Published in May 2022

As I get older, I prefer to let my birthdays pass with as little fuss as possible. But there is one birthday coming up that deserves to be recognised and celebrated. This year Sand Dams Worldwide (the new name for Excellent Development) turns 20.

In 2002, Simon Maddrell (founder of Excellent Development) identified the extraordinary benefits that sand dams could bring to those living in the driest parts of the world and experiencing water poverty. 20 years on, the facts and statistics speak for themselves.

Using this ancient technology, over 1.1 million people have transformed their own lives and escaped water poverty. Over 1 million trees now grow in places where, previously, they could not have survived. A new generation of farmers and growers now use land irrigated with water from a nearby sand dam to grow food to feed their families, neighbours and local communities. With the security of a local food supply, people’s health and wellbeing has improved. Freed from the drudgery of daily water collection, children have been able to attend school and women have been able to discover their full potential. New businesses have been created and small rural communities have been able to stay in the places they call home.

"As our understanding of climate change has grown, so has our appreciation of what sand dams can do to protect the environment and help communities adapt to a changing planet."

Recent projects have shown how they can help support wildlife under threat, restore soil degradation and regreen the land. The list of benefits sand dams bring gets longer and longer.

Many years ago, I was inspired by the effectiveness and simplicity of sand dam technology and how the construction of a sand dam can change people’s lives for the better. It’s been quite a journey with some challenges on the way, particularly over the last 24 months. But these are dwarfed by the delight I get when I look at the faces of the women, men and children whose lives have been transformed by the construction of a sand dam. There is no better birthday present than that. What’s more, we could not have achieved all of this without your support.

So, join me, as over the next couple of months, through sharing stories from communities who have benefited from sand dams over the past two decades, to new impact reports, revised strategies and more, we wish a resounding happy 20th year to Sand Dams Worldwide, and plan for the next 20!

Donate today: help communities recover from drought with sand dams

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