Meet Mary Ndulu. Mary is a member of the Kyeni kya Mukononi self-help group in southeast Kenya. She was born in her village and has faced water challenges ever since she can remember.

A tradition of collecting water

“My mother used to fetch water from the river Athi. She would trek to the river carrying a gourd on her back and another on her chest" Mary remembers.

Until recently, life was no different for Mary, now a mother herself. "I raised all my children with water from the River Athi. I had never fetched water from any other source apart from the river and sometimes the water kiosk. Mary Ndulu, member of the Kyeni kya Mukononi self-help group in southeast KenyaI could only manage to carry one jerry can in a day and the water was not enough for washing clothes for the kids, so you must carry a 20 litre jerry can and an additional 5 litre jerry can."

"I raised all my children with water from the River Athi. Now, for the first time, the sand dam near my homestead has been filled with sand and we have drinking water from the sand dams."

Mary Ndulu, Kyeni kya Mukononi self-help group.

From Mary’s home it’s roughly a 13km walk to the Athi, Kenya’s second longest river, and one of the few where water flows all year-round. “We had to go to the river very early in the morning so that we were back home before noon" Mary explains. It was an exhausting and not terribly rewarding trip, as 20 litres of water a day isn’t much. The average person in England and Wales uses 150 litres of water a day - easy when it comes straight out of the tap.

Sand dams and water tanks bring relief

Since starting to work with our partners, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), Mary and her community have built four sand dams and two water tanks.

“Now for the first time the sand dam near my homestead has been filled with sand” Mary tells us with a smile on her face. “We have drinking water from the sand dams. In the past, before we built sand dams, there was no water in the sand, but now when I scoop sand in the sand dams there is water. In the past I would not get even a single drop.”

Mary uses the water for cooking, washing, bathing, and her livestock drink from the sand dams as well.

“My life has greatly changed” she says. “Since I no longer go to the river Athi, I can spend the time on other home chores and terracing my farm, because I have water within my vicinity. My children have also benefitted from sand dam water. They no longer bath with water from swamps, they just make scoop holes and collect clean water.”

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