Published in August 2023

At Sand Dams Worldwide, we are always looking for ways to bring the benefits of sand dams to new dryland areas. Speaking with the Kyamuisu community in southeast Kenya, we learn about how solar power is helping to enable more people to access sand dam water.

Across global drylands, millions of people do not have access to a reliable source of clean, safe drinking water. This means that they often look to sources such as rivers or lakes, which are prone to contamination by waterborne diseases, or have to trek long distances to the nearest water point. In these conditions, sand dams can vastly enhance water access while improving health, community development, and the quality of livelihoods for local people and their families.

Alongside our partners, we have been exploring ways in which we can bring the benefits of sand dams to more people. One way we are doing so is by supporting the installation of solar-powered water pumps to distribute sand dam water around the surrounding area, coming with a number of benefits for the community.

Solar-powered systems can be used for water storage and can supply water for multiple purposes, making water available to a larger population. This further reduces walking and waiting times (reducing the amount of stress) and can make water readily accessible to schools, healthcare facilities, and even entire communities. Self-help groups (SHGs) that we work with can also boost their income security through water sales (which can then be re-invested in the community), whilst helping to provide a safe water source for other nearby communities.

The Kyamuisu self-help group (SHG), located in Makueni County in southeast Kenya, has been working on projects with Sand Dams Worldwide (SDW) and the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF) over a number of years. Installing a solar pumping system has provided them with new opportunities to make the most of the water from their sand dam.

To find out more about the changes witnessed as a result of the solar pumping system, we spoke with members of the Kyamuisu community. Katiwa Ndemange, a local father of five, offered his thoughts on how the solar pump project has impacted his life:

"It was only a few months ago that we were struggling to get water from River Thwake, which was very far away indeed. Some community members already had access to water from the sand dam and shallow well, due to living closer to the dam site. Here, however, we would still have to walk for a long time to get to a water source. Our situation was heard by ASDF and SDW, who supported us to implement the newly constructed water kiosk. Supplied by the solar pumping system, the kiosk has two 10,000-litre tanks which are filled with water from our sand dam."

Katiwa Ndemange - member of the Kyamuisu community"We never thought this would be our reality one day; now, we have plenty of water supply which is easily accessible for anyone."

Katiwa Ndemange, member of the Kyamuisu community, southeast Kenya.

"We started selling water from this kiosk in December 2022 to people from other nearby areas. Many people began to congregate here to purchase water because it is very clean and affordable. We are making a good income from water sales; so far we have managed to make 32,000 Kenyan Shillings (approx £230). We have many plans on how to use the income we have made as a group and it feels like our efforts are now being rewarded."

The water point kiosk is currently serving people who are bringing carts, donkeys, wheelbarrows, and vehicles to fetch water. Many who collect water from here have described it as an easy task to fetch water when compared with the past.

Marietta Waema, 52, a mother of two, is another community member who lives close by to the new water kiosk. She shared her experience of the project with us:

Marietta Waema - Member of the Kyamuisu community"My life is much easier and more peaceful now. I do not have to walk all the way to the river to fetch water, but just travel for two minutes to the kiosk and then I have as much water as I can carry."

Marietta Waema, member of the Kyamuisu community, southeast Kenya.

"I no longer get stressed over where to get water from. I have managed to plant banana trees on my farm using water from the kiosk. I have also built a house using water from the kiosk and trust that this project will continue to help me achieve many of my goals. I am really grateful."

The Kyamuisu SHG is an example of a group who is thriving thanks to their sand dam and solar pumping system, which they view as a major milestone for the whole community.

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