Hear from Kenyan dryland farmer John Munyau, a young man who is improving his and his family’s lives thanks to his community’s sand dam project.

Water scarcity is a reality for so many inhabitants of southeast Kenya. Adverse climatic conditions have affected the region, resulting in harsh living conditions with unreliable rainfall patterns and dried riverbeds which only flow during the rainy seasons. Consequently, these circumstances have had dramatic impacts on dryland communities; threatening their public health, damaging their economies and decreasing the quality of their livelihoods.

Growing up at Kitile Village in Machakos County, John Munyau, 22, recalls the struggles he faced in search of water during his childhood. He had countless sleepless nights, camping at the dry riverbed with his friends only to attain four jerry cans of water which would be needed for cooking, cleaning and watering their crops. They strived on despite long queues at the water sources and the long treks of more than 3km in search of wetlands for their livestock.

“I dreaded those days. The struggles were hefty,” says John as he waters some vegetables on their farm. “Inadequate supply of clean water resulted in poor hygiene and sanitation habits, sicknesses caused by waterborne diseases, poverty, poor agricultural practices and low incomes,” he adds.

To mitigate these adversaries, the community members joined efforts to form Kavili self-help group which was geared towards transforming their area. The members contacted Excellent’s partners in the region, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), and expressed the water challenges experienced and their need for sand dams in their area. To date, the group has constructed two sand dams.

"We water our crops using the sand dam water because it’s just a stone’s throw away from our home. Having our own vegetable garden has multiplied our income and we are able to meet our daily needs."

John Munyau, member of Kavili self-help group, southeast Kenya.

Availability of water through the sand dams has enabled the community to be independent in various dimensions as they have food, water and financial security. John says that since they embarked on the sand dam projects with ASDF in collaboration with Excellent, their lives have been impacted positively.

“We have more time to engage on income generating activities unlike before when most of our time was spent on fetching water. My mother and I established a vegetable garden where we plant coriander, tomatoes, kale and spinach for both domestic use and agribusiness. We water our crops using the sand dam water because it’s just a stone’s throw away from our home. Having our own vegetable garden has multiplied our income and we are able to meet our daily needs. In addition, our diets and wellbeing has improved because we are eating healthily,” adds John.

The group members have received trainings which have empowered the community in their journey to financial independence. Since John and his mother commenced the vegetable business in June 2019, they have kept records of all their income, and this has helped them keep track of their expenditure, earnings and savings.

 “Through the trainings received, we were taught about bookkeeping which has assisted us to manage our income better. We bought a book where we have been recording all our sales since we commenced the business up to date, whereby, I have amassed 4,530 Kenyan Shillings (around £33). This is a good start for us, and it has really motivated us. I plan to embark on large scale farming in the future,” noted John.

According to John, their lives have improved significantly since the construction of sand dams in their community and the ability to easily access clean water. Contemplating on the struggles John used to encounter, he has now gained confidence to pursue his goals and this is the same for his peers and other community members. They also express their thanks towards supporters and the efforts made to help them transform their own lives.

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