Published in September 2022

Periods of severe drought in southeast Kenya are becoming the norm for those who live there, as the effects of climate change continue to threaten community livelihoods. A sand dam can make the crucial difference amid these conditions, as this story from the Ukilyo wa Iveti Ndoo self-help group demonstrates.

Lenah Mwendwa, 27, is one of 10 children of Josephine Mbaki, Chairlady of the Ukilyo wa Iveti Ndoo Women’s self-help group (SHG). Located in the Ndoo village of Kitui County, southeast Kenya, Lenah’s family and the other members of this SHG have long been affected by the extended periods of drought that are becoming increasingly frequent in the region.

During an interview with our partners, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), Lenah explained that the residents of the area surrounding the Ndoo village depend heavily on farming and livestock rearing for their livelihoods. As a result of worsening droughts and water scarcity, most people used to struggle greatly with their food security and income levels.

Lenah Mwendwa on her farm - Ukilyo wa Iveti Ndoo Women"Although we could grow some crops in the past, we used to achieve poor yields due to severe water shortages. The short rainy seasons did not provide enough water and we often had to walk for up to 5km a day just to fetch sufficient water for drinking and cooking, let alone for farming."

Lenah Mwendwa, member of the Ukilyo wa Iveti Ndoo self-help group.

Thankfully, the community has since been able to implement a sand dam project in the nearby river channel with the support of ASDF and Sand Dams Worldwide, helping to tackle the issue of water scarcity that had burdened them for so long. Since constructing their sand dam and engaging with training provided by ASDF, the community has been able to cultivate a greater range of crops and achieve improved yields as a result of having more water for farming.

Lenah shared with us that her family have been able to plant a more diverse range of crops and trees, including bananas, beans, and papayas, thanks to the water provided by their sand dam. She said:

"During the last harvest, my family has managed to increase our farming yield and reap 30kg of cowpeas, because the sand dam is nearby and holds more than enough water to irrigate our crops."

She continues by telling us how the presence of a reliable water source has also enabled her family to cultivate Napier grass for their cattle to eat, improving the health of livestock and further enhancing their food security.

As the interview concludes, Lenah provides a final message for those who supported the project: "We are grateful to all the partners and supporters that came together to tackle the water shortages in our area. Thank you."

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