Prolonged droughts continue to devastate lives and land across East Africa following a fifth consecutive season of below average rainfall.

With the 2022 October – December rains failing to bring the relief that many had hoped for, concern is now growing that the drought could enter an unprecedented third year during 2023.

According to the World Food Programme, an estimated 22 million people are currently suffering from acute food insecurity across the Horn of Africa. Should the drought continue further into 2023, there are fears that this number could rise even higher.

The drought has placed huge strain on already scarce water and food resources, creating a situation where dryland farming communities are struggling to meet their most basic needs.

Further hardships caused by the drought are harming people’s ability to lead productive lives, with exhaustion, hunger, and illness preventing people from working on their farms or attending school.

Riverbeds are drying up, driving women and children to make longer journeys in search of water they can use for drinking, farming, and sanitation. This water is not always safe to drink and can lead to people contracting waterborne diseases, such as Cholera.

With such little water available, farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to water their crops. As the amount of food they can produce starts to fall, it becomes a daily challenge for farmers just to feed their families.

Without surplus crops to sell, farmers are also seeing their incomes drop dramatically. Many are having to sell their land and livestock to stay afloat, losing resources that were vital to their livelihoods. Some have even been forced to migrate in search of work, leaving their homes and communities behind.

Global aid organisations are warning that recovery from a drought of this magnitude will take years. It is crucial that communities can work towards their own recovery as soon as possible, so that they can become more resilient to the changing climate and regain what they have lost during years of drought.

Sand dams are a way to achieve exactly that, by providing a year-round source of clean water closer to people’s homes. Using their sand dam water, communities will be able to restore degraded land, rebuild their livelihoods, and regreen their environments.

A sand dam is a concrete wall built across a sandy riverbed that can capture up to 40 million litres of water. That water is stored within the sand, where it is safe from disease and evaporation, providing a source of clean water which meets the World Health Organisation’s standards for drinking. Watch our sand dam animation to see how they work:

Sand dams recharge groundwater levels and raise the water table both above and below the dam, helping to restore degraded land that surrounds it.

Combined with training in environmental protection and sustainable agricultural techniques, such as land terracing, communities will be able to use their sand dam water to rebuild their farms and incomes.

“This sand dam project has sustained us very well during periods of drought. We have never lacked water for drinking and for household uses.”

Terresia Mbula, member of Wikwatyo wa Mativo self-help group, southeast Kenya.

The result is that local environments are transformed; the regreening of areas around the sand dam creates more fertile farmland, meaning communities can grow more food to eat, store, and sell.

We spoke with two members of the Wikwatyo wa Mativo self-help group in southeast Kenya, Terresia and Florence (pictured above and below), who shared their experience of life before and after a sand dam project. You can hear from them here, as they share their stories, demonstrating just how powerful the impact of a sand dam on lives and land can be.

“Food security is the group’s greatest achievement. Almost every member of the community has been able to grow enough crops to be able to sell their surplus.”

Florence Muthama, member of Wikwatyo wa Mativo self-help group, southeast Kenya.

After years of drought, many dryland communities will need help to rebuild their lives. That is why we need your support, so we can enable more communities to build sand dams and help them to recover from the effects of drought. Here's how your money could be spent:

£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 so much for taking the time to read this, and for your continued support at what is a challenging time for so many. Any donation that you are able to provide today would be invaluable in helping communities with their drought recovery.

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