Published in May 2023

For some people living in southeast Kenya, water scarcity is a struggle that makes life even harder for already hard-working people. In an interview with a member of the Kyanzonzo Unit self-help group (SHG), we learn how the completion of a sand dam has provided renewed hope for the community that they can see more rewards for their hard work in the future.

Veronica Mumbua, a 50-year-old mother of four, is an active member of the Kyanzonzo Unit self-help group (SHG), which is located in the Mutanda village of Makueni county, southeast Kenya. Like most people in her village, she is a subsistence farmer who relies on agriculture to feed her family and sustain her livelihood.

Veronica joined the SHG hoping to help with the establishment of a shared water source nearer to home, as water scarcity had become a major problem for the community. She tells us that at the time of joining the group, she was having to make a 6km trip to collect water from the nearest river. As the journey was so long, local women (to whom water collection most frequently falls) would often have to leave their homes at dawn because the trip could take most of the day to complete. The exhaustion experienced as a result of this journey was such that many would not be able to make it two days in a row, particularly when considered on top of their other daily responsibilities, further increasing the strain on each trip that they were able to make.

On top of her own struggles, Veronica explains that local children suffered in particular as a result of water scarcity. As children would often be needed to help complete water collection trips, they would regularly miss school and struggle to keep up with their studies, especially during the driest seasons.

To make matters even harder, the water that was collected from the river was often not of a clean standard. Veronica says that she and her family would often fall sick as they didn’t have the capacity to treat their water. "I have been falling sick often for around two years now" she tells us.

Veronica Mumbua - Member of the Kyanzonzo Unit SHG"I visited a hospital during this period and was diagnosed with Amoeba. It has been very serious for me and even meant that I could not eat certain foods, but now I am happy to say that I am healed.”

Veronica Mumbua, member of the Kyanzonzo Unit SHG, southeast Kenya.

Veronica shares that when she joined the Kyanzonzo Unit SHG, the hardest challenge for the group was balancing the burden of water collection with their efforts to find a long-term solution to the issue. Even after beginning their sand dam project with the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), our partners in southeast Kenya, Veronica emphasised how hard the group had to work to make the project a success. However, thanks to the great motivation and work ethic of the SHG members, the group were able to complete construction of their first sand dam in April 2022.

Veronica Mumbua - Member of the Kyanzonzo Unit SHG"Thanks to the sand dam, I know that in the near future I will be able to grow many new crops, such as oranges, bananas, and tomatoes. I plan to sell the surplus to increase my income and use the money to improve living standards for my family."

Veronica Mumbua, member of the Kyanzonzo Unit SHG, southeast Kenya.

As the interview came to an end, Veronica expressed her great happiness at the completion of the sand dam for her community. She closes by telling us "We are very optimistic about the future now... We know that after a few rainy seasons the sand dam will hold enough water for the whole community."

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