Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 400 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 08/29/2023

Project Features

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Community Profile

The water situation in Yumbani Community is truly desperate. Kwa Mutuku River, where community members fetch their water, is seasonal. Once the rains have elapsed, the river vanishes. Fetching water is the most strenuous and time-consuming part of their days.

"Water scarcity is a big challenge here," said Domiana Nduku, 61. She is pictured below fetching water from a scoophole. "At the moment, the land is very bare and we are unable to engage in any farming activities due to insufficient water supply. We do not have enough food. We are unable to plant trees to protect our environment as there is [an] inadequate water supply. We have to walk for very long distances in search for water."

When the water table is high, usually immediately after the rainy season, it takes less than an hour to fetch water and get back home. But during the dry season, it can take two hours just waiting in a queue to fetch water at the riverbed. Locals dig scoopholes in the riverbed, which are open and contaminated by humans, animals, farm chemicals, dust, and surface runoff.

Although typhoid is the most commonly reported ailment in Yumbani Community, the community members also have regular issues with cholera and dysentery.

"Now, it is challenging to get water for drinking, cooking, washing clothes, and washing hands," said 4-year-old Gladys (who is very photogenic - see the picture below). "My mother has to walk for long looking for water to use here at home. Lack of water makes life very difficult."

Most community members live in poverty. If they're close enough to the riverbed, community members can rely on subsistence farming of crops such as maize, green grams, beans, cowpeas, and pigeon peas. Others who live farther away rely on casual labor, which is never guaranteed, as this involves working on the farms of other community members, which can only be done when the owners of the farm have crops or money to spare. Almost all of the community's youth have migrated to the urban areas to search for better-paying jobs. The elderly depend on their families. And all this, according to Domiana, would change for the better if the community members had a readily available source of reliable, safe water.

"If we had water or would get water near us, we would do a lot to change our environment and also improve our livelihoods," Domiana concluded.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Wikwatyo Wa Kasunguni 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 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

January, 2023: Yumbani Community Sand Dam Complete!

Yumbani, 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.

"Water from this point will help me to stop walking the long stretch to [the] River Miu, which is always a hard task," said 13-year-old Mutembei M.

Mutembei fills his jerrycan.

"I never like weekends because weekends are for water," Mutembei continued. "We suffered really a lot. Especially on weekends, going all the way to the river was a nightmare for me. We really [had] to walk for [a] long [way], but now I will have enough time to play and enjoy life. We shall have enough water to drink and give our livestock. I trust that this project will end that era of suffering and welcome one full of hope. Drops of life, indeed. I will now have time to play and help my parents in farming."

"Access to clean water will assure me that I no longer fall sick from taking in contaminated water," said 37-year-old farmer Dorcas Munywoki. "Reliable water is an indicator that now I will not be walking several kilometers to fetch water. I am going to engage [in the] farming of vegetables like kale, tomatoes, and spinach for my household. My livestock also will have access to drinking water."

Dorcas pumps water from the new well.

She continued: "Before this project was implemented, I always thought of having a [farm] which is very productive and [having] enough food for my family through vegetable farming. I hope to become a renowned farmer through [the] use of water from this point."

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Wikwato Wa Kasunguni 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.

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 16 meters long and four meters high and took 1,093 bags of cement to build.

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

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

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 shared knowledge on how to make latrine disinfectant, which has a strong smell to keep away flies, rodents, and other pests. Participants made soap for sharing with everyone, showing off that they still remembered the steps we taught them during their previous training. While people stirred the soap, which can take a while to reach the right consistency, everyone joined in singing a song to pass the time.

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

According to our field officer, Eunice, the participants were "delighted" to share all the knowledge they had retained since they last attended a hygiene training. They said they have been going to the clinic or hospital when their family members become ill rather than using local herbs. They also said the use of Oral Rehydration Solution, which replenishes and rehydrates the body when someone is experiencing diarrhea, has saved lives in the community.


"We will be in a position to transform our entire community into a better dwelling place through practicing good hygiene and sanitation," said 53-year-old farmer Douglas Mulaa.

He continued: "Having learned the common diseases in our area, we will be in a position to change our eating habits, and in [the] case of any illnesses, we seek the doctor's attention the soonest possible. We will keep our catchment areas [free] of animals to secure our water sources from any source of pollution. [This] approach has helped us to feel more confident about ourselves and the ability to take action and make improvements in our communities. Feelings of personal empowerment and personal growth are as important as physical changes such as bathing, drying our clothes using [clotheslines], cleaning up the environment, or building latrines. Through the training, we will improve [our] water and sanitation facilities."


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!

September, 2022: Yumbani Community Sand Dam Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Yumbani 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 - Lifeplus Foundation
10 individual donor(s)