It’s a simple fact that without access to clean water, communities are unable to thrive; trapped in a cycle of water poverty, with little time or money to invest in their own livelihoods.

In Kenya alone, there are 19 million people who still don’t have access to safe water. Instead, many are forced to collect water from rivers, which is often unsafe for human consumption.

We spoke to the Sindano wa Wia self-help group (SHG) in the village of Muangeni, southeast Kenya who, up until recently, relied solely on the Muvukuni River for water to use at home, for drinking, cooking and cleaning.

Bendetta Mulee, one of the group’s committee members told us how, particularly during the dry season, the round trip to collect water could sometimes take up to eight hours. 

“I used to leave the house at 5am and most days I would come home back to the house at 1pm.”

The water from the river was dirty and contaminated, but as Bendetta explains, with nowhere else to get water from nearby, the community here were left with little choice but to use what they had.

“Whatever little water you get even if you’re not very well or it’s not clean, you couldn’t throw it away or swap it for fresh water because you’re not sure if you’ll ever get any, so we used to make do with whatever we had.”

The daily chore of collecting water was holding this community back; leaving them tired and exhausted, with limited time and no energy to invest in their own livelihoods. Each hour spent collecting water meant less time for anything else. Children were unable to go to school and their parents had no time to earn a living. Bendetta remembers what it was like:

“I didn’t have time to do my house chores because most of the time when I used to come back I used to be so tired. I rarely had enough energy left to do what I was supposed to do, especially tend to my children and also my farm.”

But life is different for this community now. Thanks to your support, the group have been able to work with our local partner in Kenya, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation, and since 2014, have built a total of four sand dams. A sand dam is a concrete wall built across a sandy riverbed that can capture up to 40 million litres of water, replenishing every rainy season. That water is stored within the sand, where it is safe from disease and evaporation. Watch how a sand dam works here:

By building four sand dams, the Sindano wa Wia SHG have been able to ensure there is enough clean water close to home for the entire community, serving over 3,000 people. As well as providing water for drinking, the network of sand dams means there is now enough water for domestic use, and importantly, to use on their farms.

Sabina Kaunange (pictured below), another member of the Sindano wa Wia group, happily talks about the difference the sand dams have made:

“The difference is unimaginable. My grandchildren can now shower, they can stay clean, they can wash their clothes – these are luxuries that I never had when I was growing up.”

Now, it takes just 30 minutes to collect water, saving women and children, who often carried the burden of collecting water, hours each day. Instead, they are able to use that time to invest in their own livelihoods, such as farming their land or even setting up their own small businesses, providing a vital opportunity to generate an income for themselves and their families.

What’s more, the improved access to water means that the community can now use water from the sand dam to irrigate their farms. This is important as it means the local farmers can grow more food, helping them increase their household income and ultimately become self-sustaining.

In fact, our evaluations have shown that over 80% of the individuals we have worked with have seen an increase in their household incomes. This impact from the sand dam and farming support is in part thanks to the generosity of our donors like you. Bendetta says: 

“The sand dams have really changed my life because now the water is very near, I have been able to plant a lot of fruit trees, like mango trees and orange trees.”

Bendetta is now growing a variety of fruits and vegetables and has been able to sell the surplus at her local market. Here, she talks about how her recent harvest of mangoes enabled her to generate enough of an income to be able to pay her children’s school fees, providing a brighter future for them:

“Last time when I harvested the mangoes I made 40,000 KES (about £300). I took some of the money and used it to pay for my youngest child’s school fees for the year, so we are no longer living in any doubt that he will be sent home from school. That makes me and my husband very happy.”

With your support, we can help even more communities like this, giving them opportunity to be able to invest in their futures, simply by providing them with access to clean water and farming support.

Here is just an example of how your support could help people in rural dryland communities:

£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 and keep it anchored to the bedrock

Sand dams enable rural dryland farmers to transform their own lives, reducing the time and effort spent on collecting water so that communities can focus on developing sustainable futures. Please donate to help more rural people invest in their own livelihoods, and become self-sustaining for generations to come.

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