Excellent Development's former Trusts and Rotary Fundraising Manager, Tanya D'Souza, returns to Kenya to revisit a community that has transformed lives across generations with sand dams.

In February 2016, I was lucky to be able to visit our projects in southeast Kenya again and speak to the communities we are supporting about the impact sand dams have made to their lives. Elizabeth Kyalo, Wasya wa Athi self-help group member, KenyaThe highlight of my trip was visiting Wasya wa Athi B self-help group whom I had first met in 2013, as it was incredible to see their progress since I last saw them.

"My life has changed a lot with water from the dams - I see that in 2030 life will be different - I’m now invested."

Elizabeth Kyalo, Wasya wa Athi self-help group member, Kenya.

When I first met Wasya wa Athi in 2013 (click here to read my previous report), they were in their second year of working with our Kenyan partners, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), and had already improved their access to clean water from their first two sand dams, one of which was recently built and the other which had just become mature; ASDF support each self-help group with communities to make a five year plan in order for projects to be sustainable. I remember them speaking with such pride about having water near their homes and about their ambitious plans for improving their farming and building more dams. They wanted to grow a variety of fruit trees that they were not able to before.

Three years later, and Wasya wa Athi have now built five sand dams, two shallow wells and one school water tank. The community now have a regular supply of clean water all year round, close to their homes. They are growing a diverse range of crops including pigeon peas, green grams, dolichos lablab, finger millet, maize and fruit trees to eat, store and sell.

We met Elizabeth Kyalo and her mother-in-law, Terecia Muleia, who told me how they took the initiative to plant mangos in 2012 after their first dam. After the success of their first harvest with water from their dams, they set up a tree nursery and in 2013 began grafting mangoes. It’s taken three years of hard work, but now they have a farm full of grafted mango varieties, which they sell at the market for an income.

Terecia MuleiaElizabeth explained how she is happy with her farm: “My life has changed a lot with water from the dams - I see that in 2030 life will be different - I’m now invested.”

“My daughter-in-law has worked with her hands to make a change. I am proud.”

Terecia Muleia, Elizabeth's mother-in-law.

The land has been in Terecia’s family for three generations and she told us the biggest change is seeing the dams and shallow wells, which is providing water for people even beyond their village. She told us when she was Elizabeth’s age she would have to use donkeys to carry water for long distances but now they walk less than 1km to collect water: “My daughter-in-law has worked with her hands to make a change. I am proud.”

Having water has unlocked opportunities and enabled Wasya wa Athi to achieve their goals.

This is one of the most powerful elements of Excellent's work- that it is the community's themselves that put in their own time and labour; making the long term investment to reach their goals. I was thrilled to see how much Wasya wa Athi have achieved and it demonstrates how communities just need a kick start to transform their own lives.

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