Light Of Thwake

December, 2013

They no longer go to Tawa market as buyers of vegetables but instead, they now sell vegetables at a profit.

Light Of Thwake

With billions of litres of water harvested in their sand dam the Kyeni Kya Thwake Self Help Group members whose name directly translates to “Light of Thwake” have indeed seen the light.

Water has shed light into their livelihoods; they are reaping great yields from the sale of onions. Before they constructed the sand dam these farmers were not able to grow any vegetables and they depended on rain fed agriculture, which could not support vegetable farming.  They had to sell some of their livestock, so to be able to purchase food such as green grams, (legumes) beans and pigeon peas. They no longer go to Tawa market as buyers of vegetables but instead, they now sell vegetables at a profit.


Access to water was a daily challenge in the community and growing enough food to eat and for surplus sale was impossible. But after Catherine Mwongeli and the self-help group members built their first sand dam, they now have enough water for all of their domestic use and vegetable farming. They have been growing vegetable such as kale, spinach, tomatoes and onions. Their most profitable crop so far is onion, where they have earned thousands in Kenyan Shillings from selling them at market.

The income that they now earn from selling vegetables would not be possible without the sand dam.  Having the sand dam eliminates the need of queuing for water, Catherine explains that they are using the extra time saved to till and tend to their farms and dig terraces so as to increase their farm produce. The sand dam also allows them to be independent from erratic rain fed agriculture.

Catherine further explains, “We experienced hard economic times because of dependency on rain fed agriculture. Due to erratic rains our fruit trees dried up thus affecting our income. There was no water for vegetable farming meaning if the rains failed we ended up not harvesting anything. Before constructing the first sand dam, we experienced acute water shortages, as the level of the river channel was very low, very dry and rocky. We used to queue for many hours at the river at one scoop hole which was the source of water for the entire village. I used to wake up at 4am in the morning and return home in the afternoon carrying one 20-litre Jerri can. After constructing our first sand dam we now have water within close proximity to our homes and farms. Using water from the sand dam we have grown onions and so far we have sold onions worth Ksh 6,500.”


With funding from The Water Project, ASDF has been able to train and assist the self help group members on trainings for sustainable farming techniques, tree planting and standard farm terraces, from which they have witnessed an increase in their yields.

Catherine has now doubled her yields because the terraces ensure she gets year round harvest, as she further explains,“ I have terraced my farm and my yields have doubled from the drought tolerant seeds given to us by Africa Sand Dam Foundation. We dig three feet by two feet and these terraces have done magic to our farms. In the past we would dig very shallow terraces, which would be washed away by heavy down pour giving us the tedious job of redoing the terraces every rainy season. Now, we dig deep and wide terraces which harvest an abundance of water for our crops to yield even when the rains have gone.”


 Farm terraces leave a steep slope to capture rainwater and topsoil from running down and eroding the soil. Water seeps from the terrace into the soil beneath, irrigating the section of the field below the terrace and keeping the plants alive.

These farmers have incorporated sustainable plans for the future to improve their food and water security and their general livelihoods. Another woman farmer in the group states, “our future plans are to build more sand dams, grow more food to eat and sell and start a and goat project to improve the local breeds.”

The Kyeni Kya Thwake Self Help has a vision for the future ahead, but they will need your support to construct more sand dams to make their plans reality. Take the time to consider donating today to a sand dam project to radically transform the lives of women in Africa and help create sustainable farming practices around Kenya.

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