The report below on the construction of a sand dam comes direct from our partner in Kenya (edited for clarity).
The group was formed in the year 2014. The group has a membership of 24 people comprising of 17 males and 7 female. Initially the members of the group were members of Kee Self-help group which borders the group. The members pulled out of the group as majority of the members come from the same village of Yaunde which has a population of 342 people. Due to the high demand of water in the village the existing water sources that had been constructed by Kee SHG could not meet this demand. The group learned a lot and more and began mobilizing needed resources. After organizing, they decided to request support from ASDF as an independent group.
Reasons for group formation
• Starting of a merry go round financial support system. This enables community members to support each other on socio economic issues which related to small loans and savings.
• Water problem. In the months of July to September the community members experience water problem in the area. Through coming together the group wished to a have sand dams along their river channels which would enable them to also engage in farming as economic activity to grow their incomes.
• Soil and environment conservation. The group wanted to dig terraces that would conserve soil on their farms and dig tree holes that they would plant trees in the farms to prevent soil erosion.
• Improve their knowledge on farming and income generating activities through trainings and exposure.
The main source of water is River Tawa. The distance of the water source from their homes is 3 km. The community only depend on river Tawa for water. During the dry season they face acute water shortage in the area. They spend 4 hours and above in the dry season due to long queues at the scoop hole.
They are many donkeys at the water point which are used to fetch water thus making long queues. "Most of us wake up early in the morning around 5 am in order to go and fetch water in order to return home by 7am. The children will also at times accompany us to the water points so as to get water to take to school. This makes them tired by the time they get to the schools and can’t concentrate well." - Mueni Peter
"Once we construct the dam in the river channel near us we will get water easier within shorter distance and use it for farming. The river channel usually has lots of water which we want to harvest and store for future use." - Paul Mutua.
The main crops the community grows are:
• pigeon peas
Reasons for poor harvest
• Lack terraces. Most of the farms their lack terraces which prevent soil erosion thus maintaining soil fertility which supports crop production. Also the farmers lack tools which are used for terracing and they cannot afford them. The lack of training and knowledge on how to dig the terraces reduces the ability of farmers to dig terraces which can last for more than two seasons hence the recurrent expenditure of repairing and redoing terraces each season discourages them from digging them
• Unreliable rainfall pattern. The community rely on rain fed agriculture. Unreliable rainfall in the area has led to poor harvest hence food insecurity.
• Late planting. Due to lack of seeds forces the farmers to plant late after the onset of rains leading to poor harvest.
Community members plant various trees which include:
• Paw paws
• Blue gum
They face challenges in tree planting:
• Water problem. Due to lack of water the survival rates still remain low as trees dry up especially during the dry season.
• Termite infestation. Farmers lack the skills to control the termites and the termite chemicals thus most of the trees not surviving.
May- material collection involves collecting sand, stones to the project site where the dam will be constructed. For this group the materials are not readily available. Sand harvesting currently is being controlled by the government. Any sand harvesting by a group has to seek permission from the government. It is a long and tedious process that has caused delays in the overall delivery of this project.
June update- The materials collection for this group was quite a task as the materials were not readily available. The materials i.e stones and sand, have to be collected more than 5 km away at a cost. Members are contributing at least 20 dollars each to have the materials collected and transported to the site.
May- The trenching process involves digging the base foundation to get the base rock upon which the dam will be laid. This gives the dam stability to withstand any water pressure in the river channel. The group used three days to have the trench ready for construction of the dam.
June- Trenching took 3 weeks for the group to find a suitable base rock. The area does not have suitable base rock and that’s why the digging took long. ASDF supported the group with tools that will help in making work easier for them.
Actual construction process
The construction is on-going and the group hopes to have the dam complete by the end of the week (12th/06/2015). All members, 17 males, 7 females, have been participating in the construction. Unlike other groups that we work with with this group is dominantly males and they have provided good support in constructing the dam.
July 1- The group finished construction in the last week of June and currently curing of the wall is on-going. Curing takes 21 days. Shallow well digging for this project is still on going.
A total of 17 males, 7 females participated in the activity. In the end a total participation for this project was 65 members with 48 males, 17 females from the community supporting the group during the construction of the dam.
Main Challenges Encountered During Construction
May- Sand harvesting currently is being controlled by the government. Any sand harvesting by a group has to seek permission from the government. It is a long and tedious process that has caused delays in the overall delivery of this project.
June- The lack of local materials is major challenge. The community is being forced to contribute lots of money in order to avail the materials for the construction process.
Shallow well excavation:
The group at the same time has dug the shallow well. The depth of the shallow well is 16 feet and walling to fit the pump has already been done. Due to the on-going “unexpected rains” in the area the mounting of the pump was delayed
Success Of The Project
The group is neighbours with Kee SHG and they are greatly motivated by the success that they have seen Kee achieve. This self-motivation has enabled the group to have active participation in the construction of their first dam.
The local community involvement in the construction process motivated and increased the labour force required to build the dam. Together with the community coming together, and the group also being inspired by the success of the neighboring Kee group, the project despite all the challenges, was completed.
Sand Dam projects are multi-pronged and so even though the construction is completed, at this stage we are waiting for the dam to mature and fill the riverbed with rain. Rain water will be stored in the sand of the river bed and water tables will rise in the microclimate that sand dams create. Once this happens the community will be able to utilize the handpump.
Because this sand dam was constructed, the community was also enabled to build a shallow well as a source of clean water. The dam raises the water table in the area, making the shallow well possible. To see the well connected to this dam, click here.