Pastor Matayo is a community leader in FRB’s Kenya Ngong-Intashat program who was involved in sand dam construction across a seasonal river, from start to finish. The program’s goal is to increase food security by making water more available for household use, livestock and agriculture.
Matayo said that the sand-dam building experience mobilized his community to respond to their own needs for water and food security, and they all benefited from the realization that they could make it happen by working together. He learned a great deal from observing his group’s collective response to solving the problem of water scarcity. Matayo said that when the sand dam is “mature” (meaning it is full of sand and water), having water closer to the community will help to alleviate poverty.
Traditionally pastoralists, the nomadic Maasai are making the challenging adjustment to permanent settled living in the semi-arid, rocky, hot, savannah grasslands where seasonal rivers have water four months a year at most, and infrequent strong rains often cause destructive flash floods.
Sand dams slow rushing river waters enough for the sand they carry to accumulate. Water gets trapped in the sand, is protected from insects, pollutants and evaporation, and can be harvested during the months when the rivers are dry.
Community self-help groups have built two sand dams this year and received trainings on constructing terraces to avoid dam siltation and control soil erosion. They’ve learned the uses of sand dam water for agriculture and livestock once the sand dams are mature. Trainings follow on pasture preservation, irrigation of vegetables, and income-generating activities such as tree nurseries, hay baling and selling vegetables in order to increase their income base.
It is good for the self-help group that owns the dam to work first with an experienced group. During sand dam construction by Pastor Matayo’s community, the local folks showed good ownership, morale and motivation in the face of the exhausting work, and kept working even after two helping gorups left.