The water supplied by sand dams has immense power to change lives for the better. We spoke with two community members from the Kavili self-help group in southeast Kenya who had plenty to say about the positive change a sand dam has brought to their lives. 

What was life like before the sand dam? 

Eunice: Before we constructed the sand dam we used to walk for a very long distance for water. If you were assigned the duty to collect water, you would not be able to do another activity or duty all day. We would depend on the Miu River and we used to take five hours: two hours walking to the water point, one hour queuing, and two hours getting back home.

What was the water like at River Miu?

Marygoret: The water at Miu water point was very salty. We could not use it to cook because cooking in salty water could mean the food was not good to eat, so this meant we would have to eat food which is not cooked. We were forced to treat the water using chlorine every time we fetched water from that point because it was contaminated. 

Did spending five hours every day fetching water have an impact on yourself and your family?

Eunice: Life was very tough. Sometimes I was not even in a position to cook for my children when I came back as I was too late or tired. Personally, I have a health problem which is high blood pressure, so after walking for that distance I would usually come home feeling sick.

Did anyone in the community ever suffer from waterborne illnesses?

Marygoret: We sometimes suffered from cholera and other waterborne diseases, but since we started to use water from the sand dam the rate of infection has really dropped.

Can you describe what your farm was like before the sand dam?

Marygoret: There is a big difference because before we had the sand dam we were not able to grow some vegetables and trees, but when you visit my home now you can see that I’ve already established a tree nursery.

Marygoret Kaluki Musyoka - Kavili SHG

"Even in the middle of the night I can just walk for ten minutes, I can fetch water, and then I can go and water my trees and vegetables."

Marygoret Kaluki Musyoka, Chairlady of Kavili self-help group, southeast Kenya.

How are things different now for your children and grandchildren because they have access to clean water near to home?

Marygoret: The water source is nearer compared to the past, so I am able to get larger amounts of water. Also, it is going to improve health and hygiene for them because in the past I used to go even more than a week without cleaning the bedding in my home, but now even if I want to clean them on a daily basis then I can do that.

Eunice, you said that you used to spend five hours a day collecting water and now it's 10-20 minutes. How will you use the extra time you have now saved?

Eunice: Generally I am hoping to improve my farming. With the time I have spared I will be in a position to collect manure and spread it on my farm. When it is time to grow crops I will have more time to work on my farm. There is a great difference because now that ASDF have taught us about climate-smart agriculture, we can more easily work for ourselves. I will also have more time to clean my home.

Once you start to make an income from your farming, how do you plan to invest that income?

Marygoret: I am taking care of children for my disabled brother, so most of the income I will get from farming I am going to use to take care of them by paying their school fees. I started taking care of the children when they were very young, at a tender age, because their father is disabled and their grandmother died a while ago, so I am the one who takes care of them.

Eunice Mwende Musila - Kavili SHG

"Now we are able to work hard and not have to depend on other people to give to us. They have helped us to work hard and sustain ourselves."

Eunice Mwende Musila, member of Kavili self-help group, southeast Kenya.

Marygoret: It has been challenging for this group, but we are committed to working together. We are hoping for more dams to be built along the River Athi, even if they are not for this SHG, as long as we have several of them within this community. We have really benefited so far and hope to do more.

Sand dams enable rural dryland farmers to transform their own lives, reducing the time and effort spent on collecting water so that communities can focus on developing sustainable futures. Please donate to help more rural people invest in their own livelihoods, and become self-sustaining for generations to come.

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