Charlie Taylor (former Sand Dam Foreman at Excellent Development) returns to Kenya to visit a community transformed by a sand dam, water and hard work...

Returning to Kenya has been a wonderful experience. Since I was last here where the rains have fallen it is green and the crops are growing. The baobab trees have leaves and the acacia is in flower. Of course, I was very keen to get back to see the dams I had worked on and was lucky enough to have a chance to return to Muuo wa Kasyomatu. They now have a new name - Wikwatyo wa Mativo - which translates as 'Hope for Mativo', their village.

When I was last here the dam was finished and looked splendid. But what a transformation met my eyes. Since the rains in November, my friends have been incredibly busy. Winifred Mwangangi, Committee Member of the Wikwatyo wa Mativo self-help groupThey hired a pump and pipes and have rented a block of land near the dam where they have started a communal vegetable garden. They have planted about two acres of tomatoes and an acre of kale (which they will start harvesting the kale in about two weeks).

"We are already forgetting our former hardship and there is no queuing for domestic water."

Winifred Mwangangi, Committee Member of the Wikwatyo wa Mativo self-help group.

Committee Member Winifred Mwangangi told me how before the dam they "were always short of water and the vegetable harvests often failed. Scoop holes had to be very deep and they needed the men to dig them. Now she told me, "We are already forgetting our former hardship and there is no queuing for domestic water." The tomato crop alone should net the group about 200,000 Kenyan shillings which they will re-invest in their enterprise, maybe buying their own pump or taking on a bigger plot of land.

Kato, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (our partners in Kenya) Field Manager, said that the members should see the dam as if it was a miracle. They had done a tough job building such a big dam with just 18 members.

He said: "It is because you had a clear vision and supported each other that you have achieved this." He is a hard man to please though and he told the group that they had "a lot more work to do to achieve their plans. This is not a good time for them to rest from their labours"  he told me.

ASDF supports the self-help groups for about five years, assisting them to come up with a plan and supporting them financially with the big costs like cement and buying a bull for their cattle improvement project. "But we encourage them to learn to solve their problems. They want us to buy a pump for them but it is better if they use the crop proceeds and see that they can solve that problem for themselves," Kato explained. He added:  "We won’t be able to support them forever so we help them to achieve independence from us (ASDF)."

This group which only formed about a year ago has already started transforming their lives with a bit of help from outside. I hope to watch them grow from strength to strength; they are already planning their next dam and asked me, "Will you come back and help us build another one?" 

Could you donate today and supply more communities with the tools, hardware, support and guidance they need to build a sand dam, providing themselves with a lifelong supply of water?

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