Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 980 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - May 2024

Functionality Status:  Functional

Project Features

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Community Profile

The community of Kitile in the semi-arid region of southeastern Kenya has a large population of 980 people, all of whom need water. Currently, people must trek to the Athi River over dusty roads under the intense sun to collect water each day.

"It takes four hours for a community member to go to the river and get back," said our field officer, Jefferson Mutie.

As a result, people are exhausted and have little energy or time for anything else.

"At dawn, women prepare to leave for River Athi going to fetch water. The walk is such a stretch that after making one trip, it's not easy for a community member to walk for more trips. Many duties are left attended to due to limited time and distance," said Jefferson.


"I get very tired whenever I visit the river. If we get another sand [dam] and rains come, I am very sure the long trek will be a closed chapter, and I will resume my normal life once again," said 12-year-old Mutheu M.

There are a couple of sand dams and wells far away, but four different communities rely on them for water, so there is never enough water to meet the demands.

"Sometimes, when it gets very dry here, the shallow wells get flocked, forcing half of the population to look for water in the river Athi. If we get another sand [dam] in the area, we will be able to harvest more water for the community to use and also reduce the distance covered by members," said 68-year-old farmer Tabitha Mule, shown below collecting water at the river.

Although the river has plenty of water, collecting it comes with serious risks. The water is contaminated, and when people drink it, they are exposed to waterborne illnesses. Also, dangerous crocodiles and hippos live near the river. These predators make each water-fetching experience a harrowing one, as they have both injured and killed people in the past.

"[Another sand dam] will reduce the sicknesses reported, especially for community members who don't have easy access to clean water," Tabitha continued. "Implementing another sand dam will ensure a larger percentage of the community has access to clean water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, and agricultural activities, hence improving our income security."

Having a sand dam and well near this community will help keep people from walking so long to get water. Having water close by and readily available should improve the community's water security as well as their food and income security.

"Plenty of water in the community is an assurance of brighter days ahead for the community members feeling to be in dark days," concluded Jefferson.

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: Kitile Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kitile, 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 hope that the new sand dam will alleviate water scarcity by capturing and storing rainwater during the wet season. We shall use this stored water for drinking, irrigation, and livestock watering during dry periods, reducing dependence on unreliable water sources. This sand dam will serve as a reliable source of water, even during prolonged dry spells. By providing a consistent water supply, the dam will help community members withstand the impacts of drought and minimize the need for emergency aid," said Maureen Mwaniki.


"Access to water will ensure better health outcomes for me and their family. With improved health, we will have vigor and vitality to pursue our dreams, without the burden of waterborne diseases or malnutrition," Maureen continued.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of the Botela 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 members help with the construction.

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 37 meters long and 3 meters high and took 800 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 previous household visits and interviews with community members to determine which topics the community could improve upon.

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

Participants learned how to make liquid soap and latrine disinfectant, as cleaning products, including soaps and detergents, play a crucial role in our daily lives. The group made 20 liters of soap and 20 liters of latrine disinfectant. Now that they have learned these new skills and have experience, they can put their knowledge to use, generating income for the community's well-being.

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. We covered natural resource management and the operations and maintenance of the well.

"Participants demonstrated active involvement in the training session by asking questions, sharing personal experiences, and actively participating in group discussions and activities. They showed a genuine interest in learning new information and acquiring practical skills related to hygiene practices," said Field Officer Jefferson Mutie.

"I have loved this training more and thanks [to] our partner in enabling us to learn more and remind ourselves more on hygiene. I feel I should empower my whole community, starting with my very own family. Thanks for the noble training offered to us," said farmer and elected chairman of the water user committee, 49-year-old Onesmus Muia.


This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members. When an issue arises concerning the well, 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.

April, 2024: Kitile Community Sand Dam Underway!

The lack of adequate water in Kitile 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!


PKS The Harvest
12 individual donor(s)