Published in June 2023

When communities lack an adequate water source, day-to-day life can be so draining that planning for the future becomes a near impossible task. We spoke with a self-help group chairperson in southeast Kenya to find out how constructing a sand dam has helped to relieve daily struggles and enabled them to look forward to their futures.

Ruth Daniel, a 55-year-old mother of one (and grandmother to five) has been the Chairlady of the Upper Mbole self-help group (SHG) for two years now. Located in the Mbole Village of Makueni county, southeast Kenya, the main aim of members of this SHG was to find a reliable source of clean water and strengthen community cohesion in the face of challenging climate conditions.

The region has been suffering for some time with scarce and unreliable rainfall, resulting in frequent water shortages for the people who live there. These shortages have led to long queues at the nearby river channel, where community members from surrounding areas would all gather to collect water.

Ruth tells us that this was not a pleasant experience, as people would have to either wake up very early or visit the river late in the day to avoid the queues. The water collection itself could also be dangerous, particularly during the dry season when locals would have to dig much deeper scoop holes in order to reach water. The deeper these holes would get, the greater the risk would be of falls and collapses.

In addition to the challenges mentioned above, there was also a notable impact on the lives of children, who would often have to miss school to help their parents with water collection. This would lead to many students performing poorly at school, due to them missing lessons and generally dealing with the health implications of water scarcity.

Despite all of these struggles, Ruth declares her community are now able to rebuild their livelihoods following the construction of their sand dam in March 2022. With the water that will be collected and stored by the sand dam, she tells us that she has great hope that there will be plenty of water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation purposes. Furthermore, she envisages that once these needs are met, members of the community can begin to invest in their farms using water from their sand dam.

Ruth Daniel - Chairlady of the Upper Mbole SHG"I see a great and bright future for my child and my grandchildren when I look at our sand dam. They will never lack clean water, which is a blessing both for me and for them. Thank you to everyone who supported this project."

Ruth Daniel, Chairlady of the Upper Mbole self-help group, southeast Kenya.

Ruth expressed her joy at the achievements of the group thus far; using seedlings provided by the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (our partners in southeast Kenya), the community have already achieved a successful harvest in spite of poor rainfall. This bodes well for the future of Ruth’s community, who are already making plans to plant new crops and vegetables using their sand dam water. Ruth finishes by explaining how they now look forward to increasing agricultural outputs and continuing to invest in their collective future.

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