Excellent Development's former Programmes Officer, Christopher Purnell, documented his recent trip to Mozambique, where he helped a community to build a sand dam...

Day One – The search for bedrock

One of the three dams we’re supporting communities to build is in Catipo, 25 kilometres outside of Tete. The area looks exactly how your mind imagines rural Africa to be; sandy roads winding through barren bush, and single-roomed houses with thatched grass roofs. As we drive through the community, carefully weaving around goats and chickens, we’re welcomed with waving hands and smiling faces. I had visited the site and the community a few days previous so there was no need for introductions.

"It is imperative that excavation continues until the bedrock of the river is reached. This creates a solid base to build the dam upon and means that the millions of litres of water the dam will retain will not be lost through seepage under the dam wall."

Christopher Purnell, former Excellent Development Programmes Officer.

Work had already begun before I got there at 8:00am. The community had been excavating into the riverbed for about a week already. It is imperative that excavation continues until the bedrock of the river is reached. This creates a solid base to build the dam upon and means that the millions of litres of water the dam will retain will not be lost through seepage under the dam wall.

After a failed attempt to join in a children’s game (one being played in the sand that will retain the water to sustain their lives this time next year), I decided to get my hands dirty. The search for bedrock involves digging - a lot of digging. I jump in and begin, which is immediately followed by laughter around the site (including from myself) as the dirt I had tried so hard to shovel out rolls straight back in at my feet.

After a few words of advice I eventually get my rhythm. A full day of rotating shifts and we still had not hit the bedrock, so it will be more of the same for the community and me tomorrow.

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