As many parts of Africa continue to suffer from the ever-increasing effects of climate change, we consider how our work is helping prepare communities to minimise the impact of this on their livelihoods.

Across Southern and Eastern Africa there is a growing climate crisis that is manifesting itself as a ‘humanitarian hunger crisis’. According to Oxfam climate policy advisor Kiri Hanks, as quoted in the Telegraph, ‘creeping disruption is becoming the new normal in Africa and that’s definitely down to climate change’.

Temperatures are rising in Africa at twice the global average and this is taking its toll. Extended periods of drought and ever more unreliable rainfall, in terms of both regularity and volume, are driving rising levels of food insecurity. This is only further compounded by catastrophic natural disasters, such as the recent Cyclone Idai, that can wash away harvests in the blink of an eye. These can then take multiple seasons to replace in a region which is also experiencing its worst droughts in decades, and where countries like Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Somalia are finding themselves dealing with both widespread flooding and starvation through drought.

This all stresses how climate change is having the greatest impact upon the poorest in our world. Communities in developing countries must be supported to deploy the tools to not only bring themselves out of poverty, but also become more resilient to the climate shocks that are to come.

Sand Dams Worldwide’s work seeks to do this through a number of projects, most notably our work to help communities build sand dams. These consist of concrete walls built across seasonal riverbeds that capture and collect water within sand behind the dam walls. Stored here it is protected from contamination and evaporation, even in ever more frequent periods of drought.

Ukilo wa Kilyamboo - Sand dam

In this way, sand dams act as a way for communities to ensure access to clean water throughout ever more volatile and unpredictable climate scenarios. The benefits of this access are wide-ranging, from allowing more time for children to attend school to increasing crop yields and providing surplus harvest for communities to sell, thereby helping to raise them out of poverty.

Access to clean water is essential in helping people out of poverty as we move forward into an uncertain future. A key part of our projects helps communities to make the most of their water source by supporting them to diversify their crops, plant more drought-resistant species, and implement climate-smart farming techniques such as terracing, which dramatically lowers levels of water runoff and soil erosion. We believe that our approach can be expanded to help dryland communities across the world as the problems they face grow with the changing climate.

Written by: Freddie Rollason (Sand Dams Worldwide volunteer)

Give a dam! Click here to make a donation to Sand Dams Worldwide so we can support people in drylands to transform their own lives with sand dams and lifelong access to clean water close to home