The Kyala Development self-help group (SHG) has constructed three sand dams in their community since their inception. We spoke with two community members who share with us some of the many ways access to clean water and the ability to grow and sell crops has transformed their lives.

Difficulty accessing clean water is a reality for many communities living in drylands. Bernard, 28, and Susan, 52, are members of the Kyala Development SHG based in southeast Kenya; a community of farmers and families that used to struggle daily with collecting enough clean water for their homes and their farms. 

Bernard describes how he used to have to fetch water as a child, walking for long distances and spending lots of time scooping water from wells that could often be muddy, salty and contaminated by waterborne diseases. Such water could be unsafe to drink or unfit for use in cooking or cleaning, but the lack of an alternative water source meant that this was the only option for those living in local communities.

Susan recalls one incidence where there was an outbreak of cholera in the region due to using the contaminated water out of this river. Many children and adults were admitted to hospital, creating great burdens not only on people's health, but also on their finances as they struggled to work and pay for hospital fees. 

As well as presenting problems for personal use, the lack of a reliable supply of clean water left community members unable to farm effectively, creating further issues for food security and income generation. However, as Susan testifies, this is one of the challenges that sand dams are now helping them to overcome. 

Susan Loko Mule - Kyala Development SHG

"I’m able to farm better than I could when I used to scoop water from the river. Right now my income has multiplied. My harvest is abundant. I cannot compare it to how it used to be previously."

Susan Loko Mule, Member of Kyala Development self-help group, southeast Kenya.

One of the key impacts of sand dams is that they reduce the time it takes for community members to fetch water. Bernard tells us that it now only takes him 20 minutes to and from the dam water point, and that he is able to collect about twice as much as he was able to previously.

The extra time and water available to community members has meant they can invest more in their farming activities, leading to increased yields, healthier livestock and the possibility of growing new kinds of crops. For example, Susan has been able to introduce watermelons, tomatoes and French beans, which constitute her main source of income. With the extra income from these crops she has been paying school fees for her children, and hopes to invest in other areas in the future.

For Bernard, the water collected by the sand dam has enabled him to grow banana trees, which he tells us would not have been possible before their dams were built.

Bernard Nzomo Muendo - Kyala Development SHG

"I can attest that since the construction of the dams I have been able to farm and reap at least three times more than I used to before the dams were built. I can also attest to the increased health in our families."

Bernard Nzomo Muendo, Member of Kyala Development selh-help group, southeast Kenya.

Beyond the impacts of sand dams on farming, Susan elaborates on the wider impacts of sand dams for the community. She tells us that things such as ease of access to water, community health and quality of life have markedly improved since the sand dams were built, whereas reports of waterborne illnesses have dramatically reduced. 

Reflecting on what they have achieved, both Susan and Bernard have found that the community has benefited in a number of ways from having access to water from a sand dam. They express their happiness at being able to more easily collect clean water, farm more effectively and improve community health since the project's completion. 

They extend their thanks to the supporters who have helped them to transform their own lives.

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