Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 200 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Nov 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/12/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

The 200 people who live in Ngomeni can never get enough water to meet all their needs because fetching water consumes so much of their time and energy.

The typical trip to collect water takes one to two hours as fetchers must cover kilometers of hilly, arid ground to reach the nearest dry riverbed. There, community members have dug scoop holes into the earth to reach brown, salty water that makes them sick.

"There is inadequate water for drinking or cooking, let alone irrigating crops," said our field officer, Alex. "Thus, residents exhibit poor health. Water [from] the scoop hole is also unsafe for drinking since it is exposed to animal and wind contamination, such as animal excretion and dust."

This incredibly difficult water crisis has compounding negative effects for the people who live in Ngomeni.

"I waste a lot of time and energy fetching water from the scoop hole because it is about four kilometers (2.48 miles) from my home," said 45-year-old farmer Martha Ndunge Syanda (shown in the above photo). "Once in a while, my children complain of stomach upsets and have to be absent from school. Farming yields are mostly low because of the rampant drought and insufficient rainfall. Water also has to be used sparingly at home, which has led to poor hygiene and sanitation."

Because the journey to the water sources takes such a long time, community members are left without much time or energy for farming, which is this area's main source of livelihood. So when water is scarce, they don't have the money to purchase water from local vendors. And when their loved ones are sick, they can't buy medicine.

"There is little water to drink and cook; thus, I usually [have] one meal daily," said six-year-old Daryl (shown below).

"I have also contracted infections like amoeba and typhoid in the past after consuming water from the scoop hole. I also get little time to play with my friends or study because I need to help my mother to fetch water from the scoop hole during my free time."

And in drought periods, accessing water becomes even harder. The scoop holes dry up, and people must travel even farther for water or scrounge up funds that they can't spare.

The people of Ngomeni need a closer water source so that they can reclaim their lost time and health. Water will help them keep themselves and their homes clean, therefore improving their living standards. With these newfound blessings, doors will begin to open for them that they once thought were closed forever.

What We Can Do:

Our main entry point into the community is the 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 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

November, 2023: Ngomeni Community Sand Dam Complete!

Ngomeni, 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.

"Getting water from this point is such a blessing. I will easily draw clean water and get time to cook for my family, which was difficult in the past because I could spend more than 4 hours fetching water from the distant scoop holes," said 67-year-old farmer Rose Syumbata.


"I will also have enough water to wash my clothes and no longer stack them in the dirty sack at home. My children will also be going to school every day because water is adequate and easily accessible. They will no longer be absent due to lack of water to carry to school. My cattle and goats will also have [a] nearby source of drinking water, and I will no longer have to walk several kilometers herding them to the scoop hole."

Rose continued, "This water point is very close to my land, and I will use the water to irrigate my vegetables that I will sell and remain with some to supplement my family's diet. I will have enough water and time to clean my house, wash garments, and even prepare my land for the rains. I am very happy that hygiene and sanitation will improve at home. My health will also improve because I will be getting better sleep and not walking several kilometers to draw water."

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of the Kwa Lila Self-Help Group collected all of the local materials, like rocks and sand, required to complete the dam. The collection of raw 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.

Community self-help group working hard to contribute to the project's success.

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 we reached 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 3 meters high and took 873 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.

Part of the training was being introduced to how to make soap and latrine disinfectant. While stirring the soap, the participants sang traditional work songs to motivate them. They are excited about the newfound knowledge that they hope to turn into an income-generating project.

Participants were very excited about the soap-making session, which was their first common income-generating activity. "While stirring the soap, the members sang traditional work songs to motivate them," said field officer Alex Koech.

We also touched on health problems in the community, good and bad hygiene behaviors, the spread and prevention of disease, and sanitation improvements. Finally, we covered natural resource management and the operation and maintenance of the sand dam.

When discussing water treatment, some of the participants shared myths about water treatment they believed were true.

"For example, some said when water is treated using [the] boiling method, it is termed as 'dead water' and might not add any value in the body. After a lengthy discussion about water hygiene, the members were discouraged from believing in such myths and were encouraged to embrace water treatment as an easy way of preventing the spread of diseases," said Alex.

Titus Thyaka.

"We have learned new ideas which will help us prevent diseases. For example, I have learned how to treat drinking water and wash my hands properly, among other things. I will apply this knowledge and even train others. In addition, we have been trained on how to make soap and a latrine disinfectant. The soap project will enable us [to] generate an income for our group. We are very happy and grateful," said 70-year-old farmer and chairperson of the water user committee Titus Thyaka.


This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members. 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 Kenya, Uganda, and Sierra Leone, we're working toward complete coverage. That means 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!

August, 2023: Ngomeni Community Sand Dam Project Underway!

The lack of adequate water in Ngomeni Community costs people time, energy, and health every single day. Clean water scarcity contributes to community instability and diminishes individuals’ personal progress.

But thanks to your recent generosity, things will soon improve here. We are now working to install a reliable water point and improve hygiene standards. We look forward to sharing inspiring news in the near future!

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!


Project Sponsor - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation