“We used to go and wait for almost three, four hours at night, and we would also be scared as we travelled very far. But now, the water is near and we don’t have any problem.”

Dorcas Muinde, Chaplin of the Ilengeni self-help group, southeast Kenya

Can you imagine having to walk with your children for hours through the night to fetch water, at frequent risk of being attacked by wild animals along the way, only to find you then had to wait in a long queue for water which wasn’t even safe to drink?

For the Ilengeni self-help group in southeast Kenya, this was their reality. Dorcas Muinde, Chaplin of the group remembers what it was like for them:

“We used to go after taking our dinner around 9pm. We would spend almost three hours queuing, so we wouldn’t get back to our home until around 1am.” 

This long journey in the night was particularly dangerous for women, who risked getting raped along the way. They would often go to collect water in groups for added security.Jackson Maluku and Dorkus Muinde from Ilengeni self-help group, southeast Kenya

Children too had to make the treacherous journey in the dark, instead of sleeping at home, ready for school the next day.

“It was dangerous for children at this time, because they should be sleeping, but sometimes they were forced to go there at night to fetch the water... they could be attacked by the animals and even by bad people, hooligans.”

Jackson Maluka, Chairman of the Ilengeni self-help group.

The river which this community had previously used as a source of water would often dry up, forcing them to make this dangerous journey, walking 3-4 km to the next nearest source, which even then would still be dirty and unsafe to use.

Unfortunately, their experience is not uncommon; in Kenya alone, 19 million people still don’t have access to safe water (Water.org).

Instead, many people here are spending hours every day collecting water – time which could be spent working to provide an income for their family, or for children, precious time which could be spent at school.

The elderly, women and children are being left behind, trapped in a cycle of water poverty.

But this is no longer the case for the Ilengeni community. Thanks to your support, they have been able to build their own sand dam, bringing a lifetime supply of clean water close to their homes. A sand dam is a concrete wall built across a sandy riverbed that can capture up to 40 million litres of water, replenishing every rainy season. That water is stored safe from disease and evaporation within the sand, and can provide enough year-round water for over 1,000 people.

Watch here to see how a sand dam works:

The Ilengeni self-help group completed construction of their very first sand dam in September 2018, and already, having a consistent source of clean water is having a huge impact on their day to day lives. Jackson expresses his delight with what they have been able to achieve:

“We are grateful. We are drinking pure water now. That’s why you are seeing our faces shine! Now that the water is only 200m away, we can save time. And time is money, that’s what they say.”

Jackson also speaks of the training and support they have received, learning about climate-smart farming practices to help ensure they can grow more crops and increase food production, in turn, helping them to generate more income.

“It will change the way we are farming. We are going to put into practice what we are trained on, and we believe we will have higher harvests in the future.”

Already, using water supplied by the sand dam, the group have planted over 1,000 trees including orange and mango trees, providing a much-needed source of nutritious food, as well as an additional source of income from selling any surplus in the local market. Jackson adds:

“We will have finances. We will be able to educate our children, pay school fees, and do many other things.” Jackson Maluka

With your support we can help more communities like the Ilengeni self-help group to have a source of clean water close to home, access to which is critical to enable them to transform their own lives.

Here is just an example of how your support could help people in rural dryland communities:

  • £15 could provide a dryland farmer with drought-tolerant seeds, to grow a reliable source of fresh food for their children
  • £30 could supply a community with a rake. gardening fork, shovel and watering cans, to plant trees for fruit, fuel or fodder
  • £60 could provide a community with a roll of barbed wire, to reinforce their sand dam and keep it anchored to the bedrock

We believe that vulnerable people can create their own sustainable futures.

Please donate to help rural communities transform their own lives, and ensure no one gets left behind.