Charlie O'Doherty, Sand Dams Worldwide's former Trust Fundraising Manager, reports from a visit to rural Kenya to see the impact support from charitable trusts is having on people's lives.

A life of droughts and floods

"One of the most striking things when first visiting a dryland farming community is hearing about life with two contrasting realities: On one hand there are periods of relentless drought. On the other there are intense seasonal rains which sweep away fertile top soil, rendering land unproductive. There is either far too little rain or far too much.

"I recently visited a community who have been partly supported by Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission. They told me how they are transforming their lives through sand dams.

Self-help and determination

Wumiisyo wa Kiumoni SHG, Kenya"The community is called the Wumiisyo wa Kiumoni self-help group (SHG). They have already built two sand dams in their riverbed and are reaping the benefits of their soil and water conservation activities. Nicoholas Kalunda, a member of the group, said: 'Before the sand dams were constructed, it was quite hard. There was a lot of water insecurity. Vegetable growing was not possible.'

"There is something deeply impressive about the group’s determination to transform their lives. Faith Mwulu said: 'In the morning I wake up and prepare breakfast for my family. I have a small plot of land that I am using to grow vegetables. That’s where I spend most of my time.'

"Thanks to this their seed bank is full of quality seeds and their demonstration plot is generating lots of interest from neighbouring groups – encouraging other communities to invest in sand dams and the same farming methods.

"Most of the time the rains did not do well... when the water dried up we could not plant vegetables. Now we are selling food."

Nicholas Kalunda, Wumiisyo wa Kiumoni SHG, Kenya.

"It is hard to believe that three years ago the people of Wumiisya wa Kiumoni were struggling to make ends meet. Now the improved land produces diverse and nutritious crops such as: cassava, pearl millet, sorghum, cowpeas, greem grams, finger millet, dolichos lab lab and pigeon peas.

"Nicholas Kalunda said: 'Most of the time the rains did not do well... when the water dried up we could not plant vegetables. Now we are selling food.'

From hunger to surplus. The people of Wumiisya wa Kiumoni are transforming their lives.

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