Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 300 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Apr 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/15/2024

Project Features

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The 600 people who live in Kanyululu primarily collect their water from the local unprotected spring because it is the nearest source. But the spring is seasonal, so during the year's dry season, the water level is deficient or dries up altogether.

The community's alternatives are collecting rainwater during the short rainy season, drawing water from protected dug wells, or a standpipe (both of the latter options being quite far away). But it takes some people up to two hours, walking up to 2 km (1.24 miles) per trip, to collect water from these sources.

“Households with travel times greater than 30 minutes have been shown to collect progressively less water. Limited water availability may reduce the amount of water that is used for hygiene in the household.” - The Relationship between Distance to Water Source and Moderate-to-Severe Diarrhea in the Global Enterics Multi-Center Study in Kenya, 2008–2011) - American Journal of Tropical Science and Medicine

Children are also required to carry water to school, thus they have to walk to the distant water point then on to school. It is exhausting for everyone.

Student Kevin W., 12, in the photo above, said, "I need to walk for up to 1 kilometer to the current water points and carry the water back home after classes, which leaves me exhausted and unable to focus on my studies fully."

Community member Mbua Kaniu, 70, shown in the photo below, knows the value a sand dam would add to her community because she is a member of the Kamami Self-Help Group, which has implemented projects in neighboring communities.

"I have to wake up early to go fetch water at the shallow well or public tap in Kasioni center," Mbua said.

"Although we have already implemented two sand dams and shallow wells, they are quite far from my home and have insufficient amounts of water to sustain the community. I have to walk for about a kilometer to the water point under the scorching sun."

She continued, "The exhaustion from the long walks leaves me with less energy to focus on other activities such as farming. I also have to use water sparingly, which negatively impacts hygiene and sanitation."

Like Mbua, many others in the community lack energy. The current water sources cannot offer adequate water, so they leave their daily tasks undone. Farming is neglected and results in a lack of income and proper nutrition. And poor hygiene conditions persist because the available water has to be used sparingly.

The proposed water project will be close to Kanyululu's center and easily accessible, meaning shorter distances for everyone to walk and less exhaustion. Hopefully, with less fatigue and access to sufficient water, the community members will successfully farm, and their daily hygiene will improve.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Kamami 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 Kamami 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

April, 2023: Kanyululu Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kanyululu, 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 now have enough water for drinking at home and for conducting my personal hygiene. We are required in our school to carry water from home each morning. This will now be an easy feat because this water point is near my home," said 15-year-old Michael M.


Michael continued: "Before the construction of this sand dam project, I had to walk for about an hour to get to the nearest shallow well. This would consume most of my time and energy, but now we spend less than half an hour to draw water from this water point."

"My health will improve because I will be drinking clean water. I will also have more time to play or study with my friends," concluded Michael.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Kamami 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 53 meters long and 4 meters high and took 1440 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.

The training venue was at one of the member's homesteads, chosen for its central location, making it easily accessible to all.

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

“The training was very good. It has reminded me what I had forgotten about hygiene and sanitation. I have also learnt how to make liquid soap and latrine disinfectant. The soap makes my clothes smell good all the time. I have also learnt how to wash my hands properly. I am very happy,” said 59-year-old farmer Kithumbi Kitheka.


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.


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!

January, 2023: Kanyululu Community Sand Dam Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Kanyululu 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!


American Express Company
Folsom Memorial United Methodist Church
101 individual donor(s)