By Titus Mbithi
It lastly rained in Makueni, Kenya in March this year pitting local residents in struggles against prevalent drought and severe water shortages in the arid and semi-arid region.
However, for residents of Kithatu Village, Kwakotoe Location in Nzaui Sub county, things are different. Locals came together and formed Katelembo Mazingira Self Help Group, worked together in the construction of a sand dam at Muooni River through support from Africa Sand Dam Foundation. The project has been a revelation for the locals, changing fortunes through provision of adequate water for household use and farming activities
For years, the locals’ efforts in small-scale agriculture using natural rainfall produced little meaningful return. But this did not stop the community from having a collective vision for their prosperity: They wanted to improve their living standards, educate their children, engage in farming as a business and add value to cash crops to increase their income. What they lacked was water to make this happen. Construction of sand dam held enough water to achieve prosperity for themselves and their community.
Charles Makuthi, 78 hails from the village, serving as the group chairman.
“Water from the sand dam has enabled us do farming since last year, something which has never been possible in the past. We are currently planting Kales, Pepper, Spinach, Tomatoes and Capsicums. Watering of the crops is undertaken through members’ duty schedules for working on the crops” says Mr Makuthi.
The group has been able to produce vegetables, selling them locally to vendors and members getting some shares for home use.
“We sell our crops every Thursdays because the market day at Emali is on Fridays, Local traders flock our farm as well as community members looking for fresh farm produce.
“In the last three months, we have accumulated 15,000 Shillings from produce sales, part of which has been utilized in the purchase of more pipes and a generator to help increase our efficiency leaving the group account with 7,000 Shillings” said Joseph Nyambuya, 65 who serves as the group secretary.
According to Mr Nyambuya, the sand dam and shallow well have been instrumental in driving the community out of water scarcity, food insecurity and creating an income source.
“Now we have enough water for household use, drinking and cattle use from within a short distance, my children and wife save a lot of time by walking here to fetch water and go back home. Behold, our farming has boosted family diets in creating a variety of meals since the crops are available. We hope in the long run it will be able to create high levels of income” says Nyambuya.
The visible benefits from the works of Katelembo Self-help group have caught the attention of the whole village with many people coming on board to join the group and enjoy the benefits of sand dams.
Sammuel Muthoka, 51 is a community member who joined the group recently, after watching them excel and expresses his optimism.
“I am humbled to be part of this noble group working hard to better our locality through water availability and climate change initiatives. I Joined the group after realizing their activities are the best for our region. I have already started planting trees in my homestead to help improve forest cover” says Mr Muthoka.
Members of the group remain focused in their course to better their lives; they are working hard in preparations for the construction of another sand dam which will even increase the amount of water at their disposal.
“We will not relent in our Quest to better our locality, we are able to see the short term benefits and that’s why we are working hard for more” says the group chairman.