Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 520 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Oct 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/11/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

In Kalimbui, children missing school is the norm, because women and children are the ones who fetch water, and fetching water is an all-day task due to the far distance and the long lines. But every household needs water, so all 520 people in Kalimbui must sacrifice to keep their families going.

"The distance [to the water point] is very long for me," said 16-year-old Francisca M (shown below). "I have been missing school regularly. Last moon, I prepared very early to go and fetch water. Little did I know that the queue [at] the kiosk had prolonged. I waited and waited for my turn. When finally I got the water, it was too late for me to think of going to school. I felt bad missing my dearest teachers and lessons."

For many families, the trip to fetch water takes hours. And what's worse is that the water kiosk from which they collect water is only open in the mornings. People must leave home before the sun rises to secure any water. Even then, they may end up waiting until the kiosk closes and returning home with empty containers. Households without their own donkey to carry multiple jerrycans must carry one 20-liter jerrycan at a time, which just isn't enough to serve a household even for a day.

"The water situation in my area gives me a headache," said 60-year-old farmer Josephine Mbiti, shown below carrying a full jerrycan away from the water kiosk. "How to get the water is a task too. I don't have a donkey, so I have to borrow [one] from my friends, who charge me two jerrycans of water. This hits me emotionally and financially. At times, when I don't get a borrowed donkey, I have to carry the water using my back. I am forced to buy water most of the time."

But buying water is a huge issue, too, since most people in this area are subsistence farmers. They can't spare adequate water to irrigate their crops. Thus, many crops wither and die before they're harvested because people can only stretch their precious water so far.

And, unfortunately, the kiosk's water is both salty and potentially hazardous, given that many people who drink the water unboiled end up with bloated stomachs. This may indicate that the water is infested with parasites. But fetching water on its own is difficult enough; gathering firewood, starting a fire, and waiting for the water to boil before it can be used expends energy and time that is already greatly reduced.

In a message to our field officers, one community representative explained the community's dreams for their future once they have water. "We can have more [water], such that we are able to engage in vegetable farming. We will also establish kitchen gardens and tree nurseries. Our children will no longer miss school to go and fetch water. We will also improve our hygiene and sanitation levels."

A new water source will do so much for the people of Kalimbui.

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

October, 2023: Kalimbui Community Sand Dam Complete!

Thanks to your donation, Kalimbui Community, Kenya, now has access to a new water source! We constructed a new sand dam on the riverbed to 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 very happy that this water point has been set up close to our home because it will enable [us to] get clean drinking water, and my mother will be able to prepare meals on time. Although I could accompany my mother most times to the distant borehole, I was often left at home and had to bear with the thirst. I will now be able to drink water whenever I can, and my mother will now be at home to prepare food for us," 8-year-old Austin M. shared.

"Accompanying my parents to the river was tiresome, and I would arrive home feeling tired with my muscles aching from the long walk. Remaining at home was still not an option because drinking water would run out, and I had to wait for my mother to return. Food would be prepared once daily because water was scarce, and most times, I was hungry. This project will [provide] enough water close to home, and I will be able to study and play with my friends. I will also take meals throughout the day and drink clean water," he continued.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Kalinza Self-Help Group collected all 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.

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 24 meters long and 3 meters high and took 620 bags of cement to build.

The dam will build up sand and store water as soon as it rains. 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.

There was good attendance throughout the three training days, averaging 33 people a day. It was held at a community member's home near the project. The most memorable topic of discussion was how to make soap and latrine disinfectant and the importance of using both. Community members were excited to learn why hygiene is crucial and the opportunity to generate income by selling their soap products.

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.

Josephine Mbithi, 62, added, "We came here 'empty,' but now we are going home rich [in] knowledge and information. We have learned many new things that will be very helpful in our lives and help us reduce [the] incidence of diseases. For instance, we didn't know how to make a simple tippy tap like the one we've been shown; it's a special structure that will help us wash our hands after visiting latrines. I also didn't know the importance or how to wash fruits with running water, but now I know."

Josephine Mbiti near the sand dam.

"I'm sure all the members will make sure that they have the sanitation infrastructures like utensil racks for drying our utensils, [a] rubbish pit for dumping all the compound dirt and another one for burning papers and things that don't decay, [a] latrine squat hole cover among other infrastructures that will help us reduce diseases. The skill of soap and latrine disinfectant making will be of very great importance. It will help reduce financial stress and conflicts at home since we will make the two [to] sell to get some income to support our basic needs," she continued.


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 facing functionality, seasonality, or water quality challenges. 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: Kalimbui Community Sand Dam Project Underway!

The lack of adequate water in Kalimbui 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
20 individual donor(s)