Meet Pauline (pictured right). Pauline lives in Makueni County, a rural area in southeast Kenya. Like many girls, Pauline’s dream was to go to University. But, when Pauline was young this seemed like just that – a dream.

Pauline said: “In our family we were very poor and so I was not seeing any hope.”

In 2002, when Pauline was 11, her father Muendo (pictured left) was a member of a self-help group supported by Excellent Development. Pauline and father MuendoWe worked with his community to build sand dams. With the water they provided, Muendo began farming. He grew tomatoes and with them he paid for Pauline’s school fees. 20 buckets for each year’s education.

"In our family we were very poor and so I was not seeing any hope."

Not only this, but with water close to home, Pauline was alleviated from the burden many women and girls shoulder in rural drylands: spending up to 12 hours a day collecting water.

Pauline is now a student at Nairobi University. She is studying geography and Swahili and she plans to specialise in environmental studies.

But this isn’t a handout. Muendo’s community invested 40% of the cost of their sand dams. And Pauline spent the time she saved from water collecting studying for her exams. She told us: "I was working hard. I was not getting enough sleep. But I knew that, at one time, I would sleep enough.”

Sand dams are just the beginning; the opportunity many people need to work their own way out of poverty with dignity.

Pauline told us: “I want to do much more with the environmental studies. I like the nature, the beautifulness of the nature and how to maintain it. I want to follow our lady mother, who won the (Nobel Peace) Prize - Wangari Maathai.”

And, Muendo is now a Field Officer working with our partners in Kenya, Africa Sand Dam Foundation. In his job, Muendo is helping many more families like his to benefit from the impacts of our work.

Sand dams create opportunity and hope for families in some of the world’s poorest and most water-scarce regions. Without them, Pauline might not have fulfilled her dream of going to university; stories like this might not be told.

This brilliant, but little known, solution to water scarcity in drylands has the potential to transform the lives of people like Pauline all over the world.

Pauline told us: “(In this area) there is no water, there is no rain… People don’t have good information on how they can do well in this area. They just go on planting maize and beans and they are disappointed. If they can be informed and educated and they incorporate other methods they can do well.”

This is exactly what we want to support people to do in drylands around the world. Sometimes a little kick start is all we need to make a big change.

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