Excellent Development's Head of Programmes, Christine Whinney, visits a southeast Kenyan community to hear about the impacts of their sand dam; 4 years after they had completed construction. The results are incredible she says...

We were met by some of the Watuka Central community and the self-help group committee; Samuel Mativo (Chairman,) Peter Muro (Vice Chaiman), and Elizabeth Wambua (Vice Secretary). They showed us around their community, and demonstrated the clean water coming out of the handpump installed behind the dam. The community explained how they now have accessible water for 12 months of the year, and are also able to pump water throughout the year to irrigate their crops, including kale, tomatoes, and papaya and citrus trees.

After walking down the river to look at the dam they had built, we sat under some trees in the sandy river bed, as they excitedly told us more about their group and what they are able to now to do as a result of the sand dam. The group has 20 members, and was started in 2007. The main reason for starting the dam was to try to address the water challenge they were facing both for themselves, and for their livestock.

"The situation now could not be more different; water collection takes only 20 minutes a day; giving people the time to invest in their farms, including learning new techniques, and establishing a tree nursery."

Christine Whinney, Head of Programmes, Excellent Development.

Before building the dam, there were two rivers they had to walk to for water; one was one hour’s walk, and the other was 1.5 hours walk. And then when they did arrive at the river, because of the competition for water, they often had to queue for three hours. This meant it took at least five hours every day to collect water!

The situation now could not be more different; water collection takes only 20 minutes a day; giving people the time to invest in their farms, including learning new techniques, and establishing a tree nursery.

As a result of the new techniques, farmers are now planting drought-resistant crops, including pigeon peas and green grams, and using irrigation to plant fruit trees; this is both increasing income from having a surplus to sell, and not having to buy so much food - as well as improving family nutrition.

The community also explained that waterborne diseases such as typhoid and amoeba have also decreased since the sand dam was constructed.

Elizabeth talked about how eroded the river valley was before the sand dam, and that the location where we were sitting would have been a big gulley, taller than a person. As she talked about it I was struck by how green and lush the area was with birds singing and butterflies around, demonstrating the huge impact of the sand dam on the whole environment.

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