Kitandi: a fruitful future
John Mulika, Chairman of the Kitandi self-help group, tells us about his passion for Sand Dams.
The sweetest fruit. John shared Mangoes from the communities fruit trees. They were the sweetest I had ever eaten.
Even the bees get to enjoy them!
Simon Maddrell, our Executive Director, recently re-visited the Kitandi fruit growers - a self-help group we used to support in Kenya.
This is his story.
"It was over three years since I’d seen John Mulika, Chair of the Kitandi Fruit Growers self-help group. It was delightful to see the changes as we walked up the valley from sand dam to sand dam and enjoyed all the developments that had occurred as a result. I thought that, it being March and between the two rainy seasons, we had an unrealistic view of the impacts. However, John explained that the odd micro-climate in Kitandi valley meant that March was always the hottest and driest month of the year. Although seeing women washing clothes in the valley and farmers irrigating vegetables and trees you wouldn’t believe it.
"Kitandi Fruit Growers started their group in 2005 and started working with Excellent Development Kenya in 2008. True to their name John explained: 'Almost every member has fruit trees like you have seen in my farm. Although I am leading the group in fruit trees other members have improved in the growing.'
"John put all this success down to the 15 sand dams they have built over 4 years. He said: 'What we are able to see within the river channels and the farms could not be seen if the dams were not there.' The group have also been planting vegetables in a communal plot in the last two seasons – firstly earning KSh 25,000 (approx. $300) and then KSh 40,000 ($450), which is an enormous amount of money in a subsistence farming environment. They have even been able to invest their profits in a water pump, which will enable future growth.
"Quite rightly John is very proud. He said: 'I am more pleased because the life of the people who come and depend on the river channel. I am sure the dams are here to stay. So the future generations will still be getting water from the sand dams.'
"I asked him how he felt when he woke up in the morning. With a serene smile he summed up that legacy he will leave behind him. John said: 'In my next life I will be a happy man because my dream of having the river full of dams was fulfilled.'
"To create such a difference doesn’t come easy and John had two messages for other communities thinking of building sand dams. He said: 'I would tell them there is life in dams. Because the water in the dams can be used as we get rainwater and the water will support people in their lives. I would also request them to be devoted to the work because it is hard work to do the dams.'
"In some ways it was sad that we no longer support Kitandi but they continue to go from strength to strength working with the Utooni Development Organisation who we haven’t funded since 2010. John, such a kindly man, offered some consolation. He said: 'I am also happy. As you say you will not forget us, we will not forget you Simon, as a person, because of the work you initiated within the community.'
"Kitandi fruit growers encapsualte what Excellent is trying to achieve: communities continuing to make great progress even after we are no longer supporting them."
In my next life I will be a happy man because my dream of having the river full of [sand] dams was fulfilled
John Mulika, Chairman of the Kitandi fruit growers self-help group, Kenya.