For many, Christmas provides an opportunity to spend time with friends and family. But for millions of people in Kenya, the daily chore of collecting water means that the simple act of spending quality time with loved ones is a luxury they cannot always afford.

We spoke to Eliza Gideon (pictured above) and Samuel Mubambaa; a brother and sister from the Kyamukulu self-help group (SHG) in southeast Kenya who, like many others in this part of Kenya, had to spend hours each day collecting water for themselves and their family.

Their village lies in a region called Ukambani, where a staggering 86% of households have no access to clean water.

For the Kyamukulu community, their only source of water was from the River Athi. Each day they had to travel the long distance, bringing back only as much water as they could carry. Eliza remembers what it was like:

“We used to go 5km to fetch water, which was too far for a person like me, being 49 years old, and others who are even older. It was difficult work.”

Once home, the water then had to be treated before it was safe to drink, otherwise it carried the risk of causing waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea and typhoid. Sadly though, not everyone was able to afford the necessary water treatments. Samuel went on to say:

“Some people would use it [the river water] the way it is. God help them. There have never been so many cases of disease; it was heartbreaking.”

But things are different for this community now. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters like you, last year they were able to build a sand dam, providing the entire community with a source of clean water close to home.

Samuel Mubambaa with his family

Samuel Mubambaa, sat on the right, with his family.

A sand dam is a reinforced concrete wall built across a seasonal riverbed. During rainy seasons, rainwater is captured and stored within sand (that builds up behind the sand dam wall), protecting the water from evaporation and contamination. Sand dams can store up to 40 million litres of water (which is safe to drink), replenishing every rainy season. One sand dam can provide enough year-round water for over 1,000 people.

Now, it takes just 20 minutes to collect water from the sand dam, freeing up more time to spend with their loved ones, and to take part in other activities such as looking after the household and tending to their farms. Here, Eliza talks of the positive impact this has had on life at home for her and her family.

“Now I have more time to look after our children and I enjoy being with them because when I used to go for two hours [to collect water] some of my children could come home from school to find nobody, no water to drink and no food to eat. But now, they come home and I can be here with lunch prepared for them.”

Eliza Gideon with her family

Eliza Gideon, sat in the middle on the chair, with her family.

Eliza went on to tell us how, with the time saved from collecting water, she has been able to use this time to work on her garden so that she can grow more food for her family. 

“We have small gardens now which we call victory gardens! Also, now that we can grow our own food we don’t use money to buy vegetables anymore.”

Samuel too has also been using the time to tend to his farm. He told us how, with the sand dam providing water year-round, he has been able to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables – something which just wasn’t possible before.

But there are millions more people like Eliza and Samuel who still don’t have access to water. That is why we are asking you to please donate what you can towards giving more communities a sand dam this year.

By supporting our appeal today, you can give more communities living in rural Kenya the gift of time, simply by ensuring they have access to clean and safe drinking water; something which many of us take for granted.

Here is just an example of how your support could help:

£15 could provide a dryland farmer with drought-tolerant seeds, to grow a reliable source of fresh food for their children

£30 could supply a community with a rake, gardening fork, shovel and watering cans, to plant trees for fruit, fuel and fodder

£60 could provide a community with a roll of barbed wire, to reinforce their sand dam 

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The impact of sand dams on entire communities truly is transformational. Any donation you can make really will make a lasting difference.

On behalf of everyone here at Excellent Development, thank you for taking the time to read this and for your continued support, which has already made a tremendous difference to peoples’ lives. We hope you feel able to support us again.

Wishing you a prosperous New Year.