Our Work

UDO focuses on enabling Kenyan farmers to move from subsistence to sustainability through the construction of sand dams, conservation education, and agricultural training.

How do you work with community self help groups to build sand dams?

We work only with registered self help groups that are active in other projects before they come to us and request assistance in building sand dams. We work with the group for six months to make sure that they are motivated and ready to start a sand dam project.

We use a traditional cultural practice, “kuthiana”, in working with the community self help group. “Kuthiana” is the spying out of the land and then copying good ideas. We have used this method of oral and visual learning as a major communication strategy for training of community groups through exchanges.  Groups travel together to observe other successful groups and learn from them, thus accelerating learning and knowledge sharing on water and food security in the most efficient method possible – one based on their own oral tradition of learning from observation of others. Successful local self-help members conduct much of the training.

Groups get together to help each other build sand dams, most often when a group is building its first sand dam, when the group is very small, or when the sand dam is especially big.  It is common to have three or four groups working on one dam.  Groups that have built many dams are very experienced: they work fast with little direction except from the Dam Coordinator and the artisan who make sure the design is followed and the quality of the construction is high.

We have designed and used trainings on six sets of capacity building skills to support and encourage “mwethya”, using the learning technique of “kuthiana”. The first three sets are given to the group in their first year of partnership with us (9).  We have found that these trainings must often be repeated throughout their association with us. These capacity building sets are:

  • identity and vision
  • governance and leadership
  • strategic planning
  • performance and results
  • relationships and communication
  • resource development.

Our best trainers are members who have built many dams, made many mistakes and learned from them, and are in groups that are now economically successful (making money).


Community training for Kalungu Women’s Group, Kenya

Community training for Kalungu Women’s Group, Kenya