2020 was an incredibly challenging year, with the coronavirus pandemic causing widespread, and often devastating impacts to families around the world.

For the first time in decades, as a result of COVID-19, global poverty is on the rise, with reports suggesting that over 70 million people were pushed into extreme poverty by the end of 2020.

And as poverty increases, so too does the risk of families going hungry.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, food insecurity around the world was on the rise, with the growing climate crisis playing a significant factor.

Yet now, the pandemic is further compounding the problem. Disruptions to food supply chains, higher retail prices, and widespread unemployment is resulting in more and more people struggling to feed their families. 

In fact, the UN World Food Programme has warned that an additional 130 million people faced acute food insecurity by the end of 2020, on top of the 135 million people who were already acutely food insecure before the crisis hit.

Particularly at risk, are people living in areas increasingly experiencing extreme weather events like droughts and flooding.

For many rural dryland communities, sand dams offer a solution, and are already playing a critical role in providing a safe, dependable supply of water for handwashing, and helping keep families fed, even during these challenging times.

A sand dam is a concrete wall built across a sandy riverbed that can capture up to 40 million litres of water, replenishing every rainy season. That water is stored safe from disease and evaporation within the sand. It’s easily extractable via pipework connected to hand-pumps and taps, with one sand dam providing enough year-round water for over 1,000 people. Watch how sand dams work here:

Not only do sand dams provide a vital source of water which farmers can use to irrigate their crops, they also recharge groundwater levels so that, when combined with climate-smart agricultural techniques such as terracing and natural composting, they help improve soil fertility, in turn creating a healthier, more productive local environment for farming.

“What I have now is continuity, so even if I passed on today, the seeds and vegetables are still here, and I believe my family would have enough food for the next two years.”

Esther Mwende, member of Kamwonyeni self-help group, southeast Kenya.

To ensure that communities can best utilise the land and new water source, we then support farmers – with training, tools and materials – to develop sustainable farming methods so that they are able to grow enough food for their families for years to come. This includes providing a range of drought-resistant varieties of seeds so that they can grow a more diverse range of crops year-round, thus reducing their reliance on unreliable rainfall.

Above and below, you can hear from Esther and Frances; two members of a rural community in southeast Kenya who last year started implementing these new farming techniques. Already, they have gone from struggling to grow just one or two types of vegetables in the dry conditions, to growing a variety of crops, including onions, tomatoes, mangos and bananas, providing nutritious food for their families – as well as income from selling surplus produce.

“From near the sand dam, to a few miles away, you can see improvement in the land. Can you imagine, we used to struggle to get food, but there has been a great change from just a few months or a year. Now we can plant onions and tomatoes, which both need a lot of water, and we can grow vegetables year-round. This was not the case before.”

Frances Musyoka, member of Kamwonyeni self-help group, southeast Kenya.

But we need your help so that we can continue to support more dryland communities like this to build sand dams and implement climate-smart farming, providing vital food and water supplies to vulnerable families. Here is just an example of how your support could help.

£15 could provide a dryland farmer with drought-tolerant seeds, to grow a reliable source of fresh food for their children

£30 could supply a community with a rake, gardening fork, shovel and watering cans, to plant trees for fruit, fuel and fodder

£60 could provide a community with a roll of barbed wire, to reinforce and strengthen their sand dam during construction

Whilst over the past year we have had to adapt the way in which we work to ensure that we can continue delivering our programmes, one thing that hasn’t changed is our drive and commitment to supporting some of the world’s poorest and vulnerable dryland communities to become food and water secure. Any donation you are able to make will go a long way in supporting families that need it most.

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We are incredibly grateful for your continued support, and would like to wish you much health and happiness this Christmas.