In February 2019 we started a new programme, funded by Jersey Overseas Aid, to pilot sand dams in Malawi. According to our research there are no sand dams in Malawi, so this is a very exciting project where we hope to introduce sand dams into a completely new country.

We are working in the two most southern districts of Malawi; Chikhwawa and Nsanje. Both districts regularly suffer from drought and food shortages. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world (ranked 171 out of 189 on the Human Development Index), and Nsanje district is one of the poorest in Malawi.

Since February, our Zimbabwean partner, the Dabane Trust have been supporting our new partners in Malawi, Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD) to survey rivers throughout the two districts, and assess their suitability for sand dams.

In total 18 river channels were walked and assessed. Assessments included geological and topographical surveys, sediment testing, and sociological surveys to identify the best rivers most suited for sand dams. From this study, four rivers were highlighted as being very suitable for sand dams, and having motivated and interested communities nearby.

Malawi - Sand Dam Pilot

Recently (October 2019) Sand Dams Worldwide visited with the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (our partners in southeast Kenya) and Dabane to finalise the three communities and sites for this pilot study, as well as designing the dams. We spent three days visiting the rivers, meeting with the communities and carrying out the detailed measurements in order to draw up the designs. We had visited the area and were confident that some good sites could be found, and were certainly in no doubt about the need for sand dams here and the benefits they could bring. We are now confident there is very significant potential for sand dams in this part of Malawi and, if the pilot goes well, a longer-term programme can be developed.

During November representatives from the three selected communities, as well as two government representatives (one from each of the two districts), visited Zimbabwe to see sand dams there and meet communities who have constructed and have been benefiting from sand dams. Following this visit, the focus is now on the communities to collect the stones and sand, and start preparing the sites ready for sand dam construction to begin. We hope to start constructing the first sand dam in April 2020 once the rains finish.

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