Published in September 2022

A key element of our approach at Sand Dams Worldwide is that the communities we work with are able to become self-sufficient as a result of our projects. We recently spoke with a "graduated" group in southeast Kenya to find out how their ability to dictate their own futures has changed as a result of completing their sand dam projects.

Located in the Athiani village of Makueni county, southeast Kenya, the Athiani Farmers self-help group (SHG) has now been in continuous existence for over 11 years. During this time, they have been working towards improving their food and water security through the construction of sand dams and shallow wells in a nearby river channel. In the past, the Athiani community experienced serious challenges associated with water scarcity. As the community is based in an arid area, these challenges were further compounded by unreliable rains and frequent droughts.

Many members of the community had long abandoned the prospect of more reliable and profitable farming due to a lack of adequate water, while levels of hygiene and sanitation had deteriorated as water scarcity forced people to choose between washing and drinking. For children, time that would normally be spent in school was spent in the search for water, this task often leading them to seasonal rivers that may be several miles from their home.

However, despite these challenges, the community persevered in their efforts to find solutions to these problems. After forming the Athiani Farmers SHG, the community began working with the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF) and Sand Dams Worldwide (SDW) on ways to overcome their challenges. Members of the community have since become self-reliant and developed sustainable practices to help them make the most of their resources. Having embraced the sand dam initiative with great enthusiasm, they have now constructed four sand dams (to support the wider community) and are enjoying the benefits that come with them, notably a reliable and nearby supply of clean water that can be used for both domestic and farming purposes.

Dorothy Mutwi'wa, 59, is a member of the Athiani Farmers SHG who testifies for the benefits of constructing sand dams and shallow wells in the area.

Dorothy Mutwi"Getting a reliable source of clean water for household use, farming, and watering livestock has become so easy since the project was implemented. We very much enjoy having this clean water, which is available always. We are delighted about this project."

Dorothy Mutwi'wa, member of Athiani Farmers self-help group, southeast Kenya.

David Maweu, a 59-year-old community member, has lived through both extreme challenges of water scarcity and renewed promise of a brighter future, thanks to the transformation that has happened in the community through sand dam projects. David recounts how hard it used to be waking up very early in the morning to go and search for water, which often involved queuing at water points all day after having walked for long distances. After the collection, he would trudge home feeling tired with only a few litres of potentially unsafe water for his family. 

However, he tells us that things started looking up after ASDF and SDW began working with the community to change the water situation in Athiani Village for the better. David remarks that since the early days of the SHG’s existence, it has been a huge turnaround from the challenges of an unsafe, unreliable water supply to the full enjoyment of life, made possible by the construction of sand dams and shallow wells in the community.

David Maweu - member of Athiani SHG"Water from the sand dams has not only been used for drinking by members of the SHG and other community members; it has also been critical in maintaining hygiene and sanitation in the community.

David Maweu, member of Athiani Farmers self-help group, southeast Kenya.

Esther Wayua, 70, also hails from Athiani village and remembers very well how difficult life was when they hadn’t much water in the community. However, she now beams with happiness as she celebrates the joy the sand dams have brought to the community.

Esther Wayua - member of Athiani SHG"The construction of sand dams and shallow wells in our area has made us live like people from abroad. We are elated that all we have to do is walk a short distance in order to get clean water for household uses and for our livestock. We are also able to use it for irrigating our crops."

Esther Wayua, member of Athiani Farmers self-help group, southeast Kenya.

Members of the group can now express optimism for the future as they work to regain opportunities stolen from them by the adverse effects of extreme water scarcity, while children can now dedicate their full attention to their studies. A visit to the group was greeted with beaming smiles, as the members of the Athiani Farmers SHG expressed their gratitude for the support that enabled them to complete their sand dam projects and become self-sufficient.

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