Last year we visited Twone Mbee Wasya wa Mavalani self-help group in southeast Kenya just as they began building their second sand dam. Here group members Agnes Mwangangi (aged 49) and John Munyasia (aged 35) explain what life was like before they had access to clean water.

What was life like before your first sand dam was constructed?

Agnes: Before the sand dam, we used to spend up to 8 hours a day trekking for over 10km in hot weather in search of water from River Tia.

John: Before the sand dam some of our cattle and goats would die because we couldn’t get enough water for them. The small amount of water we did have was needed for our household. And our farms struggled to produce any trees or fruit like mangoes as they would dry up without water.

Did anyone in your family ever become ill from the river water?

John: I don’t know the name of the illness, but there was a time that my grandmother was sick because of drinking dirty river water. She was complaining a lot of stomach ulcers and aches. Others in our community got sick and miss work for up to two weeks because they were drinking the contaminated water.

With the sand dams, how far will you have to walk to collect water?

Agnes: For me it will be 1.5km; before it was 10km. It will be around 30 minutes from my home. This will make it easy for me to make multiple trips, and I will be able to collect much more water.

"... With the water I will be able to ensure my trees and fruits keep growing even in the dry season and survive without having to wait for good rains."

John Munyasia, member of Twone Mbee Wasya wa Mavalani self-help group, southeast Kenya.

How are you planning to develop your farm now that you’ll have nearby access to water?

John: I have many trees I am planting. And with the water I will be able to ensure my trees and fruits (like mangoes and papayas) keep growing even in the dry season and survive without having to wait for good rains.

Agnes: I am planning to plant more mango trees on my farm which will give me much more income. On top of that, I will plant more trees in my garden. Maybe after five years, I will be able to be sell trees for timber. I will be a supplier and people will be coming to my farm to buy trees to cut for when they are constructing their houses.

"We are planting more and more trees, fruits and seeing the locality change; this area will become evergreen."

Agnes Mwangangi, member of Twone Mbee Wasya wa Mavalani self-help group, southeast Kenya.

How do you feel when you think about the sand dam projects and everything you hope to achieve as a community?

John: We are very happy because the biggest problem of ours has always been water and now we are seeing water coming here to us. We will not move backwards; we will just move forwards.  And we are grateful for the support of those who have heard of our problem and helped us to build these sand dams. 

Agnes: There are so many benefits that make me happy. As a community we are now working together, and we are not idle; we are always busy. We are planting more and more trees, fruits and seeing the locality change; this area will become evergreen. The food we will make will provide a more balanced diet. And we can use the time saved (not having to walk long distances for water) with our families.


Agnes, John and their self-help group have recently completed the construction of their second sand dam (see below). We will be tracking their progress and sharing more stories from the community soon.

Twone Mbee Wasya wa Mavalani self-help group on top of their sand dam in southeast Kenya

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