The African Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF) is a registered Kenyan NGO, founded in 2010. ASDF has funded and supported the Water Project. This Foundation has worked with marginalised rural communities in rural Kenya to enable them have access to clean drinking water for the last five years. In particular, ASDF is a pioneer in sand dam construction in Central Kenya.
A sand dam is a reinforced rubble cement wall built across a seasonal sandy river. They are a simple, low cost, low maintenance technology that retains rainwater and recharges groundwater. Sand dams are the most cost-effective method of water conservation in dry land environments.
ASDF projects are holistic in approach supporting sand dam construction, hygiene training, farmland terracing, seed distribution and shallow well development. These water projects help unlock potential through a sustainable, locally owned and community-constructed solution.
Objectives and beneficiaries
By re-charging the aquifer, sand dams provide enough water to establish tree and vegetable nurseries. Together, sand dams, farmland terracing and tree planting form a cycle of water and soil conservation that is self-perpetuating. Conserving water and soil on farms in order to increases soil fertility, reduces the time spent collecting water, and increases the time available to farm, learn and innovate.
The main beneficiaries of ASDF activities are marginalized rural communities residing in arid and semi-arid lands of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Strong points of the practice
Sand dams provide water and time-saving necessary for people to productively farm. A year-round water source saves time and enables farmers to invest in improved agricultural techniques such as: inter-cropping, crop diversification, zero-grazing, and seed banks. These activities facilitate the production of a secure and diverse supply of food, even during periods of drought.
Increased, more reliable and diversified crop production improves nutrition and food security, with surpluses sold at local markets, thus enabling the transition from subsistence to income generation. When families can produce food and generate an income, they are able to afford education for their children. With ready access to water, children do not have to spend their time collecting water. Additionally, they are less likely to suffer acute health impacts of diarrhea and water-borne diseases. This contribute in finding a way out of poverty.
Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation
- To combat desertification by recharging groundwater and creating opportunity for sustainable land management.
- To mitigate climate change by creating water security and the time to practice climate-smart agriculture.
- To reduce conflict by increasing access to water for people and livestock in water-scarce dryland environments.
- To support disaster resilience by creating a buffer against drought and enabling vulnerable people to improve food production.
- To enable the installation of shallow wells in order to store safe drinking water.
Replicability potential of the practice
Sand dams are a water solution that is applicable to most dry land environments. They only require a seasonal river with sufficient sandy sediment and bedrock that is accessible in the river-bed. Sand dams have a much broader geographical range of application than has yet been explored.
Sand dams are common in Kenya, where currently 130 are built every year in the south-east counties of Machakos, Makueni and Kitui, and there are examples of similar structures in Brazil, Angola and India.