Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 800 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/09/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

The community of Ilalu has two sand dams with dug wells, but those living on the far edge of the community must journey for up to two hours to collect water.

"Walking to the shallow wells is challenging due to the long distance under the burning sun," said 34-year-old farmer Kavisu Kavindu.

Community members generally wake up by 6 a.m. to fetch water. During extreme drought periods, some people even travel to the shallow wells at night when water levels have had a chance to rise, but making that journey can be dangerous.

Regardless of when community members make the exhausting journey, even using donkeys like in the photo above, their water is rationed to only six 20-liter jerrycans per family to ensure that everyone can have at least some water.

"There is little water within the community, and cultivating vegetables and other crops for sale has been an uphill task," said Kavisu. "This negatively affects my level of income and ultimately my livelihood status. My health has also deteriorated because I spend most of my time and energy fetching water rather than focusing on farming."

The alternative is a public stand-pipe (shown above) a kilometer away, which community members must pay to access but can't really afford.

"The purchase of water from the water kiosk also puts another hole in my pocket because it's costly and income from farm produce is almost negligible," said Kavisu (shown below).

Having insufficient water negatively affects students' performance and the livelihoods of community members, whose primary source of income is farming.

"I have to carry water to school from home every day, which is exhausting and affects my concentration in class," said eight-year-old Kitheka N. (shown above). "During the tough drought periods, I go to school on an empty stomach because of the lack of water to prepare meals or cultivate food crops. During the last term, I was often absent from school because there was no water to carry."

Implementing a third sand dam and shallow well will ensure people have a reliable water source nearby, reducing their long journeys and keeping their limited resources from being depleted. The saved funds can then be used on other expenses like seeds for farming, school fees for their children, and improved nutrition.

What We Can Do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Ilalu New Foundation 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 the many 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 Ilalu New Foundation 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

January, 2023: Ilalu Community Sand Dam Complete!

Ilalu, 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 be able to acquire enough water to irrigate vegetables, such as kale and spinach, and trees like pawpaw and neem. I will also get more time to practice farming or hygiene chores because I will no longer spend a lot of time and energy searching for water," said 50-year-old farmer Grace Kilonzo.

Grace by the new well made possible by the new sand dam.

"Through [the] cultivation and irrigation of various vegetables and fruit trees in my farm, I will ensure my family is properly fed while earning an income through the sale of the farm produce. Both personal and domestic hygiene and sanitation will also improve because I will have enough water for cleanliness," said Grace.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Ilalu 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 25 meters long and three meters high and took 500 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.

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.

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.

Learning about poultry farming.


"We, members of the Ilalu New Foundation self-help group, will be in a position to transform our entire community/society to a better dwelling place through practicing good hygiene and sanitation," said 59-year-old farmer Lenah Mason. "Through the training, we will improve water and sanitation facilities. Having known the common diseases in our area, we will be in a position to change our eating habits and in case of any illness we seek the doctor's attention as soon as possible. We will keep our catchment areas out of bounds for animals to secure our water sources from any source of pollution. [The] PHAST (training) 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 the drying lines, cleaning up the environment, or building latrines."


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!

December, 2022: Ilalu Community Sand Dam Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Ilalu 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!

Clean Water Brings Kavindu's Dreams to Life!

April, 2024

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Ilalu 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!

Kavindu, 16, recalled what life was like in the Ilalu Community before his community's hand-dug well was installed last year.

"Before the construction of this project, life was very hard. We used to get water from very far [away], and the water was not safe for drinking. We did not have enough water for maintaining our hygiene and sanitation [or] for watering our trees and other crops on the farm. I would walk [a] very long [distance] just to get dirty water; the road was rocky and dangerous at the same time," shared Kavindu.

Collecting water is now much safer for Kavindu and the other community members in the Ilalu Community.

"I am now drinking clean water, and it has been a while since I visited the dispensary due to infections like typhoid or amoeba. I no longer get headaches due to a lack of clean drinking water. I have completed school now and spend most of my time farming because we have enough water. I have planted maize, kale, spinach, and tomatoes," he continued.

Kavindu's vegetables!

Having ready access to water from the hand-dug well has made a difference for Kavindu, allowing him the opportunity to enhance his budding profession. The future is bright, and Kavindu is excited for what it holds!

"This waterpoint has helped me become a successful farmer who can pocket something regularly. I am planning to go full throttle in vegetable farming as I am looking forward to getting more money from the vegetable sales. I do not plan to leave my community anytime soon; this is my home forever," he concluded.

Kavindu in his fields.

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 Ilalu 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 Ilalu 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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