Excellent's Emily Brewster, meets a proud community of Kenyan farmers, who show her the diverse impact sand dams have made on their lives...

When we arrive at Kyala Development self-help group's dam in Makueni County, southeast Kenya, two of their members are already there to greet us. Eric and Charles (pictured above) shake our hands and lead us through some of the farming work taking place on either side of the river behind their sand dam. Since they built their dam in 2015 with the support of UK Government, they have more than enough water to irrigate the land on both banks.

Crops being grown range widely, from pawpaw, oranges, limes, guava, watermelon and mangoes to kale, peppers, French beans, maize and tomatoes.

The group’s farming is going so well in fact that they are now able to employ other members of their community to help with the farming work.

Purity MutheuWe spoke to one such worker;  Purity Mutheu (pictured right). Purity has a job now thanks to the success of the dam. Part of her job involved irrigating crops, something she is able to do now using water that is piped up from the nearby dam. Previously, anyone trying to grow crops here would have faced a long walk to a distant water source, followed by a strenuous long walk back with heavy jerry cans. It is clear to see how much easier farming in this area has become, now that water is readily available.

Purity also told us that she and the other workers have been using the climate-smart agricultural technique of crop rotation. This is a technique which Kyala Development SHG learned as part of their training with Excellent’s Kenyan partner, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF). This means that where the SHG have just harvested their maize crop, they will soon start growing onions. Rotating crops like this, rather than growing the same crops on the same land season after seasons, is better for the soil as it increases fertility and reduces erosion.

"The whole hillside has been terraced and irrigated with dam water, allowing row after row after row of fruits and vegetables to burst out from the soil, dotted here and there by sweet-smelling orange trees."

Emily Brewster, Excellent Development.

When we head up to Charles' farm on a nearby hill, the impact of the group’s agricultural learning is clear. The whole hillside has been terraced and irrigated with dam water, allowing row after row after row of fruits and vegetables to burst out from the soil, dotted here and there by sweet-smelling orange trees. Charles tells us that they were both farmers before the dam, but they previously unable to grow the variety of crops that they able to now. As a result, their families are meeting more and they are eating better. Their livestock is also benefitting now that they have clean water to drink every day.

The impact that just one simple sand dam can have is so clear here. Not only does this community now have clean water and abundant food, but Charles and Eric both tell us that they are now making enough money from their farming to pay for school fees for all their children, something that would not have been possible before their dam was constructed. They tell us that their lives have improved greatly now that they can provide so much more for their families.

We leave Kyala Development SHG feeling amazed and inspired – and with a bucket of fresh oranges!

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