This project is being implemented by our partner African Sand Dam Foundation, and includes the construction of a sand dam.
Below is project information direct from our partner:
New Soweto self-help group was formed in the year 2013.The group was formed by amalgamation of two villages that is Soweto and Sombe Village. The group has a membership of 33 people. The group is located in Muthingiini sub-location, Nzambani location, Mtito-Andei division, Kibwezi district in Makueni County. Makueni County is one of the 8 counties in Eastern Kenya and one among the 3 counties in Ukambani region. The county borders Machakos to the north Taita-Taveta to the south, Kitui to the east and Kajiado County to the west. The main economic activity of the area is farming and livestock keeping
The county covers an area of 8,008.75km2 out of which 474.1km2 form the Tsavo West National Park and 724.3km2 forming Chyullu Game Reserve. It has a population of 888,527 and 186,478 household Census 2009.
The district is characterized by extreme rainfall variability. Typically, good seasons are interspersed with extremely dry seasons and variations in the onset of rainy season add to the difficulty of ensuring adequate food production. The district has two rainy seasons which peak in March/April (long rains) and November/December (short rains).
Reasons that led to formation of the group are:
- Water Scarcity. They came together in order to seek for assistance for water harvesting technologies. Through coming they wished to have a sand dam in their river channel.
- Tree planting. The community members would like to conserve the environment by planting trees. The trees will be source of income especially the fruit and timber trees and provide fodder for their livestock.
- Soil conservation. They envisioned reclaiming their farms by terracing them to control soil erosion. Terracing their farms would help to improve their yields despite minimal rainfall by conserving soil fertility. This is because most of the group members are not able to afford fertilisers to increase fertility of their farms.
The main challenges that the community faces are
1. Water insecurity
2. Poor harvests due to increased changes in climate characterised by frequent and prolonged droughts, reduced annual rainfall, lack of farm inputs i.e. quality seeds for planting, increased soil erosion leading to poor soil fertility, lack of skills and knowledge on climate smart agriculture.
The main water sources for the community members are River Sombe, private owned shallow wells and Muthingiini water pipeline. These water sources are more than 1km away from the community members. During the dry season most of community members rely on privately owned shallow well and pipeline. River Sombe only retains water during the rainy season necessitating community members to rely on the privately owned shallow wells and pipeline. The shallow wells during the dry season have a low water table and the water turns saline hence not suitable to use for cooking and livestock. The community rely on the pipeline for drinking water. In order to get to the water kiosks one has to cross Mombasa-Nairobi highway, which pose threat to the children even at sometimes leading to death. The water retails at KES 3 for 20 litres, which is not affordable to most community members. During the dry season there are long queues at the water kiosk causing increased time of more than 2 hours due to queuing.
Due to Water shortage the other related changes are:
- Lack of water results to low tree survival and growing. The community cannot be able to plant trees on their own and once they plant they wither up.
- Poor farming methods. In the dry period farmers spent a lot time fetching water. More than 5 hours are lost in a day to water fetching activity. This necessitates them not to prepare the farms adequately and also terracing them in time reducing their harvest.
- Low personal hygiene levels. The water is not sufficient for domestic purposes thus their hygiene level for such members are poor and at times they go without cooking because of lack of water.
- High incidence of water borne and water related diseases. The quality of the available water sources is highly polluted as humans and livestock all use these sources. Livestock waste such as urine seep in the water sources leading to contaminated water
The main crops that community grows are:
- green grams
- pigeon peas
The community rely on rain fed agriculture for food production. Unreliable rainfall in the area has contributed to food insecurity. Other reasons that have led to food insecurity in the area include:
- Lack of knowledge on improved farming methods. Farmers lack skills and expertise on improved farming method as they practise traditional farming practices. Also many farmers lack terraces because they do not have the tools and do not have the ability to buy the tools.
- Pests and diseases. As a result of climate change the farmers are experiencing new diseases that have been a challenge to them. Most of the farmers cannot afford the pesticides thus affecting their crops. For example like the pigeon peas one needs to spray severally in order to harvest.
- Lack of quality seeds. Most of the farmers rely on unscrupulous dealers who have uncertified seeds hence this affects their harvest. Also pest and diseases has also affected the availability of seeds because most of the farmers getting low yield.
Community members plant various trees, which include:
Farmers experience challenges on tree planting:
- Lack of knowledge on tree planting and care management. Most of the farmers lack knowledge on care management of trees. This necessitates the trees to dry often because the farmers dig holes, which are not standards. Also lack of poly tubes to propagate the trees from the nurseries limit the number of trees they can raise.
- Water problem. Due to lack of water the survival rates still remain low as trees dry up especially during the dry season.
- Termites. Termite infestation has posed a big challenge to tree planting as they continue to hurt the tree program. Farmers also are not able to buy the termite chemicals, which are expensive.
- Sand dams. Community seeks to create water security through building of sand dams. The sand dams will help to improve the availability of water for domestic use and vegetable growing which will help them to improve their incomes.
- Tree planting. With availability of water the community members will plant trees in their farms.
- Soil conservation. Through the support of tools the community will embark on a terracing program on their farms. This will help to conserve soil and improve their harvest despite low rainfall.
[Editor's Note: GPS coordinates for this project have not you been obtained.]