For millions of people living in dryland communities, the idea of a long-term solution to the water scarcity they face can seem hard to picture.

Without a clean and reliable water supply, people not only struggle to find safe drinking water but also face great difficulty growing enough food to eat and sell, pushing their health and their livelihoods to the limit.

The lack of water forces people to make long, exhausting and often dangerous trips to fetch water, simply to meet essential daily needs. During the driest periods, which are becoming prolonged and more intense as a result of climate change, these journeys can become even longer.

The task of water collection usually falls to women who consequently have less time and energy to make a living, and children, who miss out on going to school. This has a profound impact on their future prospects, as their ability to improve their own lives is restricted by this continual burden.

Where water sources are available, they are often contaminated by waterborne diseases. Lacking any alternative, people often have no choice but to drink this water and risk contracting serious illness.

Water scarcity also takes its toll on the soil itself, which becomes parched, barren and infertile. Farmers struggle to grow crops on such degraded land, making it much harder to feed their families or sell any surplus for an income.

In the face of these overwhelming challenges and without the resources to invest in a long-term solution, dryland communities find themselves trapped in a persistent cycle of poverty. That’s why we aim to deliver projects which create lasting change for dryland communities, not just for today but for generations to come.

It all starts with a sand dam: a concrete wall built across a seasonal riverbed that provides a year-round source of clean water closer to people’s homes. Sand dams can capture up to 40 million litres of water which meets WHO drinking standards, replenishing every rainy season. This water is stored within the sand, where it is kept safe from disease and evaporation. Watch here how sand dams work:

Having a sand dam nearby saves people hours of time each day which they would otherwise spend journeying to distant waterpoints, time they can spend on their educations and their livelihoods.

In addition, sand dams also raise the water table and recharge groundwater levels, both above and below the dam. Water can then infiltrate the surrounding soil, restoring degraded land and regreening environments with healthy vegetation cover. As land surrounding the sand dam is restored, and farmers have more water to use to grow crops, practising agriculture becomes much more achievable and successful.

“I now expect to grow more surplus crops to sell and use the money to pay school fees for my grandchildren, who now have plenty of time to study and play now that our water challenges are over.”

Veronica Katio, member of Meko Maw’o self-help group, southeast Kenya.

Sand dams represent a genuinely long-term solution to water scarcity, lasting upwards of 60 years and requiring almost no maintenance or operational costs. Crucially, they belong to the communities who build and use them, helping to ensure their sustainability through community ownership.

As part of our projects, communities also receive training in climate-smart agricultural techniques, equipping them with the tools and knowledge to get the most from their sand dam whilst conserving their natural environment.

Improving their farming practices means dryland farmers can grow more food to eat, store, and sell for an income. As their incomes grow, communities have more to invest in their continued development and can begin to plan for their future.

“I feel very happy. We now have clean water even during the driest months. Because of this, my family and the community at large have improved health, and our land is greener.”

Gerald Wambua, member of Meko Maw’o self-help group, southeast Kenya.

At Sand Dams Worldwide, our approach is deliberately community-led and people-centred. Sand dam projects are designed to empower people to take charge of their own development, while respecting their dignity and aiming to support people’s self-sufficiency.

In doing so, we can have confidence that our projects have made a lasting difference to the lives of dryland communities. Rather than offering short-term solutions to their problems, each sand dam project supports a community to transform their own lives and land for years to come.

You can read more about the lasting change created by sand dam projects in the story here (featuring Veronica and Gerald - pictured above), which details the experience of the Meko Maw’o community in southeast Kenya.

£30 could provide a dryland farmer with drought-tolerant seeds, to grow a reliable source of fresh food for their children

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

£120 could provide a community with a wheelbarrow and 10 bags of cement, to help them construct their sand dam

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your continued interest in our work. We would be hugely grateful for any amount you could donate, which would be a valued contribution towards our efforts to bring lasting change to the lives of dryland communities.