Published in January 2023

Sarah Field, Sand Dams Worldwide trustee, reports from attending and presenting at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28).

As a committed Trustee of Sand Dams Worldwide and regular participant of their amazing sand dam expeditions in Kenya, I‘m aware that to achieve our audacious strategy to 2050 (one million sand dams to lift some 0.5 billion out of water poverty in drylands) we need to be active in seeking ways to expand the charity’s horizons, with new funding, influencing and implementation partnerships.

In line with those objectives, I took the opportunity to attend the first few days of December’s globally recognized 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, invited by one of the charity’s long-standing supporters, Rotary International, to their first ever dedicated Pavilion at the Conference in the Blue Zone. Over 200 Rotary clubs have supported sand dam projects over the years, enabling over 70 sand dams, in turn benefitting over 130,000 community members. 

My participation on the Rotary presentations and panels quickly kickstarted engaging, productive conversations that really didn’t stop until I was on the plane on the way home four days later, extending well into shared taxi rides hotel lobbies and off-campus evening events. Many were hearing about sand dams as a well proven, permanent, nature-based solution for the first time and as ever this provoked a lot of questions and opportunities for discussions.

I focused on introducing the work of the amazing team at Sand Dams Worldwide to as many as possible within the world of freshwater related sustainability work in drylands, so that those considering water capture interventions can get access to the knowledge needed to consider including sand dams in their toolkits going forward.

"The associated benefits of sand dams impact many of the UNSDGs, from water restoration, the regreening and restoring of local ecosystems and success of sustainable agroforestry, tree planting schemes and food production, to the gender-based benefits of restoring hope, dignity and opportunity to women and children with a clean, local source of water, enabling related WASH based education and training programmes."

The debates at COP28 were at times hotter than the high temperatures outside but certainly took the climate change debate into the heartlands of the world’s critical decision makers. I returned to the UK a little sunburnt but with new friends and new opportunities for Sand Dams Worldwide. In its strategy, the charity has a well charted course to steer in large scale alleviation of water poverty in drylands with sand dams. Being ‘in the room’ where so many gather who want to make rapid progress on climate goals at scale, with a host partner as committed to the goals as Rotary International, will hopefully only enhance our likelihood of success.

Sarah Field 
Trustee, Sand Dams Worldwide

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