Joe Kioko (former Communications Manager for our partners, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation) visited Kyeni Kya Syatu self-help group to learn how much progress they have made over the last three years since we started working with them. Here, he met Angelina Kisilu, the group's chairlady together with other members who were happy to talk about their journey and the experience.

On sand dams

"We started from zero without enough water and enough food for our families. Our closest water source was an average 6kms from our homes. We had not put our farms into good farming standards and every time we planted, we harvested less than the previous season or nothing. Our children often walked for kilometres to fetch water for school. Our livestock were in dire need of water and above all, our income levels were at the bare minimum. Most of us here depend on farming for our livelihoods. Angelina Kisilu, chairlady for Kyeni Kya Syatu self-help group, southeast KenyaAll these problems forced us to form a self-help group in an effort to find a solution to our problems" explained Angelina.

"We started from zero without enough water and enough food for our families... I am now an expert in sand dam construction... From the five sand dams and two shallow wells, we now have enough water for our livestock and for domestic use."

Angelina Kisilu, chairlady for Kyeni Kya Syatu self-help group, southeast Kenya.

"In 2012, our group of 50 members (28 men and 22 females) met with officials from Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF). We had heard about them from our area chief. After explaining to us how they worked with self-help groups, we didn't waste any more time as their approach fitted perfectly with our objectives and their core business matched our problems. The first problem that we really wanted to eradicate was water shortage. Lucky enough a solution in the form of a sand dam was agreed on. I had never heard of sand dams before and could not comprehend how it worked so I was eager to see how it could bring water" said Angelina.

"From 2012 to date, we have now constructed five sand dams and two shallow wells. From all that experience, I am now an expert in sand dam construction. Our shallow well turned out to have so much water that it is the only source in the entire location that has water throughout the year."

On trees

"From the five sand dams and two shallow wells, we now have enough water for our livestock and for domestic use. I have been able to plant trees such as mellia volkensii (for timber) and mango trees in my farm. This could not have happened without water close by. I will use the trees for wood and shelter and the fruits will go a long way in supplementing nutrition levels for my family." said Francis Mwaka, a former chair person. I realised that Mwaka’s example is replicated in each household of the 50 members. Each member were all too eager to show me how they’ve practiced agroforestry in their farms as they try to outdo each other in the number of trees planted.

On terracing

The group were also trained on a number of improved farming activities such a terrace digging, inter-cropping, agroforestry, zero tillage among other climate smart farming techniques aimed at improving farm productivity and food security.

"I never used to dig terraces in my farm but now I do since I was taught how to do it properly in order to have an impact on crop production. My crops have been doing well despite the little rains that this area receives. I have retained all the water that falls in my farm and no runoff is allowed to flow out. I can now afford to pay school fees for my three children by selling the surplus that I produce" said Judy Mbula Mutuku, a 36 year old community member.

On drought tolerant crops

"Since we started working with ASDF, they have been supplying us with drought tolerant seeds such as sorghum, dolichos lablab, pearl millet, cowpeas, pigeon peas and green grams. We only used to plant maize every season and ignore all other crops not knowing that they could do well here. Last year (2015), I got 2Kgs of cowpeas and harvested 90kgs; to me this has been a pretty good harvest" said Judy.

Income generating Activity

"We planted kale using water from the sand dam, and this project earned our group some money after selling some to our neighbours. We always bank this money in our savings account and then use it to give loans to our group members at a low interest. Most members borrow for the purposes of paying school fees for their children" explained Francis.

"In a nutshell, we can conclude that a lot in our lives has changed since we started working in collaboration with ASDF and the other partners (such as Excellent Development) who support us" concluded Angelina.

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