Meshack Munyao, 50, and Christina Ngete, 37, are members of the Ngao ya Kiome self-help group, which was set up in 2013 to address the ongoing issue of water shortage. Since then, the group from southeast Kenya have been supported by our partners, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), and Excellent to build five sand dams, providing nearby access to safe water for surrounding communities. We met with them to hear how the project has transformed life in the village.

Prior to the sand dams’ implementation, the nearest water source was Kithoni Spring, which, due to its contamination, led to the spreading of waterborne diseases within the community. Christina recalls her own experience of suffering with amoebiasis, saying, “what I experienced was severe stomach pains, headache and I was feeling cold all the time, especially in the evenings. If you pressed my stomach it would be very painful. I was sad.” She has also seen cases of typhoid in her family.

The journey to reach Kithoni Spring was another issue, taking three hours over hilly terrain. Meshack says, “the donkeys would often drop the jerry cans and you could lose water in the process.” Since the sand dam’s construction, waterborne disease and the journey time has reduced significantly, increasing school attendance and requiring less time to be taken off work to recover from illness.

“What I experienced was severe stomach pains, headache and I was feeling cold all the time, especially in the evenings. If you pressed my stomach it would be very painful. I was sad.”

Christoma Ngete, Ngao ya Kiome self-help group member, southeast Kenya.

The community have also benefited economically from having a nearby water supply, as they can harvest and sell more crops, trees and vegetables than before. “We will make between 18,000 and 20,000 Kenyan Shillings (KES) and other than that we also get to harvest some for cooking in our households,” explains Meshack. They now grow crops like green grams, cowpeas and pigeon peas, trees such as Moringa, oranges, mangos, papayas and vegetables including kale, onions, tomatoes, sweet pepper and green maize. They have also set up a table banking system, whereby members contribute a certain amount of money to a pool of funds that grows over time. People can borrow money when it is needed, for example, to cover medical costs or school fees, and pay it back with small interest.

“Now when I look at my children, they are growing very fast, they are healthy and they are falling ill less often..."

Meshack Munyao, Ngao ya Kiome self-help group member, southeast Kenya.

Meshack explains how differently his four children, two boys and two girls, live compared to what he experienced growing up. He remembers the stunted growth of children due to illness, walking long distances and poor diet. He says, “Now when I look at my children, they are growing very fast, they are healthy and they are falling ill less often... we do not have cases of stunted growth in children right now,” and, Christina adds, the introduction of school water tanks “removes the burden of collecting water from these kids.”

In reference to the progress the community has witnessed, Christina comments that ASDF and Excellent Development along with supporters “have done us well and we are very proud of the achievements.”

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