Sand dams - creating a sustainable future

Sand dams provide a year-round source of water close to people’s homes. This changes everything. Time once spent collecting water from distant sources can now be invested in education and farming. People who were once bound by the burden of collecting water, and dependent on unreliable and unpredictable rain, can seize control of their future. Sand dams provide the vital opportunity people need to work their own way out of poverty in dignity.

While our work often starts with a sand dam, it’s certainly not where it ends. Once water and time are available, a wealth of opportunities arise. We work through our local partners to advise communities on improved farming methods; supporting people to grow more food in the face of climate change and drought. It’s astonishing to see what can be achieved through these simple, but highly effective, techniques of climate-smart agriculture:


Terraces are steps dug into the slopes of river banks. They vastly reduce run-off and soil erosion by encouraging maximum water absorption into the land. This allows trees and crops to be grown near sand dams. Terraces can increase crop yields by 20%.

Mixed cropping

Mixed cropping is the planting of complementary crops together in the same field. Planting mutually beneficial crops together makes the most from limited water resources, balances soil nutrients, reduces weeds and pests, increases productivity and acts as an insurance against crop failure from extreme weather events, such as drought.

Cover crops

Some crops are planted primarily to keep moisture and nutrients in the soil. This reduces soil erosion; improves local biodiversity, minimises the presence of weeds and increases food crop production.

Zero grazing

Feeding and watering livestock in pens allows people to protect crops and collect manure which can be used to fertilise farms.

Planting trees

Trees are essential for life. They protect soil; reducing erosion and enabling the land to absorb more rainwater. In addition, they are also an essential source of fuel, food, fodder, compost, building materials and even medicines.

Seed banks

In the unpredictable climate of drylands, seed banks provide security. Community seed banks are stocked with quality seeds that are adapted to local environments. On the condition that twice the number of seeds are deposited in the bank than are withdrawn, these seeds are freely available for use by the community. This ensures the sustainability of the seed bank and provides security in the event of a failed harvests.

The 'Magnificant Seven' drought-tolerant seeds transforming lives in drylands