Published in February 2024

Whether trekking long distances in search of water or simply navigating through their everyday struggles, life for those in dryland communities is often full of difficult journeys. Speaking with two members of the Wendano Kwa Nthei community, we hear how their sand dam project is beginning to change their prospects along the road ahead.

Benjamin Mutambuki and Martha Mwanzia are members of the Wendano Kwa Nthei self-help group (SHG), which is based in the Ngangani village of Machakos county, southeast Kenya. They both joined the group as a way to help address water issues that have affected the region for so long, aiming to achieve a reliable source of clean water for the community. 

Life has been very difficult for Benjamin and Martha for some time, characterised by the uncertainty and instability of water scarcity. A major daily struggle is having to travel long distances in search of the nearest water source, which is often far from people’s homes. Martha describes her morning routine to us:

"Like other women in my community, I wake up at 5:30am to pray and prepare my children for school. Then I set off for the river at 7am, sometimes earlier during the dry season. By the time I get home in the afternoon I am almost too tired to do anything, although I then have to prepare food for my children for when they get home from school."

Martha goes on to describe what the journey to collect water is like:

Martha Mwanzia - Member of the Wendano Kwa Nthei SHG"Walking for three kilometres in the direct sun is no joke, so it usually takes me around three hours to fetch water. The road is dusty and has many large rocks along the way, which can pose real dangers to those who use it."

Martha Mwanzia, members of the Wendano Kwa Nthei self-help group, southeast Kenya.

The hazards posed along the road to water points are not the only ones that local people face. As Benjamin tells us, the water that was collected on these journeys is often not clean and could lead those who drink it to contract waterborne diseases.

"My children have experienced stomach issues on a number of occasions. Once my son fell sick with typhoid, which took him two weeks to fully recover from. Thankfully we have avoided lasting effects by visiting the hospital whenever an issue arises."

Benjamin continues by sharing other negative impacts of the water collection journey on his family:

"The long treks would make us so tired that we could hardly do anything else in our homes. When the situation was particularly bad, children would have to miss school in order to go and help fetch water."

Despite these challenges, members of the Wendano Kwa Nthei SHG are now anticipating great changes to their lives as a result of the sand dam project. Benjamin shared his renewed outlook with us:

Benjamin Mutambuki - Member of the Wendano Kwa Nthei SHG"I see my life reaching a turning point. Water scarcity has been an issue for everyone here in our community. With this sand dam and shallow well my life will change, especially with the informative trainings we have received."

Benjamin Mutambuki, member of the Wendano Kwa Nthei self-help group, southeast Kenya.

The support the group received from the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), our partners in southeast Kenya, is something that Benjamin feels has been hugely valuable.

"ASDF have been of huge help to us as a community. We have received many trainings as a group which have helped us to understand leadership skills, good farming practices, and even hygiene and sanitation."

With the knowledge they have gained from their trainings, community members are already seeing improvements to their land and farming. As Martha explains:

"My land is now much better. I have planted new seeds and am making adjustments to get better and more profitable yields. I hope to soon be making at least 35,000 KES (around £170) each month from selling my produce."

Now that people like Martha and Benjamin have acquired the tools and knowledge they need to navigate the obstacles in their lives, they can look forward to a future where the path to security and success is one they are able to follow.

Martha concludes the interview by expressing her feeling about the project:

"I feel very elated about this project as it shows to me that our community is going to find the light after our dark days, as we no longer suffer in terms of searching for water."

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