Project information

Transforming lives with water in rural Kenya

People in the drylands of southeast Kenya spend on average six hours every day fetching water, leaving little time to farm or earn money.
By building a sand dam close to their home, people have clean water available to grow enough food to eat, and can sell the surplus to pay children’s school fees

April 2018 - March 2019

Charity information: Excellent Development

Excellent Development logo
  • Need


    In the rural drylands of SE Kenya, millions of people have no choice but to fetch and carry water for many miles each day. Women and children bear the heaviest burden: typically spending 6-12 hours a day collecting water, often from unsafe sources. With so little water available for farming – families can go to bed hungry, and are unable to pay school or medical fees. Scant rains means the frequency and intensity of drought is ever increasing, causing famine and trapping people in poverty.


    A sand dam can store up to 40 million litres of water, that meets WHO standards for drinking, for as little as £10 per person. By supporting three communities to build a sand dam each, to trap rainwater when seasonal rivers flow, they will be able to access safe water, close to home, for use all year round. We will also train and support them to achieve the best possible crop yields, so they can feed their families, generate income to pay their children’s school fees and escape poverty for good.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Support each community to build a sand dam, providing a lifelong supply of clean water


    » Provide technical support in siting and constructing the dam (communities will build sand dams themselves)
    » Supply and deliver some materials such as concrete and steel, plus use of tools (the community will collect stones and sand for the dam)
    » Help community to decide which method of water abstraction they want, and support them to establish it. Provide materials such as piping.

    What success will look like

    A completed dam, built by the community, which stores water. Time saved from collecting water can be invested in farming.

    Aim 2

    Support the community to terrace their land – to conserve soil and water


    » Provide technical support and loan of tools. The community will carry out the work.
    » Work with the community to establish target number of kilometres of terracing
    » Instruction on terracing techniques in order to achieve the correct depth and width of terraces to maximise their effectiveness and durability.

    What success will look like

    The community understands the benefits of terracing and works together to reach their target amount of terraces. Soil and water are conserved and more food is grown.

    Aim 3

    Support community to plant trees, conserving soil and water, and providing timber and food


    » Provide technical support and use of tools to establish a tree nursery
    » Provide technical support for digging holes in which to plant trees
    » Work with community to establish target number of tree holes

    What success will look like

    The community understands the benefits of tree planting and works together to establish a tree nursery, dig tree holes and plant trees.

    Aim 4

    Train community on improved farming techniques to maximise their opportunities


    » Provide training on drought-resistant crops, intercropping, zero grazing animals, and using terraces
    » Provide manure, organic pesticides and drought-resistant seeds, for the community to plant in a shared growing plot, to demonstrate farming training

    What success will look like

    The community understands the benefits of techniques taught and implements them in their own farms, an increase in food production and income from selling food.

    Aim 5

    Support the community to establish a seed bank


    » Provide technical support and high quality seeds for community to use. Managed to ensure farmers return seeds to the bank after harvest.

    What success will look like

    The community understands which crops are drought-resistant, works together to establish & manage bank, seeds borrowed and replaced by community members.

  • Impact


    The sand dam will provide a sustainable supply of clean water for three communities, reducing cases of water-borne disease. Women and children will no longer have to walk for miles to collect water, and can invest time saved into farming, selling crops, and attending school. Income to pay school fees enables children to gain an education, which unlocks a world of future opportunities.

    We will demonstrate our achievement by reporting on the targets listed above and with photographic evidence.


    The sand dams will store water from seasonal rains. Therefore the full benefits will not come into effect until one or two rainy seasons have passed and the sand dam fills with sand, storing water. Each community will have to wait until the next rains for their sand dam to collect water for their use. We will support people to prepare their land for agriculture (most importantly through terracing) and with whatever soil and water conservation activities they can while waiting for the next rains.


    One final report on completion of the project – a year on from receipt of funding – summarising the activities completed and their impacts. If photographs available, interim report/s on completion of each sand dam. Updates will also be provided on any important changes to project plan or schedule.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £70,599

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £38,894 Sand Dams Materials, tools and guidance to build sand dams
      £4,573 Participatory learning Learning new farming methods by doing, for three groups
      £6,518 Food Production Setting up community-owned demo plots with tools and guidance for terracing, for three groups
      £3,634 Seed Banks Setting up and managing seed banks for three groups
      £2,086 Tree Nurseries Providing tools and training to set up tree nurseries for three groups
      £14,894 Fundraising and Governance Fundraising, Communications and Governance
  • Background


    Makueni, Machakos and Kitui, which together cover an area of 38,000km2 and are home to 1,143,859 people.

    In the drought-prone Eastern Province, over half a million people (57% of the population) lack access to safe drinking water (UNDP, 2009, Kenya HDR). 2/3 of the population live in poverty, 1/3 of children are underweight and almost 1/4 of households depend on emergency food assistance.


    3,000 people will benefit from clean water, close to home (1,000 per sand dam), improving health, and enabling them to invest the time saved in growing food and generating income. Women gain respect, have a say in household decision making, and are listened to in the community. Fewer men move to urban areas in search of work; keeping families together. Children needen’t miss school because they are needed to help collect water, and are well-nourished and better able to concentrate on studies.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Excellent Development has significant expertise in sand dam construction, soil and water conservation, and agriculture. Since 2002 we have enabled the construction of 955 sand dams in 8 countries, bringing clean water to 888,423 people in chronically water scarce environments.

    We work in partnership with Africa Sand Dam Foundation, a registered Kenyan NGO founded in 2010 whose mission is to implement water, food, health and income security projects; empowering marginalised rural communities.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Self-Help Group Community

    The project is community-led. They are responsible for providing sand, rocks and water to build the dam. Their commitment is essential to success.

    Cornelius Kyalo Matheka

    Kyalo is the Executive Director of Africa Sand Dam Foundation, and has extensive knowledge and experience of sand dam building projects.

    Musila Silu

    Musila is Development Director at ASDF. Musila’s expert knowledge is key in delivering our aims.

    Christine Whinney

    Christine is Head of Programmes at Excellent Development. She has 9 year’s experience supporting projects across Africa and Asia.


could supply a wheelbarrow and 10 bags of cement to help build a sand dam, providing water for life.

“We walk for water. If there is no queue it takes four hours. We want to cut that distance. We aim to plant trees and vegetables. Our children will have more time. The fruit trees will be an investment for our children’s future."

Chairlady, Wendo wa Katululi community of Mwingi, Kitui County