Excellent Development’s Communications Manager, Dwain Lucktung, revisits Heka Heka Syomwambya self-help group in southeast Kenya to see what impact their sand dam project has had on community members.

It was almost one year ago that I was here, visiting 54 year old Chairlady Veronica Mwende Mutua, and her Heka Heka Syomwambya self-help group. It was May 2018, and the group was hard at work building their first of two sand dams.

As I walk to the same, now completed sand dam site to meet the group, I immediately see a difference in the local farms and surrounding landscape. Almost a year and two sand dams later, and there is so much more greenery. I don’t remember seeing much vegetation last year, but now I’m passing several papaya tree nurseries, lush banana trees, fields of kales, and a farm of massive watermelons. I then recall how Veronica once told me how developing such farms was near impossible, as the community had little time for agricultural activities, often having to spend 12 hours (from 6am to 6pm) fetching water from the distant River Tyaa.

“Before we constructed the sand dams I used to collect only four 20-litre jerry cans of water per day, but now the water is close to me I can even fetch 100 jerry cans per day.”

Veronica Mwende Mutua, Chairlady of Heka Heka Syomwambya self-help group, southeast Kenya.

Now that they only have to spend one hour (in total) collecting water from the shallow wells (that are connected to the sand dams), Veronica explains the changes she is witnessing: “Before we constructed the sand dams I used to collect only four 20-litre jerry cans of water per day, but now the water is close to me I can even fetch 100 jerry cans per day.” 45 year old self-help group member, Harrison Musyoka Kingangi, adds, “This water is clean, free from impurities; it is water that is well kept and doesn’t run out.”

Alongside the sand dams, our partners, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation, have provided the group with farming support and agricultural training (funded generously by the Isle of Man Government), which Veronica states the group have been able to engage with now that they don’t have to spend so many hours fetching water. She says: “With the saved time, I have been in a position to grow more vegetables. I have grown kales, I have also grown watermelons. Harrison Musyoka Kingangi, member of Heka Heka Syomwambya self-group, southeast Kenya.I have also been tending to my household activities and my livestock, unlike before when I used to spend that time fetching water from far away… My donkeys, goats and chickens have really improved so much in their own health because they are drinking well, and they are eating well.”

“Because of our successful farming and selling vegetables for daily income, I have started seeing an easier means of paying school fees. I grow and sell food like cabbages, kales, spinach, watermelon and tomatoes... Life is easier than before.”

Harrison Musyoka Kingangi, member of Heka Heka Syomwambya self-group, southeast Kenya.

Harrison also shares the impact the sand dam and agricultural projects have made on his life: “Because of our successful farming and selling vegetables for daily income, I have started seeing an easier means of paying school fees. I grow and sell food like cabbages, kales, spinach, watermelon and tomatoes... Life is easier than before.” In less than a year, Harrison has managed to make 25,000 Kenyan shillings (around £190) just from selling crates of tomatoes, but as he plans to expand his farm over the next few years, he believes he’ll be able to make closer to 250,000 KES (around £1,902), and a further 300,000 KES (£2,283) each year from his watermelon farm. When I ask what he would like to do with this extra income, in addition to feeding his family and paying for his children’s education, he says: “I’m intending to build a better house than the one I used to have. This money will also help me in helping my friends and others who are in need of help around us.”

It’s been an enjoyable visit, seeing another community we at Excellent envisage will prosper over the next few years, with further improved health, a better, greener environment and economic growth. And, of course, a happier community. I am assured this will be the case, as Veronica expresses: “We really appreciate the support so far. We never thought this could happen, we never thought these sand dams could be here, that they could work as they work today… Initially, people used to live in a hurry because life was really difficult, but we can actually see a lot of peace in our village now, people are living in harmony.”

Please donate what you can to help rural communities transform their own lives with sand dams and climate-smart farming, and ensure no one gets left behind

Please select a donation amount: *
Set up a regular payment Donate