Katelembu Mazingira Initiative self-help group is made up of people from Kithatu village (in Makueni County, southeast Kenya), and they are the proud beneficiaries of our 1,000th sand dam (funded by the Isle of Man Government). In commemoration of that, hear how this project came about, and what it means to the community.

The Katelembu group started in April 2012 as an idea of three members who had met at Muooni river. They were concerned with the devastating state of the river which had unsustainably harvested sand, down to the last particle, leaving behind a rocky gulley. That was the genesis of the water problems in the village.

After sharing their concerns with other villagers, they resolved to start a self-help group and jo Charles Makuthiin efforts in conserving the river through sand dam constructions. Before long, the membership grew to over 15 members who used to meet at the river to collect stones in preparation for construction.

"Over the years we have managed to construct two sand dams and two shallow wells in our area. These are life-changing projects with the community now having unlimited access to clean water and our cattle having enough water for drinking after grazing in the fields. Even children now walk to the well and get water easily which was not possible in the past..."

Chairman of Katelembu Mazingira Initiative self-help group.

In 2015, the then Member of County Assembly (representing the area) approached and had a meeting with our strategic partners, Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), and explained to them of the existence of the community group who were seeking support to attain long-term sustainable access to clean water.

And in 2016, the major turning point came for Katelembu, as in collaboration with ASDF and Excellent Development, they successfully enabled the construction of their first sand dam at Muooni river. On top of the construction of the sand dam, the community also took up other climate change and agricultural conservation initiatives aimed at improving the lives of the members. The impact was so fruitful, that in late 2017, the community pushed on to build a second sand dam (the 1,000th enabled by Excellent).

Charles Makuthi 78, has been serving as the group chairman and is one of the founders of the group, he says: "Over the years we have managed to construct two sand dams and two shallow wells in our area. These are life-changing projects with the community now having unlimited access to clean water and our cattle having enough water for drinking after grazing in the fields. Even children now walk to the well and get water easily which was not possible in the past; when we walked for 3km to Kwakotoe water kiosks, queuing for hours to get water".

Joseph Nyambuya 66, has seven children, he has been serving as the group secretary and remains focused to continue working on development projects in the area which will go a long way in helping generations to come. "Through ASDF I have learned the importance of agricultural conservation and the importance of tree planting in my immediate environment. I have established and maintained a tree nursery using water from the sand dam for irrigation - something which was not possible before. The trees I have planted are doing quite well with a high survival rate because water supply is unlimited," says Mr Nambuya.

Sera Mumbua 65, is a mother of 12. She shares her experiences as a mother in the drought-ravaged area: "We used to get water from scoop holes, it was a time-consuming activity which involved queuing for long hours and later walking back home. Amoeba and typhoid used to be prevalent in our area because of drinking dirty water from the scoop holes. After implementation of sand dams, things have changed as the water is now clean and more safe for human consumption; water-borne diseases have significantly gone down. Many of us are happy using the shallow well (connected to the sand dam) as it provides water for drinking, cooking, washing among other household chores. Immediately after construction, we had planted vegetables at a group farm along the dam, this greatly boosted our diet bringing out a healthier community all because of water availability through sand dam construction."

Joseph Suka 73, is a member of the group who has had personal encounters with problems related to water quality in the area: "I used to get sick from time to time, when I visited a health facility I was diagnosed with Typhoid. My stomachaches gave me complications which some of them are still affecting me because of my old age. I am now happy that the next generations will not suffer the consequences I have had to go through because through the shallow well, clean water is available, whilst water and sanitation training has improved levels of hygiene in our individual homes significantly," says Mr Suka.

The community group remains proud of strides achieved in their struggle for improved clean water access, food security and climate change initiatives. They are committed to implementing more projects to better their lives and those of the next generations, and remain thankful to ASDF, Excellent and all donors for their continued support.

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