Our former Programmes Officer, Emma Seal, travelled to Kenya in 2015 to visit our strategic partners, Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF). Emma was amazed to see how the water problems of entire communities are being solved by sand dams. Here, she tells us about her trip.

Learning from each other

"After a long drive along rutted dirt paths, I step out onto the deep red earth and into the full force of the midday heat. In the distance, two women from the Umanthi Nthangathini self-help group heave boulders along on a wooden stretcher to where their latest sand dam is being built. After scrambling in an undignified fashion up to the construction site, I have a chat with the group’s chairman about the impact of sand dams on their lives.The Nthangu East self-help groups vegetable plot, southeast Kenya

"He explains that they are now growing mangoes and coffee beans, which sell for higher prices than traditional crops, such as maize. He tells me that people nearby hear about the success of their project and often ask for advice. This is a story told by many of the groups I visit.

Empowerment through participation

"Soon after, we visit another self-help group - Nthangu East - deep at the bottom of a now lush green valley, where I speak to the Chairman, Francis Kyoko. His slender, bent frame belies a hardy character. He tells me about the changes for women in the group: 'There’s a big change. The treasurer of the group and the secretary are women ... The treasury keeps the money and the record. When it is kept by a lady, there is more transparency.'

Bringing structure to daily routines

"The next day we make our way to the Woni wa Mutyanthii self-help group where I am joined by Stephen, ASDF's Monitoring and Evaluation Manager. I'm surprised to notice a lock on the sand dam water pump. But Stephen tells me how the community sets times for water collection to encourage sustainable management among its members.

"As a result of the sand dam, businesses in the community that were once forced to close to collect water, are now able to stay open longer and become more profitable because clean water is close by. And, young adults, attracted by the opportunity and hope created, are coming home from the city to start their own farms with their families. There is a future here.

"Visiting these projects was a wonderful experience. I am amazed by how people are transforming their own lives with sand dams."

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