Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 800 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/06/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

Those who live farthest from the water source in Kithalani have a history of failed crops - they just can't gather enough water throughout the day to serve all their household needs and irrigate their crops as well.

Unfortunately, this makes perfect sense since those on the extreme edges of the community face at least a two-hour journey each time they go to fill their jerrycans. Not only do they have less to feed their families and less income, but they must also purchase supplementary food from their neighbors or nearby markets. For this community of 800, comprised mostly of subsistence farmers, this is a heavy blow. And that's not all that plagues the people who were not blessed to live close to any of the sand dam and shallow well constructions in this region.

"Fetching water from the current water points is difficult and tiring because it is located far away from my home," said 43-year-old farmer William Musyoka (shown below). "I have recently been asked by [my] doctor to avoid too much work; however, I still have to walk to the water point to fetch water for drinking, cooking, and irrigating my crops. I often reap low yields. For instance, most of my vegetables have dried up due to lack of water."

Because William is a member of a Self-Help Group that we've worked with before, he knows that households need proper hygiene and sanitation facilities and habits to prevent illness. But unfortunately, he just hasn't been able to apply the measures he knows would help his family.

"Improving hygiene and sanitation has been difficult because we have to use water sparingly," William explained. "I cannot even remember the last time I cleaned my house using water."

And adults aren't the only ones affected by the water crisis. Kids who live on the outskirts of Kithalani miss school often because the journey to the water source takes too long, and they are not allowed to attend school without carrying a container of water with them.

"I do not get enough time to play or study because I have to help my family in fetching the water," said eight-year-old Peter M (shown above). "Walking several kilometers to the water point is straining, which leaves [me] less energy to focus on studies. For instance, I have just come from school, and I am helping my father fetch water to irrigate his vegetables. I will also have to fetch water to carry to school tomorrow."

Removing the long trips to the water source will give the community members of Kithalani hours per day. It will allow them to keep some of their energy in reserve for important things like farming, studying, and playing.

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

December, 2023: Kithalani Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kithalani Community, 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 am happy about this water point because I know it will create a favorable climate for farming in our area. I will be able to cultivate vegetables and irrigate them because this water point is close to my home; thus, I will easily fetch water. I would feel ashamed when my grandchildren developed ringworms because of poor hygiene. Now we will have enough water to conduct personal hygiene at home and get rid of hygiene-related infections," said 65-year-old Kamanzi Kilui.

Kimanzi at the sand dam.

"It was frustrating to plant trees in my farm because getting water to irrigate them was difficult due to the long distance to the water point and minimal water supply. Now, I can plant trees, such as orange, pawpaw (papaya), and mango trees, that will help feed my family and earn me an income when I sell them. The clean water will ensure we are no longer exposed to typhoid or amoeba, and with good health, I will be able to focus on my farm and improve yields," said Kimanzi.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Lenza Mukuyuni 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.

692 bags of cement were needed to build this sand dam!

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.

Timber skeleton construction.

Finally, we dismantled the vertical timber beams and left the dam to cure. This dam measures 35 meters long and 3 meters high and took 692 bags of cement to build.

Completed sand dam!

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

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

"This training is and will be of great importance to us, for it will change our lives greatly. It has reminded us of the things that we had relaxed in doing. We have new members who have learned a lot, and they have benefited as well. To begin with, when we were trained the first time like two years ago, diseases have gone down. This training has helped us in that some did not know how to construct a tippy tap, but now they know handwashing after visiting latrines is guaranteed. Constructing squat hole covers for our latrines, water treatment, maintaining good hygiene in our water sources, and digging a rubbish pit will help us prevent unwanted diseases," said farmer Mutanu Muthui, 53.

Mutanu Muthui.

"A healthy community is a wealthy one; money we use to seek treatment can be used on other useful things. The skill of soap making has helped us generate income as a group, and for the new members, they will be able to make it on their own, generate money, and meet their needs at a personal level. This training will help us change the entire community through our hygienic actions; neighbors have been and will be learning from us, and that way, we will promote good hygiene practices," Mutanu continued.

The training was held in a location convenient for all participants. Though there were fewer participants than originally planned, 16 involved community members attended.

Refresher training

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. Finally, we covered natural resource management and the operation and maintenance of the sand dam.


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!

November, 2023: Kithalani Community Sand Dam Underway!

The lack of adequate water in the Kithalani 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 - PKS The Harvest
Breakthrough Church
Facebook Donations
Novo Nordisk
PayPal Giving Fund
Medtronics Foundation
Groundswell Char Receivable
St. Margaret Mary Campaign for Water
Morgan's Campaign for Water
Nash's Campaign for Water
Clearwater PBL Campaign for Water
West Woods '22-'23

And 3 other fundraising page(s)
39 individual donor(s)