation