Excellent Development's former Programmes Officer, Emma Seal, discovers the impact a UK Government funded sand dam, agriculture and leadership training has had on this small Kenyan community.

Proud and equal when building sand dams

Muuo wa Kasyomatu self-help group live on a steep hill which rolls down to the seasonal, sandy river winding away through gnarled acacias. The soil is dusty and dry, with scrubby bushes pushing up here and there. The group’s first sand dam sits fresh and ready in the river bed as group members collect water from a nearby scoop hole and encourage the laden donkeys up onto the bank with their load. Here, a hole about 5 feet wide and 15 feet deep is being walled up to provide a shallow well. The group set to mixing sand with cement, then with water, before heaving the mixture down to the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF) artisan who is setting stones into a wall lining the hole.

Members of the Muuo wa Kasyomatu self-help group, pictured with their bullMembers of the Muuo wa Kasyomatu self-help group, pictured with their bull.

This is the first dam for the group which started one year previous. During the beginning of their engagement with ASDF, the members assisted other groups with the construction of sand dams, proving to themselves that despite the hard work, they could remain committed. When it came to constructing their own dam the main challenge proved to be the collection of stones. “We had to dig deep... to get the stones” explains the group secretary, George David Kyango Mwanthi. “It took a long time and delayed work.” However, undeterred they persevered with construction, finishing the dam in August this year. The group consists mainly of women and they are emphatic about the changes that dam construction had in the community. “We all do the same work... women mix sand and cement just like a man,” says Lucia Nzomo. George concurs, “We are all equal in this.” It is clear from the faces of the group members that they are proud of the work they have done.

More training = more income = better future

But it does not stop here. “We were taken on leadership training” explains George. Other UK Government funded groups took part and learned about the community savings scheme; a system involving members paying small amounts into a group pot then the total being available to loan to members for projects. The group is very keen to implement this now that they have finished the dam. Lucia speaks about the impacts they are hoping for. “I know it will be a good help. Once it has water we plant vegetables, we sell them, this will pay fees for school. Vegetables are also used at home for nutrition. The children will stay in school and they will do well in life.” With many essential services here costing money, hospital and school bills can put a huge strain on resources where families lack available income.

Plans for effective irrigation

The main goal of the group is effective irrigation. They have plans to set up pipework and tanks at the top of the hill which will be dispersed amongst plots of land so members have access to as much water as they need with minimal effort. “That one will be a direct benefit to us” explains George.

"I know the sand dam will be a good help. Once it has water we plant vegetables, we sell them, this will pay fees for school. Vegetables are also used at home for nutrition. The children will stay in school and they will do well in life."

Lucia Nzomo, Muuo wa Kasyomatu self-help group member.

To achieve this though, the group knew they need more accessible funds, and so they looked into a bull project which ASDF were able to set up with them. The high-quality breed of the bull will be mixed with local breeds to produce hardy but high milk yielding cows. After the training, the group has received they have found it easy to maintain the bull. The milk from the project will be used to improve the diet of children in the community, and any surplus can be sold for competitive prices in the market.

It is clear from the hard work the group has already put in that they can realise their dreams. Excellent Development and ASDF will continue to provide support to the efforts of such motivated members who are prime examples of people transforming their own future.

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