Support people living in drylands build sand dams
Drylands are some of the toughest places in the world to live. The intense heat, dust and lack of water make life a daily struggle. For the people who live there, having a local, reliable supply of water changes everything.
I’m Charlie Taylor – Sand Dam Foreman at Excellent Development. I’ve spent the past six months working in Kenya and Rajasthan, assisting with the siting, design and construction of sand dams, and providing guidance and support to our partners there. I’ve seen tremendous changes that people are making to their lives with sand dams and sustainable farming – opportunities that have only been made available to them thanks to supporters like you.
My first experience of seeing a sand dam being built was incredibly inspiring. Around 300 people working ceaselessly for the benefit of themselves or their neighbours. Hundreds of pairs of hands on site, working on and on through the day – fuelled by their determination to secure a local supply of water for themselves, their families, their neighbours, their livestock and small farms.
I had been in Kenya for just one week when I joined them on this dam building day. Since then, I have seen many more sand dams and worked on them at various stages. Every time, it is the community effort and spirit that amazes me.
One of the first people I met in Kenya was the chairman of the self-help group, Ndunda. Over a cup of tea, I asked him, "What difference will the dam make?"
He replied, "It will make a big difference. We spend a lot of time getting water at the moment. It will be much closer. We will have water for the shambas [small farms] and we will grow crops to sell. This will give us money for school fees and health costs."
Ndunda is only 30 and was the driving force behind this group, which is about two-thirds female and many, like myself, not in the first flush of youth. Their undertaking with such a small group is incredibly impressive. The work is hot and exhausting, and by the end of each day I was fit to drop. And despite the gruelling pace, they later agreed together to work on Saturdays as well to gather rocks and sand ready for the following week – testament to their determination to make the most of this opportunity.
The local self-help group members are willing and able to join hands and do all the mixing, shovelling, fetching, carrying, carting and loading that it takes to build a dam. But what they can’t come up with is the cash – to buy the cement, the reinforcing materials, nor the shuttering timber, tools and nails.
It costs Excellent Development £7 to supply a 50kg bag of cement to a community in Kenya – and some dams need as much as 1200 bags of cement. Most of the local community members live on less than £1.50 per day, so this is a huge sum of money for them to find. For this, they rely on help from outside.
Here are some ways in which your donation could help:
- £7 could provide a bag of cement for a community like Ndunda's, to help build a sand dam
- £15 could provide a claw bar, to break stones into smaller pieces for dam building
- £35 could provide a wheelbarrow, needed to carry heavy items on the dam site
- £55 could provide a roll of barbed wire, to reinforce a sand dam and anchor it to the bedrock
- £150 could provide a set of 25 shovels, enough for the whole community to work together and build a sand dam, securing a better future for themselves and their children
There is great potential for people living in drylands to completely transform their lives with sand dams, and climate-smart farming, and the willingness, determination and huge contribution made by the local communities are vital to their success. But they need materials, guidance and expertise, to make sure dams are built well and last for a lifetime, and training to ensure they can make the best use of the water once they have it, so your support really is essential.
My first experience of seeing a sand dam being built was incredibly inspiring... Hundreds of pairs of hands on site, working on and on through the day – fuelled by their determination to secure a local supply of water for themselves, their families, their neighbours, their livestock and small farms.
Charlie Taylor, Sand Dam Foreman at Excellent Development