“We are so happy and grateful that you helped us address our problem of acute water shortage. You made our backs rest from carrying heavy luggage.”
Itatini SHG members working at their sand dam
Itatini SHG members working at their shallow well
Men breaking stones for their sand dam
Itatini SHG members working at their sand dam
An innovative method of carrying heavy boulders
Through my eyes – A day in the life of Jane Mwende Sammy 46, Itatini Self Help Group.
t’s early Friday morning when I arrive at Katitu village whose population currently stands at 1,474 people. Katitu village is in Mukimwani Sublocation, Kalimani location Makueni County. From observation, it rained the previous night and the weather this particular morning is a bit cold. Am here to follow up on the construction progress of a sand dam for Itatini self-help group. A group composed of 64 members. The initial number was 37, but membership went up 42% in one year when neighbouring villagers heard what the group was all about. 56.1% of the members are female and 43.9% male. Upon arrival, I meet a group of women in pairs carrying heavy boulders. Despite the cold weather, everybody is sweating profusely. They must have worked for some time or carried the boulders for quite a distance or so I think. As though reading my mind, Jane Mwende Sammy, a middle aged group member volunteers: “We’ve carried them for a distance of 700M. That’s the only place where there are rocks and we have no option except do it because we’ve suffered for long due to acute water shortage in our village. When we exhaust the current source, we will have to hire transport to bring them from that hill!” She tells me in a steely voice with an almost ‘touchable’ determination!
At this point, I choose to prod further in a bid to clearly understand the problem. Jane narrates her story: “In the driest season of the year, I wake up at 0530 hours and walk for over 7kms. I arrive at river Thwake at 0730 hours, fetch water from an open scoop hole, then head back home. By 0930 hours, I arrive home. I have no donkey so I carry one 20 litre jerrican of water on my back. By this time, I am very tired so I take a short break and at 1100 hours, I head back to the river to take my livestock for watering. Due to the long distance covered, the livestock inhale a lot of dust to and from the river and end up with lung infections. Some of them die when I fail to get money for the veterinarian who treats them.” She pauses before carrying on: “The alternative is River Kyanthei which is one kilometer away. Though the distance is short, the water point at this river is characterized by very long queues because the scoop holes replenish very slowly. I queue from 1900hrs, head back home for dinner at 2100 hours. After dinner I rush back to the river and queue till the wee hours of the morning at 0500 hours. If one makes a mistake of being absent at the river, he/she gets overtaken in the queue by those who come after him/her and this causes conflict. So one had better be there throughout. After such nights, most of the following day is spent sleeping as a result of exhaustion.
At this point, it’s clear for me why the group members are tirelessly working so hard at this sand dam site. They want an alternative source that will guarantee them clean water near their homes. Their domestic water needs at the house hold level include but are not limited to: Drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes, cleaning and water for livestock. For this reason, they are constructing the sand dam as well as digging their shallow well concurrently.
I ask them what difference the sand dam and the shallow well will have on their lives and Justus Ngao, the 62 year old group secretary with visible enthusiasm on his face explains: “We anticipate that the Sand dam and the shallow well will have a big impact on our lives. We will have water near our homes and won’t have to spend cold sleepless nights queueing for water in river beds. We plan to grow vegetables and a variety of trees including fruit trees once water is available. For income generation, we will make bricks for sale. ”
Clearly elated and bubbly, Jane can’t wait to add more details. She interjects: “We lack the words to express our gratitude to the donor who funded this project.” As though addressing me as the donor, she continues: “We are so happy and grateful that you helped us address our problem of acute water shortage. Only God can understand our gratitude, only He can pay you. You made our backs rest from carrying heavy luggage”
I let her finish and then softly and calmly point out to her that the donor is called The Water Project and that am only representing a partner. To which she responds; “ You tell them”
It is easy for many who have never seen a sand to rubbish the transformative effect that this technology has on the lives of people living in arid and semi-arid lands of the world. But for us at Africa Sand Dam Foundation and our partners, if our interventions save people from spending nights in river beds in search of a basic commodity and a universal human right, we’ve touched lives positively. This impact would not be possible were it not for our trusted partners. We will forever thank you for making this happen.
“We anticipate that the Sand dam and the shallow well will have a big impact on our lives. We will have water near our homes and won’t have to spend cold sleepless nights queuing for water in river beds. We plan to grow vegetables and a variety of trees including fruit trees once water is available."