Published in March 2023

Sand Dams Worldwide (SDW) recently had the chance to visit the Mzondola community in Nsanje, southern Malawi. Speaking with two community members, we found out how their sand dam has helped them to overcome the challenging conditions facing their area and look forward to planning their futures.

Joyce Stonadi, treasurer of the Mzondola Sand Dam Committee, and Samson Moda, lead farmer and member of the Village Development Committee, spoke with us about the work they have been doing with SDW’s partner in Malawi, Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD) - and funding from Jersey Overseas Aid and other donors, including Guernsey Overseas Aid and Development Commission – since 2020.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, droughts, and multiple cyclones, the community have constructed one sand dam and worked with CARD on environmental protection, WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), and climate smart agriculture. 

Joyce describes some of the impacts of the cyclones (Cyclone Ana and Cyclone Idai) that devastated much of southern Malawi last year.

Joyce Stonadi - Treasurer of Mzondola Sand Dam Committee"This area is often affected by extreme weather, such as cyclones. Being in an area that is susceptible to such disasters, it is very good to have such projects that come and empower us. That way, we will be able to rely on ourselves in the future."

Joyce Stonadi, Treasurer of the Mzondola Sand Dam Committee, southern Malawi.

(Note: This interview took place before the recent Cyclone Freddy)

Joyce goes on to describe the water situation that the community had been facing. "The boreholes near to the village are very salty, so we faced challenges when drinking that water. People used to go to the river and dig scoop wells, but they were often contaminated by livestock, so sometimes we would get sick as the water was not very clean and hygienic."

Samson added that some people have even had to go to hospital because of getting sick from drinking dirty water.

The sand dam they have constructed has only seen one rainy season, so is not yet fully mature. However, as Joyce tells us, "We can see already that the dam is collecting a lot of water. We are celebrating in the community that we already have water for the dry season! We now expect to stop drinking water that is very salty or that is unhygienic, since we have clean water from the dam."

Working with SDW and CARD has not only had an impact on Mzondola community’s water access, but also on their agricultural practices. As Samson explains, "In the past we used to mainly plant maize but, due to climate change and extended dry spells, the maize did not do very well."

Joyce adds, "Our crops used to just grow taller in the stem without producing much in terms of the harvest. As a result of climate change and prolonged dry spells, we would sometimes even have to abandon our fields and leave them for livestock to graze, because there was nothing to harvest. That was what life was like in the past."

Now community members are planting crop varieties that grow much shorter and mature earlier. This enables farmers to harvest sooner, allowing them to get ahead of droughts before they have the chance to ruin the crop.

Samson Moda - Mzondola Development Committee member"There have been tremendous improvements in our harvests, which is a new experience for us. This has enabled us now to think more about our futures."

Samson Moda, Member of the Mzondola Village Development Committee, southern Malawi.

Samson shared with us that he hopes one day to make enough income to buy some iron sheets for his house, as well as to buy more livestock such as goats.

Joyce finishes by telling us, "I am a single mother and head of my family. Thanks to the sand dam project and through the improvements to my farming, I plan to earn some income and start a business for me and my family."

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