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Rooting for Resilience

February 2013

Sand dams help harvesting in Kenya Sand dams, simple but effective for harvesting rainwater, are transforming the lives of thousands in lower eastern Makueni County in Kenya.

Farmers in these isolated communities have gone from fighting for survival to reaping healthy profits from crops thanks to new water capturing technologies.

‘People used to fight for water and whoever was strongest got the water’

Water is in such short supply in this region that farming households were limited in what crops they could grow as they could not capture rain in the wet season.

‘With the construction of the sand dam, the problem of water, drought and conflict has been reduced. And we can get an income even though the drought still happens,’ says Gideon Muramgango, one farmer in Kithongu sub-location.

Community effort

With support from Christian Aid and the UK government, Christian Aid partner Ukamba Christian Community Services (UCCS) introduced an inclusive approach which has transformed the lives of those barely subsisting into a thriving, peaceful community.

UCCS urged the community and local government to cooperate to identify the main issues preventing families from establishing and maintaining a good living.

The community prioritised drought, conflict, environmental damage, poor health, low incomes, youth unemployment, substance abuse and lack of school funds as the biggest obstacles preventing them from getting out of poverty.

Watch this video which tells their story:

All videos:  Christian Aid videos on YouTube 

Fair shares in a water-short region

Sand dams help harvesting in Kenya

With the help of local technical experts, sand dams and irrigation pipes were identified as the best way of harvesting rainwater and irrigating crops.

While Christian Aid and the local government helped finance the dams, the communities built them for free as they understood that everyone would benefit in some way. They also set up a committee to organise a timetable for everyone to get their fair share of water.

'Now we can grow crops all year round.’

Ruth Nduku, a 52 year old farmer, says, ‘When we work individually, we can’t get by very well. What I like is that when we come together we are able to share resources, like the way we share the pipeline.’

The domino effect

Better harvests mean more food and money, which has led to improved health and more children attending school.

Some farmers are hoping that their French bean crops can be sold for export if they can persuade the government to improve the roads for better market access.

Women have also started rearing poultry at home as it provides food and high returns. They also run singing, dancing and drama groups to highlight environmental conservation, the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, and disease prevention.

Even young people now see the area as safe, with opportunities for the future, rather than somewhere with no hope. 

Find out more

Discover Christian Aid's programme practice papers that outline key areas of our work. 

Listen to experts from Christian Aid, UCL and the UK Department for International Development discussing key issues about the Resilience approach in development  

Watch the film shown at the event

Read Christian Aid’s programme briefing paper: 'Thriving, Resilient Livelihoods: Christian Aid’s Approach'

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