Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 290 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - May 2024

Functionality Status:  Functional

Project Features

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Community Profile

In Kisirani and the surrounding communities, there is never enough water for everyone. Unfortunately, this means that all the water sources in the area are overtaxed and overcrowded. Over 2,500 people rely on the water kiosk that serves as this region's main water source, with 290 people in Kisirani alone.

If that were the only facet of the water crisis, it would be bad enough. But the kiosk is several kilometers away from the farthest homes. This means people walk for hours in the heat just to get water for their households every day, wait in line, and, on the worst days, they may find that there is no water at all. Some families can afford donkeys to carry multiple containers of water at one time. Others spend all that time and energy on just one 20-liter container of water.

"I have to make very huge decisions when it comes to water every day," said 63-year-old farmer Alice Mutua Gideon (on the right in the above photo). "I choose water over many other chores here at home. Although [water is] costly, it can't be ignored, because it's life. We can't do without water. Every day, I am busy looking for water. It eats up most of my time."

As you might imagine, spending so much time collecting and waiting for water has a significant impact on all areas of community members' lives. With most of their time eaten up, people can't work on their farms, which means their families don't have enough to eat. Farmers without crops to sell can't earn an income, so they can't buy essentials like school fees and medicine.

Students whose parents can afford for them to attend end up missing class to help their families, which is the case for 16-year-old Joseph M.

"Missing school to go and fetch water is what makes me hate my community," Joseph said. "Once you miss school, you are forced to report to your parents, and also you will have missed lessons which won't be repeated. This leads to poor and undesired performances in school. This practice is very rampant during dry seasons. We miss free time to play or even do some revision (studying) at home."

In a community with a water crisis, everyone must revolve their lives around water, which leaves them little time or energy to improve their situations. They can only focus on surviving from one day to the next. Installing water points closer to home will grant the community members of Kisirani opportunities like they've never had before.

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

May, 2024: Kisirani Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kisirani 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.

Celebrating the completed sand dam!

"This waterpoint will now be close to my home, and I will not be spending a lot of time searching for water. I will also get enough clean water for drinking during the entire drought period, and no longer have to bear with thirst. I will have more time and energy to engage in activities like playing with friends or studying. I am happy that I will barely be going to [the] hospital seeking treatment for stomach aches, diarrhea, or other water-related infections," shared 14-year-old John.


"This waterpoint will help my parents get water to plant vegetables and other crops [on] the farm that could be used in feeding us. My mother will spend less time walking to the river and back home, therefore she will be cooking for us on time and be able to engage in other developmental activities as well. I will have more time to study because the waterpoint is very close to my home. I will be concentrating on my studies and have enough time to rest which will help [me] focus in school," he continued.

"The community members are hardworking and resilient at their work. They came together during the construction period and worked on the project. They supported one another during the difficult days and addressed various challenges with the hope of completing the project on time," shared Field Officer Alex Koech.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of the Kaliluni Universal 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.

This project took 840 bags of cement to construct!

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.

Establishing a base.

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.

Building the frame.

Finally, we dismantled the vertical timber beams and left the dam to cure. This dam measures 43 meters long and 4 meters high and took 840 bags of cement to build.

The 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

Our trainer conferred with the field staff about previous household visits and interviews with community members to determine which topics the community could improve upon.

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.

Training on proper handwashing techniques.

We also touched on health problems in the community, good and bad hygiene behaviors, the spread and prevention of disease, and sanitation improvements. We covered natural resource management and the operations and maintenance of the well.

The community members who attended the training were very engaged in the topics. It was easy to see the camaraderie among them. Our field officer is excited about the potential future hygiene changes to come!

A popular topic was the "three-pile sorting" activity. This session involves, each attendee presenting a poster with a behavior on it, and they work together to sort the behaviors into three piles: good, bad, and in-between health practices. One elder in the community presented her poster while dancing, to ensure everyone was paying attention!

Three-pile sorting lesson.

John Kitheka Munuve, the Chairperson of the Water User Committee, shared what impacted him the most during the training session.

"I have learned a lot in the training. Personally, I have understood that hygiene and good health begin with an individual. I have learned that hygiene does not have to be supported by expensive sanitation infrastructures. For instance, [the] construction of a tippy tap was done using locally available materials that all of us can afford; other infrastructures like [a] utensil rack, [and] constructing latrines can be done simply by use of locally available materials. At the end of the day, the aim is to reduce diseases. Water treatment methods that have been explained to us will be the simplest method of reducing waterborne diseases and this will help us reduce the cost spent when seeking treatment," John said.


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!

April, 2024: Kisirani Community Sand Dam Underway!

The lack of adequate water in Kisirani 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!


North Dunedin Baptist Church
Many individual donors