Work in spite of hunger

In rural southeast Kenya you don’t get much choice but to make the most of the resources you’ve got. Drought has been a regular feature in this dryland area for decades, but climate change has made them more frequent in recent years. Unsustainable land management have put even more strain on the limited resources available.Peter Mwanza, Munyuni self-help group

"Our region has been affected by severe drought leading to hunger for a long time,” says Charles Kithisya Ngundo of the Munyuni self-help group, “but we are still working hard in spite of the hunger.”

“We have seen that with water available we can accomplish much, especially in horticulture. Apart from fetching water we can use the water for growing vegetables which are a source of income."

Peter Mwanza, Munyuni self-help group.

His fellow group member, Peter Mwanza explains: “When one goes to fetch water early in the morning you come back at noon or 1pm depending on one’s speed and this is a torture for us.”

Searching for solutions

The Munyuni self-help group established itself in 2011 with the aim of working together to overcome their water and food insecurity. The time and energy the community members used to spend fetching water meant that they didn’t have much time to grow food or do much else to support themselves. Farming was also very difficult with the small amount of water they could collect.

"Since we have built our first sand dam our lives have changed a lot” says Peter. “We have seen that with water available we can accomplish much, especially in horticulture. Apart from fetching water we can use the water for growing vegetables which are a source of income. We have planted kales, tomatoes and onions. After selling the kales we got about 5,000 Kenyan shillings."

Hope and opportunity

Since 2011, the group have built four sand dams and are feeling positive about the future, despite the increasingly inhospitable climate they live in. Charles Kithisya Ngundo, Munyuni self-help groupCharles explains: "We plan to continue planting trees and terracing our farms and growing napier grass so that we can start dairy cow and dairy goat farming and many more other activities which can be of benefit to us."

"We plan to continue planting trees and terracing our farms and growing napier grass so that we can start dairy cow and dairy goat farming and many more other activities which can be of benefit to us."

Charles Kithisya Ngundo, Munyuni self-help group.

Small projects like these have a huge impact on dryland communities who are often trapped in a hopeless cycle of water and food poverty. Providing that kick-start of a reliable source of water close to home, offers Peter and Charles the opportunity to build a sustainable future and regenerate degraded lands, even in the harsh dryland conditions of southeast Kenya.

Recurring droughts and land degradation are common features in drylands around the world, which cover around 40% of the Earth’s surface. Sand dams are suitable to many of these areas and have the potential to transform the lives of millions of poor people.

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