Published in May 2019

Climate change has rarely been out of the news recently. Climate change activists have been occupying the streets and landmarks of London, there have been school strikes across the world with young people demanding action on this pressing issue and an impressive young woman, Greta Thunberg, has been sitting calmly alongside some of the world’s most powerful leaders pressing for immediate action to prevent an environmental disaster that will have implications for us all.

The threats brought about by a changing climate are already being felt. The risk of flooding to low lying cities is rising. Elsewhere land is becoming degraded as the patterns of seasonal rainfall shift resulting in drought conditions.

I have witnessed the impacts of both of these new patterns of weather first hand. In the South East of England, where I live, I have seen rivers swell and spill onto fields, roads and houses after record levels of winter rain. And in Kenya, I have seen what the failure of three long rainy seasons, usually March to May, is doing to some of the country’s poorest rural communities.

The changes to seasonal rainfall being seen across parts of eastern Africa means that crops that have traditionally been irrigated by rainfall are no longer thriving and communities are being displaced. Without water the plants that stabilise the soil wither and die. The soil starts to break down and erode and the vicious cycle of land degradation starts. Wind and water erosion can aggravate the damage, carrying away precious topsoil and leaving behind an infertile mix of dust and sand and ultimately desert. Once land has reached such a degraded state it’s hard to restore it to a condition where crops can be grown to feed a hungry population. That’s why there is a global call to halt the growth of degraded land (see here the UN’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought).

It’s easy to feel despondent when faced with such powerful forces of change. But there are things that can be done to slow and even halt land degradation. Just as I have seen the impact of extreme weather patterns at home and abroad, I have also seen how a modest investment in a sand dam, built in the right place, can help store water for longer and retain the fertility of the land around it.

Watch how a sand dam works here: 

A sand dam can help moderate the increasingly erratic nature of rainfall patterns that are being seen across the world’s dry and fragile landscapes. It can give a community the confidence it needs to stay on the land and farm it, keeping it productive and fertile.

‘Land has true value – invest in it’ has been the campaign call from the UN. And that’s just we are doing at Sand Dams Worldwide, investing in land, sand dams and climate-smart agriculture, to help people now and for the future. 

Please donate what you can to help rural communities transform their own lives with sand dams and climate-smart farming, and ensure no one gets left behind