As our strategic partner, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), approach the 10 year anniversary of their founding, Sand Dams Worldwide's Head of Programmes, Christine Whinney, recalls visiting one of the very first groups that we  supported with ASDF, to see where they are 10 years on. 

SHG members - Wikwatyo wa KiambaniOne of the groups we recently visited was Wikwatyo wa Kiambani, who started working with ASDF in 2010. Wikwatyo wa Kimbani had 60 members when they graduated from the programme with ASDF in 2015 and are still going strong with 60 members today! The group have constructed four sand dams in total, which are still supplying enough water to the community for all 3,000 people from the surrounding three villages to have year-round access to water for domestic purposes, drinking, watering their livestock, and for agriculture. There is even enough to supply the village school with water. This current situation of having sufficient water for the school and three local villages is very different from 10 years ago when the self-help group was just starting out.

The group’s chairman, Kalalya Kitanga, explained to us that before the sand dams were constructed, the river used to dry up from May until it rained again in November/December. The river water was also very saline at this time and was not good for drinking. During the dry season, people used to have to walk for up to 10km to get to the nearest water sources, waking up to leave at around 5am and not returning until 6pm.

To make things even worse, there were times the queues were so long that they had to either return home without water or spend the night in the queue. The situation has now changed; the water is much fresher and is no longer saline. There is no issue with water collection with people usually able to collect the water they need in as little as 20 minutes!

During their work with ASDF, the group learned new farming techniques to help them to adapt and better cope with frequent drought conditions in the area. They learnt how to terrace their land and channel water onto their farms, reducing the amount of soil and water run-off. They also learnt how to grow more suitable drought-tolerant crops, including cowpeas, green grams, and sorghum. Before they worked with ASDF the main crop being planted was maize, which used to regularly fail due to a lack of water. Today, the group are continuing with all of these techniques. They are able to harvest large crop yields and provide enough food for their families. The drought-resistant crops, which are also more traditional crops, have high energy levels, therefore the farmers and their families are also healthier and stronger. Furthermore, they have established a successful community seed bank that is shared out each year for the following planting season.

The group agreed that with the exception of the last rainy season, which had been longer and more rainy than usual, on the whole, the seasons were getting drier. However, the group felt they have been able to cope well with this change. Since the sand dams were built the area is much greener and the water table is higher. Before the sand dams, the river was badly eroded, but now the river is full of sand and the erosion has been reversed.

Thanks to the changes in their farming techniques, and a focus on planting trees as well as growing grasses that can be cut and stored as fodder for their livestock in the dry season, the community have been able to adapt to climate change and cope better with the increasingly dry seasons.

The group have also become much more financially secure. Following the establishment of a tree nursery, the group have sold their tree seedlings at 50 Kenyan Shillings (KES) for each seedling and raised KES 25,000 in total, which they used to open a bank account. Each member also contributed KES 500 of their own, which provided a further investment of KES 30,000 and established a source of money that group members could apply to for loans, to pay for expenses such as school fees.

With all of that in place, the group have aspirations for the future, wanting to install a shallow well and support the community on the other side of the river to access water more easily. They also plan to continue with their table banking arrangements to ensure there is money available for the community in the long term.

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