The novel sand dam road crossing (built with the support from the Isle of Man Government and The Charitable Foundation) located on the Naimaralal river in Lekurruki, Kenya, is not only aiding integral transport needs but also providing an accessible source of water to over 4,000 people and their livestock.

The sand dam road crossing area is inhabited by pastoralist communities, predominantly the Mukogodo Maasai, but also Samburu and Turkana communities that have moved into the area. These communities also constructed the dam and are seeing transformative results through their hard work.

Imagine travelling 6-7km each way just to collect water for your daily needs. This was the physically demanding chore communities in Lekurruki were tasked with every day prior to a sand dam being constructed in the area. Even upon arrival at the Ngarandare river women and children had to dig 7 metres below the river bed to access water, an inconceivably difficult and dangerous task. However, this has all changed with the presence of a sand dam.

Replacing the 14km round trip to water is a 1-2km walk to a sand dam, with some travelling 500 metres to collect water for both their families and livestock. What the Chairman of the Lekurruki Conservancy Trust (LCT) Board, John Parmashu, said to Excellent’s Head of Programmes on a recent visit sums up this impact: "Sand dams have been a huge benefit to communities, they were trekking for long distances, but now getting water nearby."

Digging 7 metres to access water in the river bed is now also a concept for the past. The sand dam road crossing captures water in the aquifer behind the dam wall resulting in millions of litres of easily accessible water. The pastoralist communities in Lekurruki are reported as being very happy with the new sand dam in the area due to nearby available water and the difference this makes to everyday life in Northern Kenya.

The construction of the dam road crossing has not only made communities water secure and built bridges between once divided communities, there has also been an increase in wildlife in the area. Observation data collected by the ranger security team shows a 28% increase in elephant sightings, and 31% increase in Grevy's Zebra sightings from 2015 to 2016. For both species this came after concerning drops of 48% and 53% respectively the previous year. Prior to the sand dams, when water was immensely scarce, the competition between humans and wildlife was fierce and led to fatalities on both sides. However, local reports note that now, with more water available for all, clashes have been reduced and communities and wildlife are living increasingly peacefully alongside each other. This also has positive impacts on tourism.

The communities profit financially from the tourism in the area. The LCT board described how the dams were contributing to the local economy in other ways too. A sand dam creates employment opportunities through working on the dam construction, and in turn increasing village incomes; extra income that is invaluable for families in Lekurruki.

As the number of sand dams increases in Lekurruki, the communities that are so rich in culture and heritage are no longer prisoner to the harsh conditions of the arid landscape they inhabit. The first sand dam road crossing of its kind in this area has provided water security to thousands and paved the way to further implement the technology in other arid areas where it is so desperately needed.

What is a sand dam road crossing?

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