On 5th September 2011, we received the tragic news that Joshua Silu Mukusya, the inspiration behind Sand Dams Worldwide’s foundation, had died at the age of 63. 

Simon Maddrell, our former Executive Director, first met Joshua in 1984 when Simon led an expedition to Kenya to build sand dams and water tanks. Joshua’s work to improve water access and food production in his community left a lasting impression on Simon - ultimately leading to 26 years of mutual support and collaboration. 

In 2002 Sand Dams Worldwide [formerly Excellent Development] was formed in the UK to support Joshua and the Utooni Development Project (UDP) to spread Simon's development model and sand dam technology throughout Ukambani, Joshua’s home region in Kenya. Three years later Simon, Joshua and Esther Ithau (Chair of UDP) registered the NGO Excellent Development Kenya (EDK) as their work grew.

EDK became fully independent in 2009 and was renamed Utooni Development Organisation in recognition of its roots, continuing to promote sand dams and rural development in Kenya.

Joshua’s knowledge of sand dams was unrivalled. For over 30 years he worked tirelessly to mobilise hundreds of communities to help themselves out of poverty. He was the pioneer of sand dams in Ukambani, but his work didn’t stop there. His mission to find the best solutions to the many challenges faced by the people he served, led him to trial and champion new development initiatives, such as terracing, planting trees, establishing seed banks and farm demo plots, to name a few. His work and passion for change transformed the lives of thousands of people, who will feel his legacy for years to come.

Unsurprisingly, Joshua’s funeral was heavily attended. More than 2,000 people turned out to pay their respects and to acknowledge Joshua’s achievements. Simon spoke about the importance of Joshua’s legacy:

"It is our responsibility to keep Joshua’s legacy alive and help it grow. Joshua’s work has the potential to impact dryland farmers the world over – and that is the legacy he deserves." 

Simon Maddrell, former Executive Director, Sand Dams Worldwide

Whilst Sand Dams Worldwide stopped working with UDO in early 2011, our connection to Joshua’s work remains strong. Through our strategic partnership with Africa Sand Dam Foundation, who’s Directors are Joshua’s son, Musila Silu and former EDK employee Kyalo Matheka, we continue to pioneer sand dams the world over.

Watch our 1,000th sand dam celebration video, featuring Joshua Silu Mukusya

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