Sand Dams Worldwide’s partners in southeast Kenya, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), work closely with community self-help groups over a number of years to build sand dams and other rainwater harvesting systems. They also deliver training in many health topics and income-generating activities. All of ASDF’s outputs and outcomes are monitored to measure their effectiveness, be that the time taken to water, a variety of crops being planted, or changes in incomes. Yet there was previously no research conducted by ASDF or Sand Dams Worldwide into how the overall quality of life can improve during the time that communities are engaged with project work.

Therefore, in 2015, we conducted the first part of a pilot study to examine this change in quality of life. This was done through a questionnaire which was split into 4 categories: Hope, Empowerment, Confidence, and Pride, with numerous questions within each. The structure of the questionnaire allowed responses to be grouped into positive and negative categories to provide easy comparison. The responses would then be collated to provide a general overall picture as to the quality of life for communities. The questions included things like “How confident would you be to take on more traditionally male roles?” and “To what extent were you able to achieve the goals (set this year)?”

The questionnaire was asked to around 200 people at the start of their group’s engagement with ASDF, again towards the end of working with them, and then was repeated two years later in 2017. This gave a wide spread of data for analysis.

Within the category of hope, the survey saw increases in the positive responses from baseline, to endline, and again to the repeat in 2017. In 2015 the baseline received 42% positive responses, the endline received 93%, and in the 2017 questionnaire, a staggering 99% of responses were positive. This shows that during the time spent working with ASDF, communities gained much more hope for the future than they had previously.

The feeling of empowerment in the communities questioned also increased significantly between the rounds of questionnaires; from 39% positive responses in the first questionnaire to 75% in the last. This is particularly important regarding the women of the groups, with 90% of them feeling more confident than before in performing what are traditionally seen in the rural Kenyan context as male roles, such as deciding which crops to plant and how to spend household income. 

In terms of confidence, in the 2015 baseline survey, 60% of responses were negative, signifying that most of the participants had little or no confidence. In 2017, this figure had reduced to just 10%.

Levels of pride saw the most dramatic increase within the first year. Between the endline and the baseline in 2015, positive responses from participants went from 66% at the baseline to 99% at the endline, probably as a result of the communities being proud of the work achieved together with ASDF. 

Though it was only a small pilot study, the results provide a great indication that the work of ASDF and Sand Dams Worldwide is closely correlated with increases in quality of life. To try and strengthen this correlation even further, ASDF are now trialling including the quality of life survey in their regular monitoring and evaluation procedures.

This data will then be used as part of our ongoing strategy to influence the construction of 10,000 sand dams by 2025. By demonstrating the numerous benefits of sand dams, not only in terms of providing greater access to water, but also by showing a link to the overall quality of life of beneficiaries, it will help other decision makers to build sand dams in drylands across the world. 

Please consider donating today, to help us meet our urgent need. Your donation will ensure that fewer women and children have to face the terrible health consequences of collecting and using unprotected water, and more families can begin to thrive.