Published in October 2023

Sand dam projects can play a key role in alleviating water shortages in rural communities, but they can also do so much more. Speaking with a member of the Gurdo community in Ethiopia, we hear about how achieving a reliable water source is helping people to thrive and develop their livelihoods without the burdens of water scarcity.

Buno Gori is a 29-year-old resident of Gurdo kebele (sub-district) in southern Ethiopia. She is married and is a mother to two children, a son and daughter. She is an agro-pastoralist whose livelihood is dependent on both livestock and crop production, like many others in the wider community.

Buno explains to us that, before the Gurdo sand dam project, she struggled to find enough water for herself and her family. Like many other women in the region, she would have to travel for long distances each day to fetch water. The journey could be very difficult and take hours to complete, leaving women like Buno with little time and energy for the rest of the day’s activities.

Despite making this tough journey on a daily basis, completing the task alone meant that women were not always able to fetch enough water to meet the needs of their families. Buno described this situation for us in more detail, sharing that, "After travelling for three hours, we could still only bring 20 litres of water on each trip. Our children would use this for drinking, whilst adults would have to travel to drink at the water source."

What water people could find was often dirty and could even carry waterborne diseases, yet they had little choice but to drink it and risk serious illness due to the lack of any alternative sources. In Buno’s own words, "We didn’t have an option other than dying of thirst".

In the context of these great challenges, the Gurdo community were able to construct a sand dam with the support of Action For Development (AFD), Sand Dams Worldwide (SDW) and funding from Jersey Overseas Aid, Isle of Man Government and the Beatrice Laing Trust, providing themselves with a supply of clean water that they could use for drinking, watering livestock, and cultivating crops on their farms.

On top of supporting with the sand dam’s construction, AFD also provided training for community members in conservation agriculture and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), helping them to make the most of their new water source and minimise the spread of waterborne diseases. Buno even proudly declared that, "there is now no waterborne disease in my family". 

A key part of the sand dam project also involved supplying farmers with seedlings to grow more trees, such as mango, papaya and moringa trees. Being able to grow these new kinds of produce helps people to expand their farms, add variety to their diets, and regreen their environments with healthy vegetation.

Buno Gori - member of the Gurdo community - southern Ethiopia"The sand dam project has brought life to the community, not just for us but for our livestock and our crops too. Now I can fetch water from near my home and use it to grow new produce. In the coming days, I will sell my produce in the local market and use the money to expand my farm."

Buno Gori, member of the Gurdo community, southern Ethiopia.

Buno concludes our interview by stating that the Gurdo sand dam project has helped the community to become more resilient to their climate, by providing clean water and improving the productivity of their farming. She expresses her gratitude towards AFD and those who supported the project for the change it has brought to their lives.

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