Published in June 2024

When speaking with Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD), our partners in Malawi, a young woman explained to us how a sand dam project in her community inspired her to get involved in addressing the challenge of water scarcity in her own life.

Jenifer Bulaziyo is a 25-year-old woman from a community in Group Village Headman Thomas (GVH Thomas), a local authority area in the Chikwawa District of southern Malawi.

She is a single parent to a 3-year-old daughter, as well as being responsible for her younger sister and brother. She told us about the challenges she faced in her daily life before the sand dam project began in her community.

"I would wake up very early in the morning when it was still dark and go to collect water from a borehole. This was the only borehole that we had at that time and the water was very salty. It was always full of people, since it was the only one close by for community members. It would typically take me two hours or so before getting home to prepare the children for school."

This trip took its toll on people both physically and practically, as Jenifer explained to us.

"Carrying big buckets of water and walking a long distance has been a challenge to my body. Since my family relies on me for water to take to school, it means they were often late as they had to wait for me to return home."

The journey to the borehole was a potentially dangerous one, carrying the risk of robbery or attack en route. However, the difficulties did not end when the journey was finished for Jenifer, who then had to find work for the day to make a living.

"Life was always hard. Farming was not a possibility for me because we would need to grow crops for the whole year to produce enough food and income to survive, so the only coping strategy was to do casual labour jobs or seek assistance from others."

When her community began engaging with CARD, Jenifer was excited to get involved with the sand dam project after learning about the benefits of having a sand dam. She tells us:

Jenifer Bulaziyo - GVH Thomas"I had to join in construction and participate in everything that was involved because it is women and girls who are most affected by water scarcity. I am the one who fetches water, so I know the challenges that are faced and I had to try to ease those challenges."

Jenifer Bulaziyo, member of the GVH Thomas community, southern Malawi.

Jenifer was an involved participant in the sand dam project, taking an active role on the construction site.

"Despite being a woman, I made sure I fully participated together with the men. I learnt a lot about construction, including mixing cement, placing steel bars and other things."

Despite their project being delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jenifer’s community successfully constructed their sand dam and are now accessing a plentiful supply of clean and safe water. 

"Constructing a sand dam is our greatest achievement as a community. We have hope now that our children will be able to enjoy clean water for generations to come."

In addition to their sand dam, CARD helped to deliver training in Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH), equipping Jenifer’s community with the knowledge and skills to care for their own health.

"Officers have been coming to impart us with knowledge on sanitation, which is greatly improving the health of communities. Those who participated in the training have directed their knowledge to others. It has helped me to clean and take better care of my household than I did before."

CARD also provided support for sustainable agriculture, educating farmers on best practices and how to make the most of their sand dam to improve their farming.

"People have received seeds from CARD and have changed the way they plant. This meant some farmers harvested good yields which helped them during drought periods. We have also established a tree nursery and received training in forestry management, helping us to protect trees and prevent people cutting them down carelessly."

Looking to her future, Jenifer hopes to soon be farming her own land and earning an income for her family. She concludes our discussion by reflecting on the project.

"The sand dam has really been a good intervention. I am happy to have been part of the construction from bottom to top, because I feel that I have achieved a lot."

Our current appeal: please donate what you can to help a community in Ethiopia to build a 'Sand Dam for Peace', access clean water and reduce water-related conflict

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