Excellent's Communications Manager, Dwain Lucktung, gets a tour of the Watuka community's transformed farm and fortune by chairman and role model, Stephen Mwanzia.

As I was given a tour of his farm, Chairman of the Watuka community, 42 year old Stephen Mwanzia, painted a very bleak picture of what life was like before they had access to a nearby sand dam.

Water scarcity was the root of all the issues facing Stephen, his wife, two sons and daughter. Their nearest source was a river 10km away, which meant they could only make one trip each day. The donkeys and ox pulling their carts would be exhausted, weak and ill from the journey (getting plenty of ticks along the way). And they could never tell if the water was safe (there was a likelihood of contamination as rubbish would be blown in the river). Stephen Mwanzia, farmer and Chairman of the Watuka communityStephen affirmed his neighbours had contracted typhoid and diarrhoea from consuming water from the same source (but this didn’t stop Stephen’s family as they had no other option).

"Other charities only support parts of a community, or parts of a problem. It’s too short-term... but when hearing that a sand dam was proven to be a long-term project that positively affected every part of a community’s lives, we decided to give it a try."

Stephen Mwanzia, farmer and chairman of the Watuka community.

Back home, their farm was failing with not enough water to feed all their dying crops, never enough harvest to live comfortable, and no deeper knowledge of farming to turn their situation around.

When Stephen’s community were introduced to Excellent’s partners, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), and all the work they were doing with similar communities, he decided the hard work involved in building a sand dam would be worth the investment. He added: “Other charities only support parts of a community, or parts of a problem. It’s too short-term... but when hearing that a sand dam was proven to be a long-term project that positively affected every part of a community’s lives, we decided to give it a try.”

The decision seems to have paid off. 2 sand dams built (with support from Excellent, the UK Government, East Hampstead Rotary Club and supporting clubs) within 500m from Stephen’s home means his family can make up to five trips a day to collect more, safe water than ever before. Time saved on the previous 10km journey is now invested in school (for his children), household maintenance and further farming (with training provided by ASDF).

The animals are healthier, the community is healthier, and most importantly for Stephen, his family are healthier and happier.

And how is the farm looking on my tour? Now Stephen is harvesting more than ever, telling me they’ll have 100kg of cow peas, 100kg of sorghum, and 100kg of green grams, the kind of results which allowed his community to generate 40,000 shillings in 2015 (a new record for them), with belief they can make 100,000 shillings in the 2016 harvest.

Stephen also has 150 mango trees, 100 orange trees, so many papaya trees he’s lost count, gravellier trees he uses for timber, and senna siamea trees for fuel. The once ‘dead’ farm land has transformed into a lush, beautiful, and delicious income generator giving the Watuka community on a whole, much reason to be optimistic.

What’s next for Stephen? He said they are hoping to grow tomatoes and onions, increase their harvest, invest in further farming tools (and maybe even a third dam). And not forgetting the impact of the knowledge sharing that instigated their agreement to try building and using a sand dam, he also wants to go out as chairman to other communities as a “role model”, telling them about his successes and supporting them to build more sand dams, and a better future.

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