As a result of climate change, growing populations and political instability countless people across the world are facing a daily struggle to access clean, safe water for themselves, their families and their livestock.

Water resources are under immense pressure, and this is leading to tensions and conflict between communities, in turn resulting in damaged infrastructure, lost education, further water and food insecurity, and seemingly inescapable poverty. For communities whose livelihoods are already at breaking point, such conflict must be impossible to bear.

“During the extended dry season, water shortage for livestock surges. Men were fighting each other to get enough water for livestock. My husband was joined in armed conflict between two villages and risked his life.”

Buno Shela Shelo, Gurdo community member, Ethiopia.

However, water can be a tool for peace, a stabilizing force, and a catalyst for sustainable development. UN Water make this point for this year’s World Water Day on March 22, the theme of which is ‘Water for Peace’. The key messages for World Water Day 2024, are that:

  • Water can create peace or spark conflict
  • Prosperity and peace rely on water
  • Water can lead us out of a crisis 

At Sand Dams Worldwide we believe that sand dam projects can be part of the global answer to water-driven conflict. Sand dams can provide a dependable, local supply of clean water, addressing the shortage of this essential resource. Watch here how sand dams work:

Furthermore, because local people are at the heart of our projects, a sand dam can help to unite communities behind a common purpose, and act as a stimulus for further community cohesion and development.

In support of World Water Day 2024, we would like your help to build a ‘Sand Dam for Peace’.

Water shortages and conflict in southern Ethiopia 

Recurring droughts are contributing to widespread water shortages, in turn causing severe suffering in Ethiopia. Parts of the country are emerging from five consecutive seasons of below-average rainfall, and the March-May 2022 rainy season was the driest on record in the last 70 years, leaving 17.2 million people requiring lifesaving assistance in 2023.

In the south of the country, traditional pastoralist groups and their livestock have been particularly affected. As the rainy season becomes shorter, land previously fit for grazing is becoming sandy and dry and replaced by barren scrub (so-called ‘bush encroachment’), and wells are drying up. 

Furthermore, uncontrolled expansion of smallholder agriculture and the establishment of large-scale agricultural development schemes in areas traditionally used by pastoralists, compounded by increases in both human and livestock populations, has further restricted access to water. This is fuelling grievances between communities which can trigger clashes between different pastoralist groups forced to compete for dwindling water and pasture in smaller areas.

Sand Dams Worldwide believes that sand dams could provide desperately needed new water supplies in the region (following engagement with and training of community groups themselves) and could play a pivotal role in reducing water-related conflict.

Our pilot sand dam programme in southern Ethiopia, launched in 2020 with our Ethiopian partner, Action for Development, has already been very successful, resulting in the construction of 5 sand dams that will significantly improve the water-security of local pastoralist communities (find out more here). The first of these are already yielding a year-round supply of clean water. 

“Previously there were instances of conflict within the community due to water shortages, especially during the dry seasons. But now there are none because of the sand dam. I’m happy, and thank you for supporting us.”

Bona Abera, Alteargude community member, Ethiopia.

Building on this success, we are planning to scale up our Ethiopia programme and support communities to build more sand dams in the region, helping to further ease the pressure on water resources that is so often a trigger for conflict. 

To mark 2024's World Water Day and its theme of Water for Peace, we are fundraising for one of these dams with a target of £31,000. Here are a few examples of the tools and materials your donation could help to buy:

  • £25 could provide 10 cement buckets
  • £50 could provide two plastic 200L capacity water tanks, to hold the water required at different stages of sand dam construction
  • £100 could provide a set of 25 metal shovels needed to mix cement during the sand dam construction

We would be hugely grateful for any amount you could donate to our efforts to create peace and prosperity through sand dams. Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your continued interest in our work.

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