This project is a part of our shared program with Africa Sand Dam Foundation. Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
The construction of this sand dam will bring great change to this region. As the dam matures, the water table in the area will rise. Among other things, this means another project, a shallow hand-dug well, can be constructed near the dam. To see the shallow well project, click here.
The group was formed in the year 2007. The group has a total membership of 24 of which 11 are men and 13 are women. The group members hail from 4 villages namely Imale, Kyone, Mithini and Mavinga. The group is located in Kalawani sub-location, Kalawani location, Tulimani division, Mbooni West district in Makueni County.
Makueni County is one of the 8 counties in Eastern Kenya and one among the 3 that comprise Ukambani region. The county borders Kajiado County to the west, Taita Taveta to the south, Kitui to the east and Machakos to the north.
The county covers an area of 8,008.75 square kilometersout of which 474.1 square kilometers form the Tsavo West National park and 724.3 square kilometers forming Chyullu Game reserve. It has a population of 884,527 and 186,478 households according to a 2009 Census.
The county has two rainy seasons, which peak in March/ April (long rains) and November/December (short rains).
Income from agriculture constitutes 75%, income from rural self-employment constitute 15% and urban self-employment 8%. The county relies on mixed farming for their livelihood (coffee/dairy/irrigation or food crops/cotton/livestock).
Reasons for group formation
Tree planting. The group members wanted to conserve the environment through tree planting in their area.
Terracing. Due to decreased yields the members wanted to dig terraces in order to conserve soil and retain water in farms in order to improve their harvest.
Merry go round. The members wanted to raise their living standards through merry go round fund-sharing activities and table banking.
CHALLENGES TO DEVELOPMENT
The main water source is the River Tawa. The distance is 1kilometre away from their homes. During the dry period the community members depend on the River Tawa for their water supplies. During this time the water is saline in some locations, and less saline in others. This makes the community members to queue for more than 2 hours at the water points which are less saline to get this precious commodity. Also, Tawa market depends on the same river for their water supplies. Community members have to dig deep scoop holes, which pose a threat to them in case they collapse. From of July to November women wake as early as 5 o'clock in the morning to go and fetch water. They use the water for watering livestock, washing, drinking and cooking. Children support their parents by fetching water after school thus making them not finishing their homework.
Due to lack of water the community suffer other challenges:
Time wastage. Community members spend more than 4 hours in getting this precious commodity. During the dry season the sun is very hot and one is tired due to the long distances travelled, thus not being productive after fetching water.
Low personal hygiene. The water is not enough to cater to all domestic needs, thus forcing people to ration the little they have. During this period they are limited to washing fewer clothes and not taking daily showers.
Less time for farm preparation. Most of the people have less time for preparing their farms before the onset of rains. They do not have enough time to terrace their farms in order conserve the soil.
Horticulture. With less water the community only grow French beans during the wet season, thus affecting their income generation during the dry period.
Livestock. "Our livestock are fed poorly in the dry season because we spend more time collecting water," says Kilonzo Maleve.
The main crops grown include:
Food insecurity in the area is attributed to the following reasons:
Pests and diseases. Due to climate change there have been new pest and diseases affecting the crops. In particular, the green grams and pigeon peas are affected by blight. Many of the farmers are not able to buy the chemicals needed because they are expensive and the crops require regular spraying.
Lack of seeds. Most of the farmers spend a lot of time in search of seeds and most depend on unscrupulous dealers who are there to make money. This makes the farmers to plant late hence as a result have lower yields. Sometimes they buy seeds that cannot cope with climatic conditions of the place.
Unreliable rainfall. Due to climate change, rainfall in current years has been unpredictable as compared to earlier years. These days it rains intense for a short period of time leaving at a stage where they require another rain for better yields thus leading to low yields.
Lack of knowledge. Most farmers continue to practise archaic farming methods which have led to low yields. Most of them do not terrace their land and those who do have not done it properly, hence they cannot retain water in their farms.
The main types of trees grown are:
The main challenges to tree planting include:
Knowledge and skills. Most of the farmers have not had any training on tree planting hence they need to be trained for future successful tree planting.
Termites. The farmers experience termite infestations which affect their morale on tree planting. They lack chemicals for termites as they are expensive.
Due to the lack of water, tree planting has been a challenge for the community members. The survival rate still remains low as some trees dry up.
Soil conservation. The community, through the support of tools, will embark on aterracing program on their farms. This will enable them to improve their harvest as the lack of terraces contributes to low harvest.
Tree planting. After having water from the sand dams they have reliable water and will establish tree nurseries and plant trees.
The community members want to create water security through the construction of sand dams. Also they want a shallow well beside their sand dams. They will use the sand dam water to grow vegetables for sale and for home consumption. Also they will be able to get clean water near their homes.
Capacity building of the group members. The group would like to be trained on water conservation, agricultural farming methods and soil conservation.
Sand dam construction updates
The groups, through well-wishers and the entire community, received support in the collection of materials. Local business men contributed monetary support for hiring transport to take the materials to the site. Apart from this the community has contributed local unskilled labour that is being used to construct the dam. The process of construction includes digging down to bedrock to provide a stable foundation for the dam, supplying building materials such as rocks, sand, and cement, and building a form which shapes the dam while the cement cures. The construction is ongoing and is expected to be done by the end of next week. (9/18/2015).
Trenching began on 8/10 and was completed by eight workers.
Construction went from 8/21 to 11/4 and was done by an average of 11 people. The construction of this particular dam took more time than usual due to the lack of local stones needed for the structure.
Now that construction is complete, the sand dam will mature, collecting sand that soaks up water into the riverbed. That water will then be protected, accessible by two shallow wells built alongside.