Published in April 2018

Programmes Officer, Callum Sheehan, looks at various sand dam success stories as Excellent Development reaches the milestone of enabling 1,000 sand dams in drylands...

Katelembu Mazingira Initiative self-help groupOver the past 16 years, Excellent Development has been working with partners across Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Sudan, Chad, Swaziland and India. Our main focus has been to enable the building of sand dams in these arid and semi-arid lands to provide access to clean water and all its resulting benefits. These include greater access to education, improved agriculture, alternative incomes and healthier communities.

This year, Excellent reaches the incredible milestone of enabling our 1,000th sand dam!

Africa Sand Dam Foundation’s (our partners in southeast Kenya) Communications Manager, Joe Kioko, caught up with the Katelembu Mazingira Initiative self-help group (SHG pictured), owners of the 1,000th sand dam (funded by the Isle of Man Government), to ask them how their new sand dam will impact life in their community.

"Dysentery and typhoid used to be prevalent in our area because of drinking dirty water from the scoop holes. The water is now clean and safer for human consumption, waterborne diseases have significantly gone down."

Charles Makuthi, Chairman and founder of the Katelembu Mazingira SHG, southeast Kenya.

"Sand dams are life-changing projects. The community now have unlimited access to clean water and our cattle have enough water for drinking after grazing in the fields. Even children now walk to the well and get water easily which was not possible in the past where we walked for 3km to Kwakotoe water kiosks, queuing for hours to get the valuable commodity" says Charles Makuthi, 78, Chairman and founder of the Katelembu Mazingira SHG.

Sera Mumbua 65, is a mother of 12 and has 25 grandchildren. She shares her experiences as a mother in the drought-ravaged area: "We used to get water from scoop holes, it was a tedious and time-consuming activity which involved queuing for hours and later walking back home. Dysentery and typhoid used to be prevalent in our area because of drinking dirty water from the scoop holes. The water is now clean and safer for human consumption, waterborne diseases have significantly gone down. Immediately after construction, we had planted vegetables at a group farm along the dam, this greatly boosted our diet bringing out a healthier community all because of water availability through sand dam construction."

For Katelembu Mazingira, the benefits of their sand dam will not stop here. Take Pauline, an example of someone who benefited from sand dams over a long period of time. Way back in 2002, Excellent worked with Pauline’s father, Muendo (of Mukika SHG), to build one of our very first sand dams. With the water from the sand dam, Muendo began to grow tomatoes. This provided him with an income that he used to send Pauline to school, something she could do now that she did not have to spend several hours a day collecting water. 12 years after the construction of the sand dam, and Pauline has graduated from Nairobi University with a first class degree in Geography and Kiswahili. She is now a teacher. Read more about Pauline’s story here.

Water from sand dams does not just provide greater economic and educational opportunities. It also frees people from life-threatening burdens. Jane Kinongo, member of the Ithime self-help group, tells us how women are generally those responsible for the collection of water: "As women, it was our duty to fetch water on our backs. We would even go to fetch water while pregnant. Sometimes we would be forced to fetch water even when having labour pains. Sometimes someone would miscarry or have a stillbirth at home due to the long distance. Since the construction of the sand dams, life has changed dramatically because we now draw water closer to our homes. The health problems (women) faced then have ceased to exist… now the women can rest for three months after giving birth." Find out more about how sand dams improve the health and living conditions of women here.

These stories are made possible thanks to our supporters, and on behalf of all our sand dam beneficiaries, Excellent Development would like to thank everyone that has supported our work since 2002. The impact is vast. Thanks to your contributions, Excellent and our partners have supported 166 SHGs in the construction of sand dams in southeast Kenya alone, with an overall total of 1,000 sand dams (and counting) which will have benefited over 947,000 people across Africa and India by the end of this year.

Along with the sand dams built, the self-help groups we work with have planted 1 million trees and dug over 1.8 million metres of terracing; this has helped to counter desertification, providing more arable land for farmers to grow more diverse varieties of crops, and generating more biodiverse landscapes. It has also provided the opportunity for many people to work their own way out of poverty.

And with plans to directly support other organisations to build 100 sand dams every year by 2020 (increasing to 200 every year by 2025), as well as plans to influence the implementation of 10,000 dams for 5 million people by 2025 (and 1 million sand dams for 0.5 billion people by 2040), the journey is just beginning.

Read our Strategy to 2025

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