Published in October 2021

How will you remember the last 12 months? Maybe you will recall the difficulty of living with the uncertainty of a global pandemic. Or will it be the relief you felt when meeting up with friends and loved ones after months of being confined to home? Some of you may reflect on the new skills you have picked up or things you have discovered and appreciated about the world around you.

Unfortunately, however, for many vulnerable dryland communities, they may recall struggling to find the time to source and collect clean water for their families - whilst also living with the restrictions of COVID-19…

I was reminded once again of how difficult the last 12 months have been for those living many thousands of miles away in some of the driest parts of the world while reviewing Excellent Development’s annual report.

Add the challenge of where to find a reliable source of water to the anxiety surrounding a new, highly contagious disease, and it’s easy to imagine how progress on relieving water scarcity could come to an abrupt halt last year. But I am pleased to say that hasn’t been the case.

"Looking over my shoulder in my rear-view mirror, my highlight of 2020/2021 has to be the individuals and communities who, despite the immediate demands of COVID-19, kept their resolve and carried on constructing sand dams which will help them thrive in the future."

Turn the pages of our annual report and you will see that in the operating year 2020/2021, we still managed to support the construction of 36 new sand dams; a grand achievement in my eyes, given when we made our plans for 2020/2021, no one was anticipating a global pandemic.

More sand dams mean that in the future we will be able to report how the lives of many families in drylands have been made much, much safer, and fruitful. We can expect to hear more personal stories like that of Penina Muthini Ngau (page 16) from southeast Kenya who, thanks to our work, now has enough food to feed her family and contribute to her children’s school fees. Or Mwanziu Mutinda, also from southeast Kenya (page 23), who is learning how to farm land, now irrigated with water from a sand dam, using seeds that will yield drought-resistant crops, despite shifting climatic patterns. And the community in southern Zimbabwe (pages 34 and 35) who are implementing land conservation measures and tree planting, in turn re-greening environments once barren.

Looking over my shoulder in my rear-view mirror, my highlight of 2020/2021 has to be the individuals and communities who, despite the immediate demands of COVID-19, kept their resolve and carried on constructing sand dams which will help them thrive in the future. And I will be thinking about our teams at home and abroad who were able to deal with the myriad of obstacles that the pandemic threw at them.

I am pleased and proud, that despite all the difficulties over the last 12 months, Excellent Development has continued its work in some of the driest parts of the world. That means for some, the impact and fear of water scarcity is now history, and that is a very satisfying thing to see.

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