Andrew Musila Silu’s commitment to the philosophy of self-help is second to none. In 2010 he took the step of starting Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), now our strategic partner in Kenya. As Development Director at ASDF, he has retained his values of true community-led development. We asked him what exactly this looks like in practice.

How does community-led development work at ASDF?

“In ASDF we plan with the communities. The kind of development we are doing is driven by the needs of the community, not the needs of the donors or of ASDF. That motivates me because you go to a community and see the way they are working without anybody coming to tell them ‘you have to do this.’”

How do you help the communities to achieve their goals?

“We only work with committed self-help groups who approach us for assistance. Together we develop a plan to overcome the challenges they face - starting with access to water. Andrew Musila Silu, Development Manager at ASDFWe work with communities for five years. Every community develops a plan of what they want to achieve.”

"The kind of development we are doing is driven by the needs of the community, not the needs of the donors or of ASDF."

Andrew Musila Silu (centre of photo), Development Director at Africa Sand Dam Foundation.

What kind of activities might be included in that plan?

“One of the activities we are doing is supporting farmers in terracing their lands and channelling the runoff water from the roads to their farms. One of the benefits of the terracing is that farmers are able to plant bananas. You cannot plant bananas in this area without irrigating them. But through terracing and channelling water to the trenches we are able to help farmers plant bananas.”

What about growing other types of food?

“We are also supporting farmers to plant drought resistant crops like pigeon peas which do not need a lot of water like the crops they have been planting. We have this pigeon pea variety which is yielding from the month of March as compared to the ones other farmers are planting that yield from September. This short variety will need very minimal rains, and produce up to the month of October or December.

So much of your work is about helping people live better with climate change and drought?

We are encouraging farmers to think of tomorrow. Forget about today. For example, you go to a farm and you find the farm has 100 goats. He's not selling them until the drought comes. If the farmer knows he should sell the goats at the right time, invest the money somewhere else, then he can get that money during the dry season and avoid the goats from dying during a drought.

What happens after the five years?

“(After then) they will have water security and knowledge of the best farming techniques and ways of getting income. That’s when we can say this group stands on its own.”

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