Excellent Development's sand dam foreman, Charlie Taylor, reports on the impact a sand dam will make for the Muuo wa Kasyomatu self-help group in southeast Kenya.

I have spent nearly two weeks working with the Muuo wa Kasyomatu self-help group situated in Makueni County in southeast Kenya; the name means Peace for Kasyomatu (the name of the area). They were building a sand dam.

Ndunda Kitua, the Chairman, and George Kyongo, the Secretary, told me that each active self-help group member had already spent many days during the rainy season breaking and gathering rocks. Before I arrived they had been digging deep along the line of the dam foundation to find solid bedrock; they were 12 feet down and still going in places. This dam is a big one; it will take around 500 tonnes of large stones which will be quarried and carried by hand on stretchers, made from branches, to the dam site. e Muuo wa Kasyomatu self-help group, southeast Kenya200 tonnes of sand will be dug from the river bed and wheel barrowed to the site.

"It (the sand dam) will make a big difference. We spend a lot of time getting water at the moment. It will be much closer. We will have water for the shambas and we will grow crops to sell. This will give us money for school fees and health (costs)."

Ndunda Kitua, Chairman of the Muuo wa Kasyomatu self-help group, southeast Kenya.

All of this and the subsequent mixing, shovelling, carting and loading the members are willing to do to get a local supply of water for themselves, their livestock and their small farms or ‘shambas’ (small farms). We know this project will significantly improve the lives of the members and the lives of the community of around 800 people who will have access to clean water much nearer their village.

What the group could not come up with is the cash to buy the cement, the reinforcing, nor the shuttering timber, hand tools and nails. A single 50kg bag of cement costs around £7 to supply - and this dam will need 1200 bags of cement. Most of the local members live on less than £1.50 per day so this is a huge sum of money for them to find. For this, they rely on help from outside, in this case through the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), our partners in Kenya.

Over a cup of hot sweet milky morning tea, I have a chat with Ndunda, "What difference will the dam make?" I asked the Chairman. He tells me "It will make a big difference. We spend a lot of time getting water at the moment. It will be much closer. We will have water for the shambas and we will grow crops to sell. This will give us money for school fees and health (costs)."

Ndunda is only 30 and has been the driving force behind this group which is about two thirds female and many, like myself, not in the first flush of youth. Their undertaking with such a small group is incredibly impressive. The work is hot tiring and exhausting and by the end of each day I am fit to drop. This group has been working on the dam now five days a week for a month and they need another week or two to finish it. They have just agreed together to work on Saturdays as well to gather rocks and sand ready for the following week! Then tea mugs down and it is back to work.

ASDF receive virtually all their funding from overseas agencies including money that has been secured by Excellent Development. In this case, the cost of materials is being supported by the UK Government. The members of the group would like me to send British readers their deep felt thanks: "Without your funds this project would not be possible. Thank you for helping us" George tells me.

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