Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 800 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Feb 2024

Functionality Status:  Functional

Project Features

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Community Profile

It takes the 800 community members who live in Kamuuwani well over two hours for each trip to collect water. They have two options: they can collect water from a scoop hole at Iguini River or pay for water from a public standpipe, but both sources are five kilometers (three miles) away.

The scoop hole is overcrowded, and covering the long distance to reach the dry riverbed is time-consuming and exhausting. When there is water, it is often contaminated by animal excrement, dust, and human activities, exposing people to water-related infections like stomachaches, typhoid, and amoebas.

"Fetching water from [the] Iguini river that is 5kms away is a dreary activity, and sometimes there is no water. Thus, you have to wait for the entire day. For instance, last week, there were a lot of people at the water point, and the water is too little to satisfy all of us, thus I spent the entire day at the water point with little water for drinking and cooking," said 34-year-old farmer Stella Kukia, seen above scooping water.

"Increased water collection time reduces the amount of water that a household uses per day, effectively reducing the amount of clean water available for drinking, cooking and hygiene practices." - Science Direct/MDPI

The scoop hole runs dry during extreme drought periods (like the one currently happening in Kenya), forcing community members to pay for motorcycle water vendors, who find water from other locations, but this is money they cannot afford to waste.

"Iguini River is far away. We spend up to five hours fetching water, [so] meals are prepared late often because fetching water is time-consuming and the available water is inadequate," said 12-year-old Nehema N., shown below carrying walking to get water.

She continued: "Failure to carry water to school means I will not have water to drink, and I may face disciplinary action from the school. Sometimes, I stay at home because I do not have water to carry to school. For instance, I have not gone to school today."

“It is projected that by 2040, almost 600 million children will be living in areas of extremely high water supply stress conditions.” - UNICEF

The alternative option is for people to collect water from a public standpipe, where residents must purchase water. But sadly, the tap is also overcrowded, runs dry often, and is rationed by the municipality, so it is not always available even when people can afford the extra expense.

All of the time spent searching for and collecting water means residents have less time and energy to focus on other activities that would improve their daily lives.

The community needs a nearby water source that will offer sufficient, safe water to meet their daily needs.

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

February, 2024: Kamuuwani Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kamuuwani 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.

"This water point will ensure water is close [to] our homes, and we do not have to walk for about five hours looking for water in the distant Iguini River. We will get water to improve the poor hygiene in our area and also irrigate our kitchen gardens at home. I will get more time to spend on farming or taking care of the goats," said 39-year-old farmer Mwinzi Kasembi.


"My children will now be drinking clean water which does not expose them to infections like typhoid or amoeba, which forced them to be absent from school when undergoing treatment. The young ones will also get more time to play with their friends because they will not be going far to fetch water," said Mwinzi.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Makoko Farmers Field and Life 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.

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 41 meters long and 4 meters high and took 1540 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.

Community mapping was an interesting topic for the participants. Participants drew their homes on a community map and indicated the available sanitation infrastructures, water sources, and other landmarks like schools and churches.

Learning to use a tippy tap hand washing station.

During the training, the homeowner's donkeys began chasing each other in the midst of the training venue, interrupting the training since everyone was on the run, fearing them. A male participant chased them away from the compound, and the session continued.

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.

Learning to make soap.

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.

"During the mango season, stomachaches have been the song of every family, and it is because of eating fruits that haven’t been washed. I have learnt that I have to wash any food eaten raw with clean water. The skills gained [about how to make] soap and disinfectant will help us improve hygiene and bring financial independence. This will help change the living styles in many homes," said Mwinzi.


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!

December, 2023: Kamuuwani Community Sand Dam Underway!

The lack of adequate water in Kamuuwani 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 - In memory of Casey Piper Coes