Ikalaasa Subsurface Dams

Project goals

To enhance food security and income of farmers through:
- Increasing knowledge and skills concerning water management and agriculture
- Making water available for domestic use, cattle and irrigation
- Increasing agricultural production and sales of produce

Results achieved

- 175 farmers trained in water management and new agricultural technologies
- 6 'subsurface' dams constructed in seasonal streams for water retention
- 28 farmers started growing vegetables using water retained by the dams





Short description

Ikalaasa is a small village in the eastern part of Kenya. Together with surrounding settlements it counts up to more than 8,000 inhabitants. A large part of the community consist of subsistence farmers. They depend on agriculture for their income. Due to unreliable rains and recurring droughts, farming becomes a big challange. Harvests often fall short resulting into low food security and low income levels for the people.

Water retention

In an effort to tackle this problem a few inhabitants of Ikalaasa have contacted NACODEV, an Kenyan NGO, with a lot of experience in water retention projects. Together they drafted a plan to build several dams in nearby seasonal streams. These dams retain water, which flows through the river during the rainy season, but disappears as soon as the rains have gone. When retained, the water can be used for growing vegetables but for domestic use or as drinking water for cattle as well.

To cover the costs for this project AgriNextLevel looked for sponsors. Besides a few private donations, the largest part of the budget has been donated by Dioraphte Foundation.

6 subsurface dams built

In June 2015 the community got to work and built 6 so called subsurface dams. During the next rainy season the dams were filled to the brim. Some of them filled with sand as well. However, the water is retained within the sand, which can be drawn by digging shallow wells. Additional advantage, the sand filters the water, making it clean.

Agricultural activities

Besides building the dams, the inhabitants were trained in water management and improved agricultural practices as well. This resulted into 28 farmers, who started to grow vegetables near the dams. Most of the farmers used the vegetables for own consumption. A few sold the surplus at the local market.

The project has come to an end. During an evaluation meeting the project beneficiaries concluded they are very happy with the increased availability of water in their area. One of the inhabitants, Josephat Mwova, expressed his joy as follows: 

"Before we were getting water from the Kyambuli stream for only one week after the rains. But after the intervention there has been sufficient water from the dams for a period of nine months up to now. I have been getting water from the Kwa Kitetu dam nearby. I only have to walk small distance to get water for domestic use. I started a vegetable garden, which I can irrigate now. My wife goes less often to the market to buy vegetables. In this way we save money, which we can spend on other important items."

Location Ikalaasa

A subsurface dam under construction

Water retained by one of the dams

Water gives new opportunities


- Project management: NACODEV

- Construction: Ikalaasa Community


- Private donations
- Dioraphte Foundation

More information ?

- What is a (sub)surface dam ?
- How did this project progress ?